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Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Plus) Paperback – Bargain Price, February 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former Wall Street Journal reporter, Nomani has invented her own nonfiction genre: gender-sensitive Muslim travel writing. An excellent companion to Nomani's first book, Tantrika, this memoir treads similar ground, chronicling her pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, in 2003. Throughout the book, Nomani is filled with self-doubt and healthy frustration with her Islamic faith. The portions describing hajj, particularly the other pilgrims' warmth to her infant son, are original and enjoyable. [...] The second half of the book records Nomani's pioneering struggle at her mosque for equal treatment of women. Daring to enter the men's door at the mosque, Nomani is repeatedly ostracized, and her father—a founder of the mosque—vilified by his counterparts. Nomani decries the Wahhabi takeover of American mosques and demands reform—a call that will resonate with the average American Muslim. The stories of her preteen niece and nephew introduce readers to a new generation of Muslims who are American and equality-minded. Through memorable personal narrative, Nomani gently instructs readers about modern Islam and her role as a woman within it. (Jan. 18)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Even as she struggled to reconcile her quest for love and equality with her desire to be a good Muslim, Nomani never intended to become an activist dedicated to freeing Islam from the ideologies of misogyny and hate. But she had traveled the world as a Wall Street Journal correspondent, stood by helplessly while her close friend and colleague, Daniel Pearl, was murdered in the name of Allah, and then became a single mother, thus a criminal in the eyes of conservative Muslims. Determined to find the true spirit of Islam, Nomani travels to Mecca on the holiest of pilgrimages, the hajj, a life-changing experience she chronicles with compelling detail, candor, and passion both intellectual and spiritual as she also explicates Islam's intrinsic respect for women as embodied in such figures as Hajar (known as Hagar to Jews and Christians). Inspired by her discoveries, Nomani returns home to Morgantown, West Virginia, and courageously launches a protest against her mosque's sexist policies, an effort that, thanks to her resounding eloquence and investigative expertise, has had global consequences. Ultimately, Nomani's riveting, cogent, and inspiriting account urges the moderate majority in all faiths to rescue their traditions from those who twist religion into a weapon of mass oppression and terror. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Plus
  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060832975
  • ASIN: B003H4RBUI
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Asra Q. Nomani, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal for 15 years, is a leading writer, thinker and public speaker on issues related to Islam, women's rights and religious extremism. Born in Bombay, India, and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, she is a courageous voice of reason and honesty, bridging gaps between the Muslim world and the West.

Nomani, 44, is the author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam," challenging extremist interpretations of Islam in the Muslim community. Her community work advocating for women's rights and tolerance was featured in the PBS documentary, "The Mosque in Morgantown."

Nomani teaches journalism at Georgetown University, where she is co-director of the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Through this work, she is identifying issues of Islamic extremism in Pakistan that led to the rise of militancy in the country.

In 1988, at the age of 23, Nomani joined the staff of the Wall Street Journal as a reporter. In 2000, Nomani went on book leave to write "Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love," a journey into the corners of her identity as a Muslim, an Indian and an American. After September 11, 2001, while on leave from the Wall Street Journal, Nomani became a correspondent for Salon magazine, reporting in Pakistan. She earned an Online Journalists Award for feature reporting for her dispatches.

Nomani was inspired by tragedy and hope following the kidnapping and murder of her friend Daniel Pearl in 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan, where Pearl was staying at Nomani's home when he was kidnapped. Nomani was actively involved in the investigation to find Pearl. She is featured as a character in the movie, "A Mighty Heart," starring actress Angelina Jolie.

Nomani returned to her home in Morgantown, where she wrote "Standing Alone." She has written on issues related to Islam for the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, American Prospect, Slate and Sojourners magazine on Islam. In an effort to reach diverse audiences, Nomani has published her work in magazines including Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated for Women, Runner's World and People. She has provided commentary on CNN, NPR, BBC, Nightline and Al-Jazeera, among others.

In Morgantown, Nomani became a writer-activist dedicated to reclaiming women's rights and principles of tolerance in the Muslim world. In 2003, Nomani challenged rules at her mosque in Morgantown that required women enter through a back door and pray in a secluded balcony. She was put on trial at her mosque to be banished. The New York Times wrote about her "Rosa Parks-style activism." On March 1, 2005, she posted on the doors of her mosque in Morgantown "99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World." She was the lead organizer of the woman-led Muslim prayer in New York City on March 18, 2005.

In 2005, Nomani was a visiting scholar at the Center for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.

In October 2006, she received a reporting fellowship from the South Asian Journalists Association to report on a Muslim woman activist building a women's mosque in India.

Nomani has been recognized widely for her work. In 2008, the Interfaith Alliance awarded her the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. That year, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded her and her co-professor at the Pearl Project its Best Practices in Teaching award. In 2007, the Association of University Women named her a recipient of its Women of Distinction award.

