- Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Award 2009 -
Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world’s fastest growing religion.
Ali-Karamali, a lawyer and scholar of Islamic law, confronts the myriad stereotypes and falsehoods about Islam and Muslims in her first book. Although the chapters can feel disjointed, she tackles timely topics, such as misogynistic attitudes among Muslims (which she says are the result of culture and not theology) and violence; she notes that less than 1% of the Qur'an references fighting. Ali-Karamali insists that the Qur'an, where appearing controversial, must be read in context or in light of the variety of possible Arabic translations. She is not shy about criticizing Muslims for such practices as gender-segregated prayers, stoning for postmarital adultery, coercive pressure to wear hijab, and the building and funding of Wahhabi mosques by the wealthy Saudi Arabian regime. The Western media worsens the situation by failing to cover stories where Muslims have shown progressive attitudes, such as the wholesale condemnation of the 9/11 attacks by Muslims or legal reform in Islamic nations to improve the plight of women. Though this survey is understandable and useful, the author's determination to cover every topic makes it feel rushed.