23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2000
I loved this book and found it most useful. I couldn't put it down and devoured the whole 320 pages in a day!
Smith (Islamic studies, Hartford Seminary, Connecticut) covers beliefs, history, Muslim family life and the challenges believers face in a culture that esteems individualism and consumerism.
While Smith acknowledges anti-Muslim prejudice in this pluralistic society, she focuses mainly on the diversity of and trends in the US Muslim community. The book includes profiles of notable American Muslims; a chronology; a glossary of terms from "abd" to "zakat"; Internet as well as print, radio, and TV resources; and excellent photographs.
I would recommend this book for anybody interested in the Muslim diaspora in the States.
Here's the chapter breakdown:
Muslim Faith and Practice
Contributors to the Development of Islam
Islam Comes to America
Islam in the African American Community
Women and the Muslim American Family
Living a Muslim Life in American Society
The Public Practice of
Looking to the Future
American Muslims of Note
Resources for the Study of American Islam
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2001
I am half-way through the hardcover edition of Islam in America, and am surprised at the depth of knowledge Smith reveals of Islam and Muslims.
I have read other books by other scholars and have found their perspectives sometimes colored by their political or spiritual beliefs. Too often is there an association of the religion with extremist groups, a subtle attempt to link the faith of the majority with the extremist fervor of a few. To the author's credit, she draws the line that distinguishes one from the other, pointing out that Islam - and those who sincerely practice it - rejects all forms of racism.
With Smith, there is a complete honesty in her analysis. She espouses no cause, but she certainly has revealed a remarkable knowledge of the history of Islam in the United States as well as of Islamic practices. I have no idea of her religion, but from the way she has written she could even be a liberal, analytical and very observant Muslim.
Smith's understanding of Islam and the Muslim community in America is so intimate and impressive that I have been corralling my wife and reading paragraphs and pages out aloud to her! My children are still too young to read the book by themselves, but it is already adding to our dinner-time discussions of what it means to be Muslim in America.
I borrowed the hardcover book from our local library - it was a surprising find in small-town America - and obviously intend to buy one to keep and re-read.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2005
Compared to the literature on Muslims in Europe or China (two other regions with significant Muslim minorities) the literature on Muslims in the United States is very flimsy indeed. In addition to lacking the theoretical sophistication of the literature on other regions, the available works on Muslims in the United States tends to be highly polemical. On the one hand are those authors like Daniel Pipes for whom the radical fringe represents the totality of Muslim experience. Smith represents the other side of this polemic, and her work is primarily a defense of Muslim's place in the American fabric.
This is not to say that Smith's work is without merit. For readers with no background in Islam, she gives a fairly readable overview of the basic tenets of Islam and some of the tensions within the Muslim community in the United States. She is particularly good in her coverage of the development of Islam amongst African Americans and the relationship between Islamic practice and American identity politics.
For anyone with more than a passing knowledge of these issues, however, Smith's treatment will seem overly simple and far too defensive. Her work is remarkably uninformed by the study of Islam in other societies and makes no reference to scholarly debates regarding Islam in the United States. Her work shows a strong bias towards what she understands to be Orthodox practice and a corresponding disdain for synchretist movements. She mentions tensions within the Islamic community, but fails to give the reader enough details to understand the relative importance of the positions she mentions. In the end, Smith's work is readable, but not particularly enlightening. It could only be recommended to the reader with the absolute minimum of background on the subject.
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2006
In the book 'Islam In America', Jane Smith does a nice job of detailing the basic beliefs of the Muslim religion, but in discussing uncomfortable issues such as "Islamic bombs" or the great conflict with leadership that existed after the death of the Prophet Mohammad, and the contention of expansion, she is seriously lacking in pertinent information.
I understand that the goal of the author was to educated Americans on Islam, i.e. its beginnings, it's core ideology and beliefs, what motivates Muslims, and how Muslim's lives have changed within the sphere of what the author calls 'prejudice America', however, if readers of this book do not have a knowledgeable background on Islam, the reader might be misled to believe that the expansion of Islam was not by the sword, but rather by conversion of people via appealing to the conscience of their heart. This is far from the truth. Unless I totally missed it, the author did not even mention the Ridda Wars and numerous apostic groups that sprang up after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. Though the author briefly mentioned that two of the Four Great Caliphates died "by the knife" (in reality, it was three of the caliphates that died by the knife as Ali also was stabbed to death while praying at a mosque in Kafu), it seemed that the author downplayed the contention too much, leading the reader to believe that the transition of leadership was almost seamless. This was an almost Pollyanna attitude to me. Christianity and Judaism are not the only violent religions. Islam has killed thousands of people in the name of religion.
Also, the author mentions several times three main 'buzz' words: American prejudice, American Imperialism, and American Materialism. I felt that this was, in many ways, the 'pot calling the kettle black.' Throughout history, the Islam nation has proven itself quite adept at exploitation and 'imperialism'. This, coupled with the author's detail of Muslim immigration to the U.S., sounded so hypocritical to me. After all, if Muslims do not like the American freedoms, the way of life and society here in the U.S., why did they come to this country in the first place? It is one thing to live outside the U.S. and criticize American society, but quite another to immigrate here after fleeing one's own strife-ridden country, and then criticize the U.S. for our freedoms and lifestyles. Obviously something is working here in the U.S. Everyone wants to live here!!!
Lastly, the author points out several aspects of 'difficulties,' which Muslim immigrants have had to deal with while living within the U.S. These include the challenges of practicing their religion even with unsympathetic bosses who make them work on their Sabbath and don't want to give them time to perform the ritual prayers 5 times per day, raising children in U.S. schools with the perceived lack of morals, drugs, gangs, etc. It also includes the challenges of Muslim mothers struggling to live on one income or, if they decide to go to school and gain a career, the issue of working mothers struggling with issues of childcare, balancing a hectic schedule while trying to spend enough quality time with their children, and all the issues that a career mom has to deal with. I did not feel that many of these issues were unique to Muslims. ALL American parents who are active in their religion and care about their children worry about these same issues. I have fretted over my children as they attend school. I have had jobs that forced me to work on my religious Sabbath or during religious holidays, and I have religious beliefs that prohibit me from partaking of certain foods or substances such as alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco. I got the impression that the author was eluding that these issues were unique to Muslim immigrants, when I believe that any American who is active in their own religious beliefs struggle with these very same issues. Muslims are not so unique, and they are not the only religious people in the U.S. who love God and seek to serve Him.
8 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2002
Islam is a triumphalist theocratic tradition. The American Constitution provides for a secular state where government and religion are separate. The Koran endorses wife beating which is illegal in the United State. The Koran also endorses polygamy, similarly illegal in the United States. Traditional Islam called for the separation of the sexes based on the hadith in which Mohammed states that "when a man and a woman are alone together, the third person present is the Devil"
Question, how can a believing Muslim agree to support the Constitution of the United States when the Islam requires theocracy. Question how can a believing Muslim live among non-believers who are considered unclean?
Food for thought.