Thursday, February 08, 2007

Book Review : American Islam

American Islam by Paul M. Barrett is the story of Muslims in America before and after September 11, 2001. The book follows the lives of seven different individuals and how their lives are affected by Islam and the United States.

Mr. Barrett’s book is divided into eight chapters. Each of the individuals he follows gets their own chapter. They come from a diverse spectrum as one can tell from reading the Chapter Titles: The Publisher, The Scholar, The Iman, The Feminist, The Mystics, The Webmaster, and The Activist. His last chapter presents his conclusions from the book, and to some degree, outlines a way forward for Islam in America.

Each of the stories contained in American Islam are very well written. Some of the individuals I agreed with, some I didn’t. Regardless, I found myself caught up in the story of each of the Muslim’s in this book. The only exception is the chapter entitled The Webmaster. This chapter chronicles Sami Omar al-Hussayen who was tried under the Patriot Act. Mr. Barrett does a good job of presenting a balanced view of each of these people, again with the exception of al-Hussayen. This one chapter I found to be frustrating as it jumps around, and doesn’t seem to have any real flow to it. This doesn’t help the overall feel of the book because this is the longest chapter of the book and it is towards the end.

Of all the individuals, I found The Feminist the most interesting. This is the story of a Muslim woman in West Virginia who is fighting for equal rights for women within Islam. I was truly fascinated by her story and the trials she and her family have gone through in order to get where they are today. Ms. Asra Nomani has been able to make giant leaps at her local Mosque. It remains to be seen how the rest of the Muslim Society within America will respond to her desire for change.

I was very disappointed by the Conclusions section of Mr. Barrett’s book. According to Mr. Barrett, if Islam is to become more moderate in America, there are things that the American Government and Israel will need to do and sacrifice. Are there actions Muslims should take within Islam, like Ms Nomani? Are there organizations, actions, and sects that are trying to perverse and corrupt Islam that should be condemned? Are there Muslim groups within the US that should be condemned, and groups that should be protected? Mr. Barrett doesn’t talk about those issues.

In order for our Country to continue to survive, these questions need to be answered. Our government must protect all its citizens, regardless of faith. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others are all the target of those who would kill in the name of Islam. Mr. Barrett’s book gave me a greater understanding of the diversity of Islam within our country. But there are tough questions that many Muslims must answer. After reading American Islam, I was left with the impression that many Muslims and Mr. Barrett aren’t ready to address those questions.

No comments: