American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X
by Steven Barboza
New York: Doubleday, 1995. 370 pp. $14 (paper).
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
The title brings the World Trade Center bombing to mind, but it's a come-on. By jihad, Barboza means not war sanctioned by the laws of Islam but striving to be a better Muslim. The book, in fact, consists of some fifty vignettes on American Muslims -- mostly first-person accounts, plus some interviews.Barboza, an American convert to Islam, makes his goal to feel "the pulse of Islamic society in America."
In this he succeeds. Immigrants tell of the challenges they met on arrival in the United States, and the second generation reveals its confusions. Converts explain both what repulsed them about mainstream U.S. culture and what drew them to Islam. As a group, the converts strike an outsider as decidedly ignorant (Barboza himself calls Friday the "Muslim Sabbath" and has the odd notion that Richard Burton's translation of The Thousand and One Nights "reeducated generations of Westerners about Islam").
Perhaps the most interesting stories are those of Nation of Islam members who found their way to mainstream Islam. Ozier Muhammad, a grandson of Elijah Muhammad and now a photographer at The New York Times, tells how he illicitly adopted mainstream practices under the guidance of his older relatives. "Man, it was like I was reborn." And then, there are those who stayed with the original Nation of Islam teachings, including H. Nasif Mahmoud, a graduate of the Harvard Law School and international lawyer in Washington, loyal to the Nation of Islam because of its success in raising black morale.
Related Topics: African-American Muslims, Converts to Islam, Muslims in the United States | Daniel Pipes | December 1995 MEQ
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