Muslims in America is the "first single-author history of Muslims in America from colonial times to the present", which is what the back cover proclaims. I have no reason to doubt that this sad statement is true and for that reason this book is a welcome addition to the shelf of any serious student of American history.
|Edward E. Curtis IV|
Of course 9/11 and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq need to be addressed and Curtis covers them well. He includes a fatwa against terrorism on pages 117-8. He also chronicles the challenges of being Muslim in America in a post-9/11 world and some data on Muslim Americans opinions.
I give this book a four star rating, ignoring the preface, which I will comment on below:
For me the entire book was marred by an unfortunate Preface that was intended to show the level of misunderstanding that the greater American public has about Islam. The controversy cited was the installation of footbaths at the new billion dollar Indianapolis International Airport. These baths cost about $2,000 and Curtis comments on those that protested against it. He notes one pastor was against it because it would forward "Islam's desired goal, which is to thrust the entire world under one single Islamic caliphate under sharia law." (p. x) I do not know about this pastor, but I did pay particular attention to these protests because I live near the airport and I live near the Halal markets and coffee houses these taxi drivers frequent on West Washington Street - their cabs are a constant part of the landscape of my neighborhood.
It seemed to me that most of the protesters were upset that the government was paying to install foot baths to facilitate one religion's practices (although it was noted that anyone can use them, will they? What other group engages in ritual footbathing?). Indiana has gone through a whole round of lawsuits to prevent prayers at graduations and to remove 10 Commandment displays on public grounds that were installed at no public expense. To many, it seemed mighty two-faced to have a government entity (the Airport Authority) play favorites by accomodating the wishes of one religion while other branches of government frustrate the wishes of others.
Curtis goes on to make comments about the pastor and how his deep prejudices would impair his ability to see his Muslim friends as people or even really knowing them - an ironic comment. Curtis shows his own prejudices in this snarky comment that is so unlike the rest of the book.
This whole preface left a bad taste in my mouth. It really is a pretty good book, but I had to force myself to look past this unfortunate part of the introduction.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Muslims in America: A Short History (Religion in American Life)
Reviewed on March 12, 2010.