|The Muslim Next Door: The Quran, the Media, and That Veil Thing.
Stanford educated mom and corporate lawyer
with degrees in Islamic law and English, invites you inside for a candid, witty, and surprisingly down-to-earth conversation about Muslim life in America from the point of view of a Muslim-American woman.
IslamiCity.com - The Muslim Next Door: The Quran, the Media, and That Veil Thing.
260 Pages - Sumbul Ali-Karamali - English,
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Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines,
politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although
Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation
of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand
yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly
held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the
book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about,
beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion
before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,
and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s vivid anecdotes
about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive,
scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the
world’s fastest growing religion.
From the Book
"The adolescent dread of humiliating, nonconforming differences
has fueled books and movies for decades and, as a Muslim teenager in Southern
California in the late 1970s, I personified nonconformity. For years I
cringed whenever I recalled a high school telephone conversation which
terminated shortly after the young man on the other end demanded, “What do you
mean you can’t come to the prom because of your religion?!”
adolescent life never marched in rhythm with those of my non-Muslim friends.
Balancing Muslim practices successfully with teenage life in Los Angeles was no
easy feat. As a Muslim girl, I never dated and could not be alone with boys. I
rarely attended parties and never attended dances, so I never learned to dance
when all my peers did–seventh grade?–and even now the lurking prospect of
encountering dancing at parties or corporate functions, even with my husband,
never fails to incite, deep within my soul, the irrepressible urge to
Leaving my non-Muslim friends in order to perform my prayers
several times a day was an uncomfortable thing. Abstaining from food and water
during the fasting month of Ramadan evoked frankly incredulous stares. Those of
my Muslim acquaintances who wore a head scarf, a hijab, wore daily
visible evidence of their differences. Even for those of us not wearing a
hijab, the common showers after gym class did not exactly facilitate
adherence to the Muslim strictures on modesty. And those regulation bloomers we
had to wear–! Well.
Although South-Asian Muslims populate many
elementary schools in America now, this was not the case three decades ago. I
was usually the only one in my school until my second year of law school. Until
then, only once did I ever encounter another ethnically South-Asian Muslim
student in my school, and he was a lower life form as far as my
fifteen-year-old self was concerned. Throughout my childhood, my parents
endeavored to meet other Muslim families, and so I did come to have some Muslim
friends near my age, but they all lived over thirty miles away.
friends and I continually struggled to maintain both the traditionally Muslim
and the traditionally American aspects of our lives. But because it was
difficult, some of my Muslim acquaintances simply began leaning toward one
culture or the other, either totally assimilating into the Southern California
scene and forgetting they were Muslim, or retreating from California teenage
life and socializing with only other Muslims. The retreat from California
teenage culture did not constitute a rejection of American society–we were all
American Muslims–but the perpetual tension involved in balancing the Indian
Muslim identity with the American identity was exhausting. Some of my Muslim
acquaintances simply found it easier to socialize with people like themselves,
those who did not continually misunderstand them and their Muslim lifestyle and
did not regard them as quite so freaky.
Islam is a religion of
orthopraxy, practice-oriented rather than doctrine-oriented. The practice of
Islam, therefore, cannot be kept totally secret, much to adolescent dismay.
Islam is often called a way of life rather than a religion. The Quran hardly
differentiates between practical life and spiritual life, and Muhammad, the
Prophet of Islam, himself led his community practically as well as spiritually.
The five basic tenets of Islam are the guidelines for how Muslims
conduct their daily lives. These tenets, called the “five pillars” of Islam, are
common in some form to many religions:
The declaration of faith
Donation to charity
The only requirement for becoming a Muslim is the first pillar:
the declaration of faith, or shahada. To declare faith in Islam, the
words, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God” must be
recited and wholeheartedly believed. That is all that is necessary to become a
Muslim: pronouncement of and belief in this one statement. The remaining pillars
have more to do with being a good Muslim once faith has been
The practices of Islam, mostly exemplified in the five pillars,
may at first seem stranger than they actually are. (They certainly seemed
strange to my junior high school peers.) But, Islamic practices are simply
slightly different manifestations of the same basic tenets that frame many
For example, nearly all religions require or advocate prayer
in some form, as evidenced by churches, temples, synagogues, and other places of
worship. Fasting in some form exists in both Judaism and Christianity, as well
as other religions: Jews fast for Yom Kippur, and Catholics fast for Lent.
Pilgrimage to a holy place should be a familiar concept, too, as thousands of
people annually flock to Jerusalem, a city holy to Islam, Christianity, and
Judaism. The outward appearances between Islam and other religions may seem
different, but the basic values are very similar.
"Now what would you do," asked my Sunday School teacher at the
mosque, "if you were working and it was time to pray? Would you pray in your
office or forego your prayers?"
We squirmed silently, not because we had
no opinions, but because we were terrified of our teacher.
would do," he continued austerely, "is pray when it was time to pray. I pray in
my office, and if any of my colleagues come in, they see that I am praying and
come back later."
We dubiously returned his severe regard. As students in
junior high school, we lived in trepidation of exposing ourselves to ridicule,
and prayer in Islam is not exactly inconspicuous. It involves bowing, kneeling,
standing upright, and reciting to oneself in Arabic. Interpreting something
different as “bad” seems to be a universal human failing, and that is without
even taking into account the mysterious thought processes of junior high school
“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