Muslims got rough treatment during the last election. One campaign tried to smear their opponent by claiming Islam is a shorthand for terrorism. The other campaign virtually ignored the Islamic community so that those smears would not stick. Journalist Jonathan Curiel wants to change that.
Paul Barret of the Washington Post reviewed Curiel’s book “Al’ America.”
Jonathan Curiel intends his book Al’ America as an antidote to the fear. Ignorance, unsurprisingly, lies at the heart of it. Start with basic demographics: Most Arab-Americans are Christian, not Muslim, and most American Muslims are not Arab. Private surveys show that the largest segment of the American Muslim population — about one-third — traces its roots to South Asia, primarily Pakistan and India. Arabs make up only about a quarter of the Muslims in this country; African Americans, mostly converts and their children, another fifth.
Muslims in America are more varied in background and outlook than their non-Muslim neighbors realize and in many cases have been in the United States longer than is generally understood. Two-thirds of Muslims here are immigrants. Fully one-third are American-born and -schooled. The U.S. Census doesn’t count by religion, so there is no reliable Muslim headcount. Private surveys yield estimates ranging from 2.4 million to 6 million.
The reviewer is correct is pointing out that equating fraternal organizations like the Shriners with Islam is shaky at best. Still it is worth the effort to cut through the spin and see Islam and American culture differently. It is also worth nothing that what happens when Islam and Christianity meet in America is a very different experience than when the two religions meet in other parts of the world.