Journey into America

Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam

AKBAR AHMED
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 530
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt6wpcx3
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  • Book Info
    Journey into America
    Book Description:

    Nearly seven million Muslims live in the United States today, and their relations with non-Muslims are strained. Many Americans associate Islam with figures such as Osama bin Laden, and they worry about "homegrown terrorists." To shed light on this increasingly important religious group and counter mutual distrust, renowned scholar Akbar Ahmed conducted the most comprehensive study to date of the American Muslim community.

    Journey into Americaexplores and documents how Muslims are fitting into U.S. society, placing their experience within the larger context of American identity. This eye-opening book also offers a fresh and insightful perspective on American history and society. Following up on his critically acclaimedJourney into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization(Brookings, 2007), Ahmed and his team of young researchers traveled for a year through more than seventyfive cities across the United States -from New York City to Salt Lake City; from Las Vegas to Miami; from the large Muslim enclave in Dearborn, Michigan, to small, predominantly white towns like Arab, Alabama. They visited homes, schools, and over one hundred mosques to discover what Muslims are thinking and how they are living every day in America.

    In this unprecedented exploration of American Muslim communities, Ahmed asked challenging questions: Can we expect an increase in homegrown terrorism? How do American Muslims ofArab descent differ from those of other origins (for example, Somalia or South Asia)? Why are so many white women converting to Islam? How can a Muslim become accepted fully as an "American," and what does that mean? He also delves into the potentially sticky area of relations with other religions. For example, is there truly a deep divide between Muslims and Jews in America? And how well do Muslims get along with other religious groups, such as Mormons in Utah?

    Journey into Americais equal parts anthropological research, listening tour, and travelogue. Whereas Ahmed's previous book took the reader into homes, schools, and mosques in the Muslim world, his new quest takes us into the heart of America and its Muslim communities. It is absolutely essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of America today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0440-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[x])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [xi]-[xiv])
  3. ONE Muslim Odyssey
    (pp. 1-36)

    I had walked into an ambush. An aggressive sniper was positioned directly in front of me, with two equally effective sharp-shooters to my left and the obvious leader of the group facing me from the back row. Having been in charge of some of the most battle-hardened tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I knew something about war tactics. One lesson I had learned was to keep cool under fire.

    Where does one begin a search for American identity and its Muslim component? The answer seemed obvious: in the nation’s heartland. But what could be learned about America’s founding principles of...

  4. PART I. American Identity
    • TWO Defining American Identity
      (pp. 39-98)

      We were in Plymouth on a freezing October day. The Atlantic heaved angrily and a light drizzle hit our faces like pinpricks. As we boarded theMayflowertossing about, we wondered how it had survived the journey from England. It seemed so fragile, as if put together by little more than nails and a hammer. Standing on board the tinyMayflower,or more accurately its replica, I thought of the momentous train of events the perilous seventeenth-century crossing had set in motion, a historical trajectory carrying diverse peoples toward collision, among them Native Americans, Spanish, French, Africans, peoples of the...

    • THREE Searching for American Identity
      (pp. 99-154)

      “These are the best and brightest in Los Angeles,” said Madeeha Hameed, the Muslim member of my team. “I would say in all of California,” she added, beaming with pride as a bright young Muslim herself. “This is the new Muslim leadership, young and dynamic.”

      It was a tough choice. I was in the third month of our fieldwork. Several other events were scheduled in different parts of the sprawling city, and I already had a packed day. I now hoped to attend a session of evocative South Asian Sufi music known as Qawwali, but Madeeha persuaded me to meet...

  5. PART II. Islam in America
    • FOUR African Americans as First Muslims
      (pp. 157-213)

      Once upon a time, a thoughtful man named Muhammad lived in a town in the middle of a desert. The town attracted many visitors who spent their time gambling, drinking, and womanizing. The people worshipped idols, replacing them with new ones when they saw fit.

      Muhammad was unhappy. He was a spiritual man searching for answers to the purpose of life, and the society around him had little to offer except brawling and debauchery. So he talked to sages who told him stories of past prophets; and he contemplated the traditions of his ancestors. He withdrew to the mountains, looked...

    • FIVE Immigrant Muslims: Living the American Dream/American Nightmare
      (pp. 214-302)

      Just as there is noHamletwithout the prince of Denmark, there can be no study of Islam in America without the Muslim immigrant community. The same underlying doubt, neurosis, energy, and fear drive both the play and the community. And because its members represent such a wide range of cultures and nationalities, dominate Muslim organizations, and are directly influenced by the politics of the Muslim world—as evidenced by the phenomenon of the homegrown terrorist and the number of refugees—I spend more time on this chapter than any other.

      While Islam unites African American and immigrant Muslims, each...

    • SIX Muslim Converts: Shame and Honor in a Time of Excess
      (pp. 303-354)

      Religious conversion is a dramatic event in anyone’s life, no less than it was for Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. It changes everything. Fashion photographer Nicole Queen of Dallas had arrived at just such a turning point, paradoxically, at the pinnacle of her career. She was standing next to Justin Timberlake, one of pop music’s icons, with cameras flashing. The glare seemed to illuminate the world of vacuous celebrity Nicole was part of. Wasn’t there more to life than this? At the suggestion of a Muslim friend, she watched motivational videos on YouTube and was impressed by Yusuf...

  6. PART III. Adjusting and Adapting
    • SEVEN Jews and Muslims: Bridging a Great Divide
      (pp. 357-398)

      Judea Pearl’s love of his son Danny is intense, and he mentions him frequently. As we settled down to talk to Judea and his wife, Ruth, in their modest home in Encino, a beautiful part of Los Angeles with gentle rolling hills, we saw heartbreaking reminders of an eternally young and always smiling Danny everywhere. Danny represented the best of America and Judaism, Judea said, and he recounted how much his son was enchanted by the Founding Fathers, studying their biographies for hours.

      Danny’s understanding of America differed from his, noted Judea, citing an unexpected example: “Danny showed more trust...

    • EIGHT Mormons and Muslims: Getting to Know You
      (pp. 399-428)

      Perhaps no two religious communities in America are as dissimilar as Mormons and Muslims and yet invite so many comparisons. The former community is homegrown, the latter the classic outsider, bringing with it a thousand years of poorly understood history. Yet both boast adherents of about 7 million, have faced similar prejudices, and can justifiably draw some interesting historical parallels.

      Because of the English ethnicity of their founders, Mormons trace their roots to Plymouth, are authentically American, and have absorbed American identity in its entirety, with its attendant contradictions. Through those roots, they identify with primordial identity, but they are...

    • NINE The Importance of Being America
      (pp. 429-472)

      The United States that we have come to know in our travels is indeed a nation of multiple identities, both divided and wondrously united. As the ethnographic data of the preceding chapters indicate, the divisions occur between and within communities and at times put serious strain on the overall unity of any of these. Of wide concern at present are the stresses that have arisen with the growth of America’s Muslim community and its unfortunate association with 9/11. Increased and intense dialogue that leads to understanding seems the obvious way to reduce these stresses, but it can only be achieved...

  7. Appendix: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE FIELDWORK
    (pp. 473-476)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 477-498)
  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 499-502)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 503-528)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 529-530)