‘Journey’ Teaser Series: Why do some American Christians pray facing Mecca?

For a full answer to this and other questions, see Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.

Cemetary in Sapelo where people are buried facing east as in the Islamic tradition

Off the coast of Georgia, in the Atlantic, lies Sapelo Island. Sapelo has an incredible history. Bilali Muhammed was brought to the plantation in the early 19th century from West Africa where he was a Muslim scholar. Bilali’s descendants, some of whom still live on the island, eventually converted to Christianity but maintained some of the Islamic practices.

We were fascinated to find that the Churches still face east, women and men are separated in church, Bilali’s emphasis on the washing of the arms, elbows, and feet would be passed on to the following generations and worshippers take off their shoes when they enter the church.

As Frankie Martin wrote when we visited the island on inauguration day, “The case of Sapelo illustrates some of the deep links between Islam and America going back to the founding of the country itself. Here are Americans talking with pride about their Muslim roots many years before the immigration booms of the late 19th century. At a time when some have dismissed Islam foreign, dangerous, and “un-American” it is a story and legacy worth remembering.”

Order Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.


One response to “‘Journey’ Teaser Series: Why do some American Christians pray facing Mecca?

  1. Targeting: The President of the United States, The U.S. Senate, The U.S. House of Representatives, see more…
    Started by: Reginald Hall

    This is one example of the residential resort developments being built on Sapelo Island that has raised our taxes as the indigenous people of the island. This is an illegally built home.

    visit you tube under Sapelo Island Georgia click the link Geechee Nation

    My name is Reginald H. Hall/Hogg. Hogg is my family’s former last name that the slave master inflicted on us because of the work we were forced to do on the plantation. Our family took care of the hogs. My great-grand father changed our last name when he purchased property for the first time. He decided that our family would not be bound to carry such negative connotation and changed our last name to Hall. I am a direct descendant of the slaves from the Thomas Spalding plantation that was located on Sapelo Island, Georgia.


    I am requesting an investigation of the illegal land dealings being committed by the governor of the state of Georgia, Sonny E.J. Purdue. Purdue, who is currently the chairman of the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority (SIHA), which is a state instrumentality enacted under Senate Bill 391 to protect the indigenous Geechee people and our lands on Sapelo Island. SIHA was established to: The protection of the lands for the Saltwater Geechee people.

    Perdue is utilizing the SIHA to conduct illegal land transfers with private developers on Sapelo, which are as a result raising property taxes astronomically. Specifically what is taking place on Sapelo Island is a tax run-off of the Geechee people.

    My forefathers were brought to this island as slaves. We have survived on this island for 209 years, this year. My forefathers began purchasing lands on this island as early as 1871. There was a time when we, the Saltwater Geechee people on Sapelo Island owned 2,700 acres that encompassed 13 individual communities spread out amongst this 17,600 acre island off the coast of Georgia. These ancestral Geechee settlements were populated by close to 1,000 Geechee people up until the 1950’s.

    By forced migration and illegal land dealings, we have now been concentrated into one community (Hogg Hummock), roughly estimated at 191 acres and only 49 descendants. The state of Georgia has recently claimed another 1,376.78 acres of our Raccoon Bluff community, (one of the original 13 ancestral Saltwater Geechee settlements).

    The Hogg Hummock and Raccoon Bluff communities were placed on the National Register of Historic Places through the United States Department of Interior in 1996 for their historical significance to the state of Georgia. Developers are now building resort style homes in the Hogg Hummock Historic District on Sapelo Island. The developers have formed 9 LLC’s and other corporations that have operated under the radar for many years on Sapleo Island. These homes are illegally being constructed because of the violations being made with respects to the McIntosh County Building, Zoning, and Ordinances codes as stipulated in section 515, which state: The purpose of this district is to allow continued use and activities of the community of Hogg Hummock on Sapelo Island. This community has unique needs in regard to its historic resources of development, threat from land speculators and housing forms. It is the intent of this district to reserve this area for low intensity residential and cottage industry uses which are environmentally sound and will not contribute to land value increases which could force the removal of the indigenous population. There are now 14 resort residential developments that have been constructed illegally.

