The challenge of Islam
By Gerard Russell, Foreign Policy, June 3, 2010
"America," said Alexis de Tocqueville, "is a country of freedom where, in order not to wound anyone, the foreigner must not speak freely." By these standards Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University and formerly an administrator on Pakistan's north-west frontier, has published a particularly audacious book.
His book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, which comes out on June 15, speaks freely about the Muslim perspective on American society. It knowingly comes in the aftermath of acts of terrorism carried out by American Muslims. Its focus is rightly much broader, but this sharpens its relevance.
In the spirit of de Tocqueville, whom he frequently quotes, Ahmed led a mixed team of Muslims and Christians, Americans and foreigners, to examine American Muslim society with the eye of an anthropologist and an expert on Islam. Over the course of a year the author and his team traveled to more than 75 U.S. cities across the country, visiting more than 100 mosques, residences, and educational institutions. The book offers plenty of colorful observations based on 2,000 interviews -- both those one might expect (Noam Chomsky, U.S. Muslim leaders) and those one might not (the Ku Klux Klan and a Las Vegas stripper). In 520 pages, Ahmed gives a series of insightful vignettes on interfaith relations, politics, conversion, and race. And then the book makes a disturbing prediction: that violence involving U.S. Muslims will continue to increase.
Ahmed blames for this both the American intelligence and security community ("the cheerleaders of the hate and fear-mongering directed against Muslims") and Muslim leaders in the United States. These, he says, "need to face the crisis in their community rather than recoil in the customary defensive manner." In any event he feels many are out of touch, and have failed to build relationships with other faith communities -- specifically, the Mormon and Jewish communities (if you're wondering why Muslims should build relations with these two other faith-groups in particular, then the book explains this at some length).
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Journey into America website
In Search of Muslim Identity: Akbar Ahmed's Journey into America - Huffington Post