BOOKS
The North American Muslim Resource Guide


The North American Muslim Resource Guide by Mohamed Nimer
Publisher: Taylor & Francis, Inc.
29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001
August 2002
332pp
Price: $50.00
ISBN: 0-415-93728-0


Despite the growth of ethnic and religious community organizations in North America, there has been a lack of research-support facilities focusing on these groups and the domestic concerns they raise. Likewise, the phenomenal rise of American Muslim interest in the political process has not been matched by the development of research institutions that specialize in the sociopolitical conditions of American Muslim. Thus, by default, foreign policy priorities have dominated the discourse of researchers and activists.

Dr. Mohamed Nimer makes the above cursory as well as undocumented observations about the dismal state of scholarship among Muslim Americans in his book ‘The North American Muslim Resource Guide’ published in 2002. Interestingly, Nimer does not make any serious attempt to incorporate the existing research into his work because such examples of unsupported observations and generalizations abound in the book. His literature review of the subject is ephemeral with the exception of a chapter on population. Instead of scholarship, Nimer injects general information, anecdotal evidence and individual experiences to give the book a scholarly flavor.

As Nimer frequently points out throughout the book, Muslim Americans are an intricate mosaic of humanity that does not easily lend itself to broad generalizations based upon simple typologies. Muslims hail from all parts of the world; they represent many nations, races, cultures and political ideologies; and they are extremely diverse in terms of education, professions, skills, socio-economic background and social classes. Most often, it is their faith, which holds them together sometimes only tenuously.

Despite this diverse nature of the community, Nimer proceeds undeterred in creating a narrow portrait of Muslim Americans by interspersing the book with a massive list of interesting topics. However, he chooses not to probe them sufficiently enough to develop them into satisfying discussions. For instance, when Nimer discusses Muslim schools, he focuses on community initiatives, building facilities, textbook publishers and accreditations. He steers clear of the issues of the most schools’ low academic standards. He does not even mention that Muslim professionals who usually establish these schools do not deem these schools fit to educate their own offspring. In instances like this, one can easily sense Nimer’s aversion to discussions of controversial aspects of the topics.

In another instance, Nimer’s discussion of Muslim organizations is confusing. The reader does not know whether Nimer has independently researched and verified their histories and developments or if he is reproducing whatever he has been given by the organizations. After reading the chapter, one concludes that Nimer has reproduced, for the most part, the information given to him by the organizations without verifying their accuracy. Islamic Society of North American (ICNA), for instance, does not have a food pantry or soup kitchen in New York City although these two entities appear in their widely disseminated literature. Nimer would have done a greater service to the reader if he had chosen a few contemporary topics and provided in-depth well-documented discussions.

Although Nimer intends this book to be a resource guide to North American Muslims, he does not have any illusions about its main utility: “This book has two more unique advantages: it offers ethnic population data and a listing of Muslim organizations.” Nimer is right. In one outstanding chapter, he painstakingly provides a rich discussion of ethnic history, population trends, settlement patterns, and community growth and development. This well-documented discussion is not only illuminating but also speaks volumes about Nimer’s data collection and research capabilities.

The listing of Muslim organizations is also very valuable probably because most organizations are difficult to locate. Since a few directories about Muslim-Americans are already available in the marketplace, Nimer could have alluded to them in a suggested reading section.

Being cognizant of the gaping research holes in the book and absolving himself from not producing well-documented work, Nimer exhorts the reader to believe that “this information [the book] will offer a guiding light to future research.” This statement is ironic because Nimer is fully aware that only a handful of academics conduct serious research on Muslim-Americans. Given this, it is an open question as to who Nimer is delegating the responsibility to conduct research. It is unfortunate that all books published on Muslim Americans by Muslims after 9/11 unabashedly make the same bold claim instead of taking the lead in providing the reader with fulfilling discussions. It is about time that relevant authors writing after the events of September 11, 2001 should choose their own “guiding light” to present superior contributions to Muslim-American literature. - Shahid Sheikh, Ed.D. (Shahid Sheikh 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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