Vivid, dramatic portraits of Muslims in America in the years after 9/11, as they define themselves in a religious subculture torn between moderation and extremism
There are as many as six million Muslims in the United States today. Islam (together with Christianity and Judaism) is now an American faith, and the challenges Muslims face as they reconcile their intense and demanding faith with our chaotic and permissive society are recognizable to all of us.
From West Virginia to northern Idaho, American Islam takes readers into Muslim homes, mosques, and private gatherings to introduce a population of striking variety. The central characters range from a charismatic black imam schooled in the militancy of the Nation of Islam to the daughter of an Indian immigrant family whose feminist views divided her father's mosque in West Virginia. Here are lives in conflict, reflecting in different ways the turmoil affecting the religion worldwide. An intricate mixture of ideologies and cultures, American Muslims include immigrants and native born, black and white converts, those who are well integrated into the larger society and those who are alienated and extreme in their political views. Even as many American Muslims succeed in material terms and enrich our society, Islam is enmeshed in controversy in the United States, as thousands of American Muslims have been investigated and interrogated in the wake of 9/11.
American Islam is an intimate and vivid group portrait of American Muslims in a time of turmoil and promise.
Near the end of this fascinating and carefully researched portrait of Islam in contemporary America, a California mosque experiences a surprisingly heated internal debate about whether to host a fireworks celebration on the Fourth of July. Somehow, the "canopies of red, white, and blue that for a moment illuminated the minaret and dome" of the mosque crystallize many of the tensions that Barrett describes, particularly how so many individuals struggle to be faithful Muslims and patriotic citizens during troubled times. One great contribution of the book is the diverse portrait it offers of Islam in America today, but as Barrett shows, such ideological and racial diversity haven't been easy: Pakistani immigrants are sometimes at odds with African-American converts and (mostly white) Sufi spiritualists; feminists draw angry fire as they strive for greater equality; and self-proclaimed progressive Muslims feel at odds as American mosques become increasingly conservative and strident. Barrett is an engaging writer who puts a human face on all of these issues. The book is remarkably evenhanded, but Barrett can also be critical at times, whether analyzing the shortcomings of the Patriot Act or pointing to the inconsistency of a self-starting New York imam who works for justice but also praises Muslim extremists. Balanced and insightful, this grassroots journalistic account mines the complexity and depth of American Islam.