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The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing Paperback – September 1, 2008

91 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0974524566 ISBN-10: 9780974524566 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


“Post 9/11 has seen an explosion of publishing on Islam. For many, the question is who do I read if I only have a limited amount of time and want to know what and why Muslims believe what they believe? The Muslim Next Door is an excellent place to start. Sumbul Ali-Karamali presents Islam as a living and lived faith. She combines scholarship with an engaging and accessible style and frank self-criticism that crystallizes the faith and commitment of a majority of mainstream Muslims in its unity and diversity.”

— John L. Esposito, University Professor and Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University

"I wish I could send a copy of The Muslim Next Door not just to every Muslim extremist, including Bin Laden and his likes, but also to the President of the United States and his staff, to all policy makers, and also to every single Islamophobe or self-hating Muslim in the world. If they read and understood this book, most certainly our world would become a much better place to live. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the publishing world has generated a virtual flood of books on Islam and Muslims, and the vast majority of what has been published is no better than pseudo-intellectual drivel. In my view, however, The Muslim Next Door is solid intellectual gold! This book easily ranks as one of the best three books published on the Islamic faith in the English language since the tragedy of 9/11. It is a profoundly eloquent, consistently reliable, comprehensive, insightful, and often brilliant testament of what it means to be a Muslim and what the religion of Islam is all about. Refreshing in its honesty, accessibility, and humility, and truly impressive in scope and depth, this is an indispensable book. Indeed this book is a necessary read not just for those who are interested in learning about Islam, but even more so for those who believe that they have learned all there is to know about Islam."

— Khaled Abou El Fadl, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Immigration, Middle Eastern, and Islamic Law – UCLA School of Law, Author of The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists

"There are few books that I would genuinely recommend to everybody I know, and you are holding one of them. Sumbul Ali-Karamali has written a lovely, lyrical and learned book about living Islam. Whether you are an expert in the subject or a novice, a skeptic or a believer, you will find this book a treasure."

— Dr. Eboo Patel, Ph.D., Sociology of Religion, Oxford and Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core Chicago, IL

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali has provided me with a tremendously valuable window of insight into what it means to honor and live Islam in America's everyday world. The Muslim Next Door is both immensely personal and intellectually grounded, and it presents an informed dialog I would not normally be privy to. One of the most valuable weapons against fear and hatred is exposure to the Other, and this conversational book becomes part of a much-needed, ongoing discovery."

— Lalita Tademy, Author of Cane River (an Oprah's Book Club pick) and Red River

"A beautiful book. At a time when most Americans are bombarded with misinformation about Islam and, in particular American Muslims, Ali-Karamali has written an elegant corrective – a paean to the faith, practice, values, and beliefs of the world's second largest religious community. For anyone who truly wants to know what Muslims believe, this is the perfect book.”

— Reza Aslan author "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam"

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali has produced an intelligent, sensitive and highly readable study of Islam as it is experienced and interpreted by most Muslims. An important work that does an excellent job contextualizing common misperceptions of Islam, as well as challenging the distorted views of the extremists and the prejudices of the Islamophobes."

— Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of the Practice of Indo-Muslim Languages and Cultures at Harvard University; Advisory Board of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University; Board of Directors of the American Islamic Congress, an organization promoting interfaith and interethnic understanding

“Sumbul Ali Karamali has written a book which is gripping, comprehensive and essential. With wit, honesty, and scholarship, she offers an account of what being Muslim means in a polarised world where the faultline is as grave as it is prejudiced. A masterpiece of simplicity that offers a groundbreaking testimony that will find its way to every household, in the US and beyond, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

— Chibli Mallat, SJ Quinney College of Law Professor of Law and Politics of the Middle East, University of Utah EU Jean Monnet Chair in European Law, Universite' Saint-Joseph (Beirut) Principal counsel, Mallat Law Offices, Beirut

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali has a gift for explaining the ins and outs of Islam in a language understandable by all. As a practicing Muslim, she puts a human face on a religion that is grossly misunderstood and often feared in America. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Islam from someone who lives it"

- Firoozeh Dumas author of "Funny in Farsi" and "Laughing Without an Accent"

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali lives according to her faith, with humor, good grace and brilliance, so when she shares her insights, they ring true. Her book is a classic you will remember because she has bared her soul. Sumbul mixes scholarly insight about Islam with a personal, well-considered perspective on being a mainstream American Muslim. She brings perspective to the words and customs of Islam. Sumbul's charming openness about family life, her honesty about her own questions, her simplicity about living practically, and her down-to earth view of reality make the book really worth reading. I was a Catholic nun in my early life, so took particular interest in this modern, savvy woman's faith, which was, to be frank, a little scary to me. This book is fascinating; I couldn't put it down. I recommend it whole-heartedly to people of good will who are grappling with questions about Islam and Muslim in America today."

— Ann McCormick, Ph.D., Founder of the Learning Company

"An engaging and enlightening work. The author has provided an indispensable vade mecum for anyone interested in a sensitive and feminist perspective on Islam, free of the rhetoric and exaggerations common in contemporary public discourse. The book is conversational in tone and very readable and, although the subject is serious, the author has a gift for applying a lighter touch and humor at just the right moments. It should be read by everyone.”
— Robert W. Hillman, Professor of Law, University of California, Davis

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali provides refreshing insight into an impressive range of issues concerning Islam. Her book is the journey of an American Muslim woman struggling with her identity, her tradition, and most importantly, her desire to simultaneously fit in with American culture while preserving her faith. Through the use of both personal anecdotes and extensive evidence from the Islamic tradition, she provides easy-to-read, credible, and thought-provoking analysis. Intended primarily for non-Muslims seeking to understand their Muslim neighbor, Muslims will also see much value in Ali-Karamali’s book."

— Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of What’s Right with Islam

"The Muslim Next Door provides a timely, candid and sensitive insight into the experience of growing up Muslim in a post-9/11 America, along with a much-needed and impeccably researched explanation of the historical and cultural contexts of today’s Muslim world and the religion of Islam. I look forward to my students making good use of this book in my undergraduate classes, and I look forward to its soon being read by a much wider and general audience of all ages in both this country and abroad.”

— Peter L. Hoag, Ph.D., Faculty member, Department of Human Development, Department of Geography, California State University East Bay

About the Author

Sumbul Ali-Karamali grew up in California, balancing her South Asian, Muslim, and American identities. Often the only Muslim her acquaintances knew, she had ample practice answering questions about Islam and Muslims. ("What do you mean you can't go to the prom because of your religion?") While working as a corporate lawyer, she was repeatedly asked to recommend books on Islam, so she decided to write a book that was both academically reliable and entertaining to read. Consequently, she moved to London and earned her L.L.M. in Islamic Law from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. She served as a teaching assistant in Islamic Law at SOAS and a research associate at the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law in London, and then she wrote The Muslim Next Door for everyone who ever asked - or wanted to ask - a question about Islam.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: White Cloud Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780974524566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974524566
  • ASIN: 0974524565
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 89 people found the following review helpful By R. Faught on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Sumbul Ali-Karamali has written a prayer, and modestly called it a book. It is "The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing."

I don't care who you are or what faith tradition you follow, this book is necessary. I use the word necessary because it's the only one that fits. Really. This book should be required reading in America. Ms. Ali-Karamali has written gently, and repectfully, with humor, and also with an authoritative scholarly voice. I can't remember the last time I carried a book around with me the way I have carried this book. Part of the power of this book for me has been in the experience of carrying it with me and encountering the interest and puzzlement of other people simply in reaction to the title. Always with the "Why are you reading that?" as a kind of subtext. I have enjoyed carrying the book with me as a social experiment, and as a way to enter into the suggested topics for discussion in the back of the book. This book will stay with me a long time.

I read a previous review of the book that said something like it was a quick read. I would say, instead, that this book is very approachable while maintaining its scholarly integrity. It provides citations, easily notated by chapter, an historical chronology, and recommendations for further reading. It should be taught. How lucky would be the students of the author herself. She should tour. Seriously. At the least, this book should be required reading in curricula around the country.

I have gone over my copy carefully and have dog earred and post-it marked and highlighted and underscored. I have read the chapters in order and returned to them again. I have sat thinking deeply about the questions for discussion at the end of the book.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Shauna Rockson on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a public middle school teacher I had searched for accessible information on Islam for my students since 1993. In light of American media bias and the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, my intent as a teacher of ancient cultures has been to illustrate the shared history, cultures, personalities, and beliefs of the three great monotheistic religions. Prior to 9/11, there were no books written for general public consumption or as student resources. There were erudite PhD treatises available online, but nothing that could be used in a secondary classroom. Following 9/11, many books were written in an attempt to explain Islam and Muslims to the Western world. Again, I found many of the texts to be either dry historical overviews or agenda-ridden commentaries on faith.

Finally, a book appeared that was, literally, the answer to my search. Sumbul Ali-Karamali's book, "The Muslim Next Door:the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing", provides a clear, comprehensive and often entertaining explanation of the religion of Islam and the life of a practicing Muslim. I give full credit to her for adding critical depth and breadth to my, and my students', understanding of Islam and what it shares with Judaism and Christianity.The longest chapter in the book is dedicated to women's status in Islam, providing a powerful counterbalance to media coverage of Saudi Arabia and the Taliban's treatment of women. Ms Ali-Karamali's impeccable academic and professional credentials, as well as her knowledge of Arabic, allows her to identify and correct many misconceptions and misinterpretations of the Qur'an. Her informal writing style, with personal anecdotes to which young people and adults can equally relate, illuminates complex aspects in a clear, understandable way. Not only is this book an invaluable educational tool and a primer for building understanding among different cultures and religions, it will have a profound personal impact on anyone who reads it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By JayBee on March 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
Since I live in a very diverse community and work with a number of Muslim professionals, I was quite intrigued By Ms. Ali-Karamali's book. She provides some illuminating documentation about the history of Islam and places it in a proper historical context. Her most compelling argument is her eloquent plea for us to recognize that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not representative of the small minority within their faith who are violent. In my opinion she is entirely right in her contention. No individual is responsible for the actions of others whom they most likely do not even know.

However she tends to gloss over historically relevant points that can undermine her premise. She describes jizya taxes in almost positive terms and never once discusses the dhimmi laws intended to subjugate monotheists of other faiths. While I can understand her reluctance to delve into these issues in great detail, had she done so her book would have earned greater credibility in my eyes. Every faith has strengths and flaws. She appears to fall into the "No True Scotsman" fallacy on a number of occasions. A faith can be arguably defined by the practices of its contemporary majority, regardless of what an ideal interpretation would represent. Islam as well as other faiths (Orthodox Judaism and Amish Mennonite, for example) can be very legalistic. Legalism tends to trend towards some dehumanization.

Additionally, she neglected to discuss some extraordinary facts regarding the history if Islam. There's no question that Muslim societies have made incredible and irreplaceable contributions to world culture, science and art. But for the scholars in medieval Muslim societies, Egyptian and Greek science and mathematics might very well have been lost.
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