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Islam in the United States of America.

Islam in the United States of America, by Sulayman S. Nyang. Chicago: ABC International Group, Inc.,1999. 165 pages. $14.95, paperback.

This book is an important contribution to the scant literature on Islam in the United States. Written as separate articles over several years, the book proceeds from the assumption that Islam in the United States is here to stay. More significant however, is that Nyang identifies the historical processes that have led to the institutionalization of the Islamic faith in the United States. What emerges is a rich, diverse and intricately woven tapestry of constituent Muslim experiences that converge into a Muslim community of believers or ummah.

The book is divided into eleven chapters, the first of which provides the historical backdrop for the Muslim presence in antebellum America. Here, Nyang builds upon and extends the work of Allan Austin, whose biographical research on Muslim slaves from the Senegambia region, in particular, provides the basis for a detailed discussion of more recent Muslim migrations from the nineteenth century into the 1970s. Emphasis is placed on various efforts at institution building in the form of mosques and other political and economic organizations. This chapter anchors the remaining ten, which are thematically sub-divided into two sections of four and six chapters each.

Chapters two through five trace the migration patterns of Muslims from the Old World to the New, respective attempts to integrate into American society and the resulting changes in identity and identity formation. In addition, the often-tense relations between immigrant and native-born Muslim converts are discussed. What is particularly instructive about this section is Nyang's discussion of the Nation of Islam and the respective ideological and leadership orientations of Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan as representing two distinct strategies to deal with America's race problem.

The second part of the book, i.e., chapters six through eleven, addresses five inter-related topics that analyze the relationship between Islam and the West, recent media coverage of Islam and Muslims and Muslim identity. Accordingly, with great expertise, Nyang unravels the complex political, economic and religious challenges Muslims face in the United States and Canada. Ultimately, he recommends strengthening Islamic institutions to enable Muslims to compete better in American society and engender further, global Islamic consciousness. Nyang also advances various strategies to combat negative perceptions held of Muslims by mainstream America but, more important, suggests ways of strengthening an interfaith dialogue with other "Peoples of the Book." Using Mecca at the time of the Prophet as a model of respect and tolerance for "difference," Nyang insists on the need for unity between "foreign" and "native" born American Muslims, that they act according to the teachings of Islam to transform both morally and spiritually America's political and economic landscape.

Islam in the United States of America is a richly documented book that tells an important story of Muslim immigration and adaptation. It is incisive in its analysis of the integrative and disintegrative tendencies in Islam as Muslims in America seek to build a community. The book also has important prescriptive insights for countering negative stereotyping of Muslims and building strong Muslim communities. Nyang has written a coherent and readable narrative that is sure to prove a lasting contribution to the relatively young and growing body of work on Islam in the United States of America.

Abdoulaye, Saine

Miami University of Ohio
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Author:Saine, Abdoulaye
Publication:Middle East Policy
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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