HICKORY – Imam Tamir Mutakabbir is a native Floridian who served in the U.S. Navy when Jimmy Carter was president, but he now holds a masters in Counselor Education and a masters in Pastoral Counseling Psychology and is currently writing his dissertation in Pastoral Counseling Psychology. Mutakabbir also serves as an Imam for a diverse local community of Muslims in Statesville and Rock Hill. On Sunday, he presented a Muslim perspective on Abraham to about a hundred local residents as part of the four-part study of Abrahamic faiths sponsored by the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC).
The crowd was greeted by Reverend Jill V. Isola, Pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Hickory, who hosted the session. The African American Imam opened his talk on Abraham with a prayer and devotional reflection on Billy Graham before noting the deep historical connections between the Presbyterian Church and the Muslim community in this part of North Carolina. Davidson College, founded in 1837 by The Concord Presbytery, is home to the only known surviving American slave narrative written in Arabic.
Omar Ibn Said, born to a wealthy West African family around 1770, was abducted and sold into slavery in 1831. He was transported to Charleston, South Carolina and eventually escaped and was recaptured and jailed near Fayetteville. It was here that he “came to the attention of a prominent North Carolina family after filling ‘the walls of his room with piteous petitions to be released, all written in the Arabic language,’” as documented in ‘A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said’ (published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2011). Said became a local celebrity in North Carolina and was asked to write his life story.
According to Smithsonian Magazine (Jan 2018), “Some scholars estimate 20 percent of the enslaved men and women brought to the Americas were Muslims.” In a recent article about Thomas Jefferson’s 1734 edition of the Qur’an the magazine notes that Islam was “[o]ften practiced in secret, reluctantly abandoned, or blended with other traditions,” and that “these first attempts ultimately did not survive slavery. But the mere existence of Islam in the early republic is evidence that religious diversity in this country has a deeper and more complex history than many now know.”
Imam Mutakabbir was introduced by CVIC Vice President Rev. Don Flick, and his talk, and the question and answer session led by CVIC Program Chair Michele Francois, were live streamed (as were prior sessions) and can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council. This was the third presentation in their series, which included a Jewish perspective and a Christian perspectives in the first two gatherings. The final session will be hosted at the Belk Centrum at Lenoir-Rhyne University (LRU) on March 4 where the discussion will be led by Dr. Mindy Makant, Professor of Religion at LRU. The discussion will begin at 2:30 pm and conclude by 4:00 pm, including time for questions and discussion.
The study series is based on the book ‘Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths,’ published by Bruce Feiler in 2002. Feiler tells the powerful story of one man’s search for the shared ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration. Rabbi Dennis Jones at Temple Beth Shalom in Hickory is the group’s current president. Julie Cline, CVIC’s Membership Chair, will be available at each event to accept membership applications from individuals or civic groups who are interested in participating in interfaith dialogue and cooperation in the Catawba Valley.
Full list of speakers (and video):
- Feb. 11: Temple Beth Shalom, Rabbi Dennis Jones (VIDEO)
- Feb. 18: Corinth Reformed, UCC, Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson (VIDEO)
- Feb. 25: Northminster Presbyterian Church, Imam T. A. Mutakabbir (VIDEO)
- Mar. 4: Belk Centrum LRU, Dr. Mindy Makant (VIDEO)
Media inquiries can be directed to CatawbaValleyInterfaithCouncil@GMail.com.