Nomani earned her bachelor's degree in liberal sciences from West Virginia University in 1986. In Washington, D.C., she received a master's degree in international communications from American University's School of International Service in 1990. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Salihah on October 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book just on the spur of the moment from my local library. I'll admit that the title grabbed me. Not knowing what it was really about, or what to expect, I began to read with half-interest. I was quickly gripped, however, with the honesty and heart from which this woman has told her story. Many of us choose to withold those things we consider too personal, painful, or private for public view, but Asra Nomani pushes this norm aside in her pursuit to share a journey she felt the world needed to hear.

Nomani, a daughter of Indian immigrant parents, grows up in a typical American lifestyle. At a young age, she begins to come aware of some of the tensions between that of her Islamic and American upbringings. As an adult, she becomes pregnant outside of marriage and is suddenly hurled into the heart of these matters as she struggles to find her place in a religion, which at first appears to reject her situation and struggle. Undaunted, Nomani begins a journey with her year-old son to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. This journey parallels a travel made by both her body and her spirit as she goes physically to the heart of Mecca during the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, and spiritually as she plunges to the very heart of her spiritually, faith, and definition of self. Her honesty is both riveting and inspiring.

The only drawbacks I saw with the book: a lot of name-dropping. As an accomplished journalist and traveler, Nomani has met and built lasting friendships with numerous big names. She doesn't hesitate to sprinkle them all over throughout the book. Also, she digresses, at times, into side and back-stories that don't seem to really be necessary. But this is a biography, of sorts, so both these issues are not that bothersome.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By E. Rothman on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I don't know how many times I put this book down, only to pick it up again because the story Ms. Nomani has to tell is so good and so important. Her superficial level of thinking and analysis through much of the book, paired with the painfully repetitive narrative, amazed me from a woman who has written for the Wall Street Journal. Throughout the book she feels the need to mention the names of stores and restaurants she passes; why? Yes, it seems odd when we encounter the landmarks of American commeralism in foreign countries, but one mention would have sufficed, rather than the dozens we are subjected to, getting in the way of her own story. In addition, she repeatedly points out typos made by her detractors (but not those of her supporters)- overall I have an impression of a person prone to pettiness and without a great capacity for deep thought. Nevertheless, she is a couragous woman doing important work for the Muslim Community, and I applaud her. While not greatly impressed with her writing, I remain impressed with her story and am interested to read some of the other books she refers to, written by people I know to be better writers.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Although written mainly for an American Muslim audience, Nomani's book tells an absorbing story for other readers whose knowledge of Islam is limited by whatever happens to be the day's news. Nomani, best described as a reformer within the American Muslim community, accomplishes two things: describing in detail the compelling experience of hajj (a pilgrimage with her family to Mecca in post-9/11 Saudi Arabia) and opening the doors of the mosque to reveal the fiercely intense political struggles that are currently being waged there between hard-line conservatives and moderates.

The polarizing issue (and its magnitude may surprise some readers) is the role of women in the mosque, where the near absolute dominance of men prevents women from worshiping as equals before the Creator. Simply insisting on the right to enter by the front door of her family's mosque in Morgantown, WV, causes an uproar, and her Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques has the impact of Luther's 95 Theses in shaking the foundations of rigidly held Islamic dogma.

Meanwhile gender intolerance, as she notes, is accompanied by the anti-Western, anti-democratic politicizing of Islam that is being advocated within the walls of many mosques in America. Hers is a disturbing account of a religious community under siege. Nomani is not a scholar, and her book is more the story of a personal journey than a reasoned argument in support of toleration, compassion, and equality, which she holds as the core values of Islam now betrayed by religious extremists.

Along the way, she struggles with doubts and uncertainties, confronts obstacles, and over a period of time (2001-2004) overcomes barriers both within and without to assume leadership as an advocate for Muslim women's rights.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By a gentle sound on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My brother was in her class, and I grew up an older MHS alumni, reading her work as a very young journalist. Watching as she evolved into this activist writer. And then, years later seeing her work, I was thinking her family must be so worried, so proud, thinking of how from here to there of the ways she was taken onto her path. I just finished watching "America At the Crossroads" on PBS, a program telling of the struggle Asra Nomani had returning to Morgantown. After the horror of the loss of her friend Daniel Pearl, she went home going to raise her son. I was so surprised in some ways, watching the program, as it was showing her encountering her religion there. Shockingly she found a very rigid Mosque.She had to enter a back door. And in the things her journalist self would catch, she listens and sees that she is called to act, she knows this kind of language leads to places we cannot undo. So I was watching this program follow her there through time- as the story of her confronting the mosque unfolds, as she is seeing her book (this book) into print and asking of her community to look fully at how women are treated within that Mosque of Morgantown, WV. Looking at her asking about how we slide a slope into things unrecognizable when we fail to stand and debate difficult questions. And demand of one another open communication.

I know that town too. Can understand thinking going there again might keep us safe, shield us from things that are too painful to know, but having gone on into my work to serve others knowing it would ask more of me, not less should I ever return. It would require an adult. Truthfully Morgantown always held me aware of all that is our requirement to understand, see and process to develop ourselves in our time here.
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