Abstract: This study uses the case of African American Muslims to examine the intersection of religious inequality with other forms of disadvantage. It draws on more than six years of ethnographic and historical research in an African American Muslim community in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, comparing the experiences of community members with existing research on first- and second-generation Muslim immigrants. It addresses the three most prominent axes of difference between African American and immigrant Muslims—race/ethnicity, class, and neighborhood disadvantage—to explicate the ways in which religion may compound existing inequalities, or in some cases create new forms of difference. It also shows how identifying as native-born Americans allows African American Muslims to claim religion as a cultural advantage in certain situations. Religion is complex not only when different forms of inequality intersect but when these intersections create a different way of understanding what religion means for people of faith.
Keywords: African Americans; American Islam; inequality; Muslim immigrants