Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Muslim Next Door

New immigrants tend not to have very nice anywhere, and the US, while better than most, is no exception. The Gangs of New York gives a taste of the reception of the Irish (and by extension, Catholics in general) in 19th century America. Of course, the sunny side of the story is that the US is particularly good at assimilating people and customs, the practically national status of St. Patrick's Day is a testament to how far the Irish have come.

In the Muslim Next Door, Sumbul Ali-Karamali is doing her part in hurrying along the integration of Muslim America into the broader national fabric. The book is written for non-Muslim audiences who want to understand the basics of the religion and its practice. It is also written from a practioner's, rather than an disinterested observer's, perspective. As such fans of Tim LaHaye on the one side, and Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris on the other, will not be pleased with this book.

That aside, Ali-Karamali does a good job of explaining the basic religous practices in terms understandable to those with Christian or Jewish backgrounds. Her main point is that Islam is a religion with a set of beliefs that are essentially democratic and egalitarian and hence well suited to the political culture of the United States. The violence and repression that we see in the media are outliers like 17th century Salem, MA or the Florence of Savonarola.

All in all this is a good introduction to what will continue to be a growing part of the American cultural landscape. It is in everyone's interest that we understand one another and avoid the tensions that plague Muslim populations in Europe. Reading this book can certainly help.

2 comments:

Citizen Reader said...

Of course, the people who really need to read it, won't.

So frustrating.

Thanks for the tip, though, still sounds like an interesting book.

Tripp said...

For real CR, for real.

I think she balances it well, showing the similarities and differences between the major monotheistic faiths.