Islam in the United States of America by Sulayman Nyang

ABC International Group, Inc.
Distributor: Kazi Publications, Inc.
3023 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Il 60618
165 pages, $14.95
ISBN: 1-871031-69-9
(Review by Dr. Shahid Sheikh)


Good books about Muslim-Americans are, indeed, a rarity. However, Professor Sulayman Nyang’s ‘Islam in the United States of America’ is such a scholarly masterpiece. Nyang is uniquely qualified to pen this study because he has been diligently studying, writing and speaking about Muslim-Americans for the past three decades. He is among the pioneers in the field of Muslim-American studies.

In the eleven essays, published over several years, Nyang provocatively discusses a multitude of complex topics dealing with the dilemma of being a Muslim in contemporary society. These topics include demographics, settlement patterns, involvement in politics, community development, identity crisis and ethnic diversity in a multicultural religion/society. Some of these topics -- such as, organizations and institutions-building (mosques, centers and press) -- are unique to this book. In these essays, the author not only preserves the history, development and contributions of early Muslims but also aims to forge a coherent Muslim-American identity for today and the future.

Nyang’s first-hand knowledge of Muslims can be seen in his meticulous treatment of political, social and economic developments among the ethnic Muslim communities, such as,Albanians and Native-Americans. His discussion of the history of the Islamic press is equally illuminating. He deals with the question of Muslim identity and lays bare the conflicts and convergences among the various identity spheres. At the same time, he separates Muslims into assimilationist and simulationists groups. This ingenious distinction between orthodox Muslims and the followers of Nation of Islam and Sufis really deserves serious attention. His thought-provoking discussions become more illuminating when he discusses them from multiple perspectives, for instance, psychology, sociology and race.

This study is a good model worth emulating for future research on Muslim-Americans. Like all good scholarly works, this work opens up many new areas of potential research. Issues -- such as, institution-building among various ethnic communities and identity crises with their implications for the second and third generation Muslims -- should lead to exciting research with new conclusions.

This well-researched scholarship is a major contribution to the existing literature on Muslim-Americans. It will no doubt help scholars and students of politics, sociology and international relations as well as researchers, academics, reporters and the general public interested in the study of Muslim-Americans.

The reviewer is executive director of the New York City-based American Educational Research Institute and the moderator of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Muslim-Americans. He can be reached at aeriusa@hotmail.com

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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