    Raccoon Bluff is the community that my father and his father went to visit my great grandmother on Sundays, which is about 5 miles away from where our homestead is currently located in the Hogg Hummock Historic District. Our Hogg Hummock homestead was inherited my father from his parents. I have now inherited our family’s homestead. My plan is to carry on the tradition of survival by continuing to pass ownership of the lands to my children and for them to do the same with our family’s future generations.

    Based on a comparative analysis of the current real estate market for Sapelo Island, the lands in Raccoon Bluff are approximately valued $413,638,000.00. This undeveloped waterfront property is located on the north end of the island.

    The last sell in the Hogg Hummock historic district which is located in the middle-eastern section of the island, sold for $275,000.00 for one acre. We, the Saltwater Geechee people, have lost upwards of 2,700 acres, which has an estimate land value of $810,000,000.00. Moreover, the drastic decrease of Saltwater Geechee population has diminished our culture tremendously.

    In addition to land loss and population decline, the quality of life on the island for the Saltwater Geechee people is extremely poor. Not to go without mention, we have been denied docking rights on the mainland and on the marshland.

    We do not have quality drinking water.

    We do not have properly engineered irrigation systems.

    We do not have proper trash removal or receptacles.

    We do not have a medical facility.

    We have lost our schools.

    Our paid county taxes are not being represented.

    State jobs that are on Island are underpaid.

    The University of Georgia Marine Institute has been on the Sapelo Island since 1959. As one of the largest research institutions in the country, they have yet to host an educational open house for the community in which it thrives. Much less offered to incorporate the Geechee people into the academic part of the institution; however, we are hired as menial labor work force at minimum wage rates. Furthermore, the University of Georgia Marine Institute has not supplied any economic development for the Saltwater Geechee community or the people. The University of Georgia has exhausted over $600 million dollars in gifts and donations in 2009 and built over $1 billion dollars in construction in 2009. Is the effort of bridging the gap with the community of the Saltwater Geechee people on Sapelo not important to them?

    All and all we are being driven away in the most blatant forms imaginable. One primary example is the Superior Court Judge Robert L. Russell. Judge Russell is one of the key builders/developers of the illegal resort style developments on Sapelo Island. Judge Russell is the Superior Court Judge in McIntosh County, which Sapelo Island is within the same county jurisdiction. What is more daunting is that Judge Russell is utilizing parolee’s and probation person’s from his court room to construct illegal homes on Sapelo.

    Proof of the illegal land transactions taking place on Sapelo during Gov. Purdue’s administration can be obtained from the Georgia Superior Clerk of Courts website. In actuality, not only is a state government causing the destruction of a 209 year culture, but the county government in which the culture resides is also taking part of the destruction of the Saltwater Geechee culture.

    Ultimately my request of you is to assist in the preservation of our Saltwater Geechee culture, which is a critical thread of our American cultural fabric. By the preservation of our lands and sustainable economic development we can continue to grow and thrive. With cultural tourism on the island as a vehicle for economic development while simultaneously preserving our culture, our family members could support themselves and their families and continue the survival of our Saltwater Geechee culture. We are in need of immediate assistance as time is of the essence, due to the aggressive illegal actions to erase the culture and acquire our lands.

    You can help by spreading the word of our plight, contacting your congressional representatives to inform them of these illegal actions, and by signing the petition on change.org at


    My father, who is 77 years old, asked me to assist him and the Saltwater Geechee people of Sapelo Island with the survival of our culture, economic stability, and land loss dilemma. I am requesting assistance with this daunting task, especially with the legal matters and media exposure.

    An additional note, which can not go without mention, is the horrid way in which our burial grounds have been stolen. Which is a federal offense.

    Reginald H. Hall

    (508) 509-1920 cell



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