Islamville, USA: All-American Muslim town fights back Trump's Islamophobia

Islamville, USA: All-American Muslim town fights back Trump's Islamophobia
‘Holy Islamville’ is an all-Muslim town in South Carolina. Its residents tell The New Arab its story, and share their concerns about growing Islamophobia among right-wing politicians and media.
3 min read
06 March, 2016
The town was founded by a Pakistani cleric in 1983 [Islamville]
Ramadan Said Shaker, mayor of Islamville, South Carolina, welcomes visitors to his tiny town.

More and more people have been coming as the town started to make headlines, part of incitement campaign by right-leaning media claiming the sleepy locale is home to militant training camps.

Islamville is situated in York County, nearly 20 km from the state border with North Carolina.

"The town does not attract foreigners. There are no big shops or companies here," said the mayor.

There is nothing that sets apart the town from hundreds of similar-sized places in this part of the country.

Homes, driveways, parked cars, green lawns and children's toys in a park is all one can see in the town.

The story of

Islamville was founded by Sheikh Mubarak Ali al-Gilani in 1983. The people of the town believe he is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Sufi Imam Abdul-Qadir al-Gilani (founder of the Qadiri Sufi Order in Baghdad in 1077 AD).

Most of the residents have African roots, although Gilani hailed from Pakistan.

Gilani also founded Islamberg in New York state. That town was also accused of abetting terrorists by right-wing networks such as Fox News.

"Most residents do not know any home other than America," said mayor Shaker (36 years) who has lived in Islamville since it was founded.

Not many Arab Americans know the town, says Abdul-Rahman, one of the oldest residents of the town. "It is almost completely isolated from the outside world. Arabs come to America looking for jobs and to make money," he said.

But "we are all Arabs to them," said Ahmad, in reference to ordinary Americans.

"Some Arabs have come here and taught children Arabic or led people in prayer. Around 300 people live here, all Muslims. We know one another and we celebrate religious holidays like one big family," Ahmad added.

Fighting back Donald Trump

When Republican front-runner Donald Trump was campaigning in the state, some residents of Islamville launched a campaign accusing him of ignorance and lies.

"Of course we don't feel safe because of Trump and people like him. It's Islamophobia," said Shaker.

When Trump was delivering his anti-Muslim speech in South Carolina, Republican right-wing congressman Mike Mulvaney was visiting Islamville.

"He wanted to make sure there were no militant training camps," quipped the mayor. But he added: "I am happy the congressman visited us. He represents us just like he represents other towns and counties in this state."

Police captain Bruce Bryant has known Muslims in Islamville for 25 years. He pledged to always protect them. "I encourage elected officials who buy these rumours to visit the town," he said.

At the end of his visit, the congressman told local press: "Now I can tell people I have been there and there were no terrorist camps...just people with a different faith who abide by the law. Some are veterans who served in the US army."

"It is a real shame that a presidential candidate harbours such ill will against Islam and is feeding Islamophobia," said Ahmad, an imam at Islamville's mosque. "The media is also responsible."

Others in the town expressed similar concerns to The New Arab. Bilal, a resident, said: "Hatred against us has increased recently. I am now used to hearing mockery against my beard and even obscene finger gestures."

"People believe everything they hear in the media," said the mayor, denying reports that have resurfaced over discredited connections between the founder of Islamville and terrorism. 

"We are peaceful people who do not assault others' freedoms. When they ask me how I see Islamic State, I say they are an armed gang and are not Muslims, to their surprise," he added.

"Do they really believe we have training camps in these 'jungles'," the mayor asked sarcastically.