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Voices of American Muslims by Linda Brandi Cateura

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 279 Pages
Publisher:Hippocrene Books, (2005)
Genre:Religion and Philosophy
ISBN: 078181054x

Comments about the author: Linda Brandi Cateura grew up in Brooklyn Heights, New York and is an inquisitive about other religions, besides her own Roman Catholic beliefs. She has written "Growing Up Italian,""Protestant Portraits," "Catholics USA" and Oil Painting Secrets from a Master She has been a book reviewer for the New York Times. She was a literary editor for Harper's Bazaar as well and now lives in New York City.

Review: Aren’t all Muslims living in the United States dark-skinned, uneducated, and non-modernized? Isn’t just about every Muslim a fanatic and an extremist? Linda Brandi Cateura’s book, Voices of American Muslims, aims to dispel these stereotypes by profiling 23 American Muslims of different backgrounds.

Other than giving brief introductions, Cateura lets each of the Muslims speak for themselves, thereby putting the readers in their shoes. We intimately learn about the struggles that this ever-increasing minority confronts, in its desire to be both American and Muslim.

Another strong point of this book concerns the different cultural and racial backgrounds of the Muslims that it features. We hear stories from an African-American woman whose profession is nursing, a high school student of Palestinian descent, a cab driver from Egypt, a Caucasian whose parents were Jewish and Christian, and a Pakistani-American lawyer.

The American Muslims in the book also have various ways of practicing their faith. For instance, one woman of Bangladeshi descent sends her daughter to a private Islamic school, whereas an African-American transit policeman prefers that his children attend a public school.

Yet all of the interviewees have a common thread—their desire to fit in with the rest of society, without losing their Muslim identity. In the book, the interviewees encourage the rest of America to have an open mind.

“It’s a disservice to both sides to cartoonize Islam, to emphasize just one form of dress, one concept, one portion,” says Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the director of the National Institutes of Health, the first American Muslim to have this post. (pg.50)

Since 9/11 was a recent occurrence, most American Muslims give their take on this horrific event. All of the interviewees agree that acts of violence have no place in Islam, but that, as Americans, we must also take some responsibility for provoking and escalating the violence.

“[Could we] have engaged them in a more preventive way, rather than in a reactive way?” asks Alma Jadallah, an Arab-American who is studying towards a doctorate in conflict resolution. (pg.115)

A few interviewees also discuss the hatred that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Evangelicals and born-again Christians sometimes have towards Muslims in general. One American Muslim, Lubna Ismail Kronemer, talks about losing a best friend whose Evangelical beliefs got between their friendship.

Her friend said that “she can’t stand by or tolerate or accept the faith that persecutes her people,” Kronemor recalls. (pg. 208) But Kronemor also realizes that most Christian Americans are tolerant towards followers of Islam.

Besides this and other interviews, readers find a helpful glossary. For example, Cateura defines “imam” as “a man who leads the ritual prayers on Fridays.” (pg. 271) While the definition doesn’t give a complete picture of an imam—who can also counsel, perform marriages, and provide religious knowledge—readers not familiar with the term have some understanding.

Another feature of the book concerns footnotes of websites where readers can get more information. Instead of a few footnotes, perhaps a separate section that lists websites and organizations would have been more useful. Anyhow, readers can always type keywords in a search engine for additional learning.

Otherwise, Cateura has done a remarkable job showing readers true American Muslims. This book deserves to be on everyone’s book shelf.

— Reviewed by:
Syeda Hamdani Syeda Z. Hamdani
Syeda works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics, including science and health. She is also a proofreader and copy editor, besides being an avid reader.


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