Arabs in America: Building a New Future
Edited by Michael W. Suleiman. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000. 355 pp. $69.50 (paper, $29.95).
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
"Occasionally, when a parent described religious characteristics for defining the Arab identity, another parent challenged these descriptions, stating that they were supposed to talk about Arab, not Muslim characteristics." Perhaps without realizing what she was writing, Kristine Ajrouch is undermining the whole presumption of Arabs in America: she is showing how little the term "Arab" means. There are Muslims who speak Arabic as there are Christians who do, but they have little in common in an age of Islamism rampant. To continue to think in terms of Arabs is to indulge in nostalgia. Just as the Arab League is an antiquated and nearly defunct institution, so too are such institutions as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute. Maronites cannot be defined solely by the language they speak; nor do Copts share many common goals with their Muslim colleagues. Jews who speak Arabic have never been lumped in as "Arabs"; the time has come to disaggregate Christians.
All of which leaves a book like Arabs in America, which has a number of fine articles, as less than the sum of its parts. The Ajrouch chapter cited above, a study of Arabic-speaking adolescents in a Dearborn, Michigan, middle school, is entirely about Muslims; likewise the chapter by Mohamed Mattar deals with the interaction of the American and Islamic laws; Richard Antoun's is about Muslim Jordanian immigrants; and Linda S. Walbridge looks exclusively at Shi`i Muslims. But the chapter by Sharon McIrvin Abu-Laban and Baha Abu-Laban, on Canadian adolescents, looks at six Muslims and four Christians, making it of limited use, for the problems facing these two groups are substantially different, as are other issues faced by the two religious communities.
Related Topics: Muslims in the United States | Daniel Pipes | Winter 2000 MEQ
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