Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 17 Share on Twitter 1 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Life Arts    H4'ed 3/30/15

"Islam in America": A Conversation with Jonathan Curiel (Book Q & A) - See more at:

By Kevin Anthony Stoda  Posted by Kevin Anthony Stoda (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Kevin Anthony Stoda
Interview by and Written by Joseph Preville and Julie Parcher Harbin


How do Muslims fit into the quilt of American history? Jonathan Curiel investigates this question in his new book, Islam in America (I.B. Tauris, April 28, 2015). "America's first Muslims," he writes, "were perceived as less than human -- people put in chains, forced to do field work at gunpoint, required to take new names and a new religion. So much has changed in 400 years, even if the struggle for acceptance is an ongoing one."

Jonathan Curiel is a former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, and Tablet. He is the author of Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press, 2008), which won an American Book Award in 2008.

Curiel's new book is a readable and reliable history of the Muslim experience in America. It will help Americans to understand their Muslim neighbors and to celebrate the Abrahamic diversity of religious life in the United States.

Jonathan Curiel discusses his new book in this exclusive .

What is American Islam? Is it definable?

American Islam is easily defined and easily misunderstood. Upwards of 9 million Muslims live in the United States. More than 2,000 mosques dot the United States. Muslims have had a serious foothold in America for 400 years -- first as slaves, when they were brought here against their will from West Africa; and then as immigrants in the 19th century, when they arrived on their own volition from the Middle East and Europe.

By 1900, when Alexander Russell Webb, a prominent white American, had converted to Islam and preached its values around the country, Islam was a viable religion in the United States. It was also a vilified religion, castigated by those who called it "Mohammedanism" or another name that implied its tenets and practitioners were less than desirable. This dual existence -- an increasing presence accompanied by a semblance of prejudice -- continues today.

How diverse is today's Muslim community in the United States -- ethnically, racially, ideologically, and demographically?

The United States has one of the world's most diverse Muslim populations. Sunnis are a majority, but a sizable Shia community exists, along with a myriad of other affiliations that have strong membership bases. One mosque that I profile in my book, al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta, has members from more than 30 nations -- from Africa, Asia, Europe, and elsewhere -- praying side by side with white, black, and Hispanic Muslims born throughout the United States.

Islam's diversity in the United States offers an inspiring vision of the religion. When Malcolm X went on the hajj to Saudi Arabia in 1964, he was shocked to witness a similar diversity, and it prompted him to abandon his beliefs in the Nation of Islam for traditional Sunni Islam. He said he'd encountered Muslims "of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans" who were "all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood."

You see this same spirit today, every day, in the United States, not just in Atlanta but in every metropolitan area.

How is the American Muslim community different from Muslim communities in Europe?

Compared to Europe, American Muslims are well-integrated into society. They are also, generally speaking, better off economically. In 2007, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Muslims titled, "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream," that showed U.S. Muslims' income levels far outpaced those of Muslims in France, Spain, Germany, and Great Britain.

American Muslims also hold less extremist views than European Muslims, the report said. One example: In the United States, 8 percent of Muslims believe that suicide bombings are "often" or "sometimes" justified to defend Islam, compared to 16% in France and Spain, and 15% in Great Britain. A 2011 report by Pew reconfirmed its 2007 findings, and found that a majority of American Muslims had close friends who were non-Muslim, and a majority believed that American Muslims wanted to "adopt American customs and ways of life." Fitting in, in other words, is important.

Why do you say that "American Islam is in a transition period"?

Despite the long history of , Muslim integration into American society is a recent phenomenon. Only in the last 50 years did U.S. Muslims establish consequential political organizations. And only in 2007 did a Muslim office-seeker, Keith Ellison, win a seat in the United States Congress, the most important legislative body in the country.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Must Read 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Kevin Anthony Stoda Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact EditorContact Editor
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

BED-INs and Other Protests Needed Now

Why have German-, Italian- and Latin American Internment during WWII been kept out of the USA History books?

GULF CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM calls for Gulf Monarchies to abandon absolutism and to adopt European-style Parliaments


A WORLD OF PRETENDERS: Partial Review of the Filipino Novel, THE PRETENDERS by F. Sionil Jose

PHILIPP ROESLER, of Vietnamese Descent. to Head the Health Ministry in Germany, as his own Party Plans to Push for more

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend