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Islamic Da'wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam.

Islamic Da'wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam. By Larry Poston. New York: Oxford University, 1992. Pp. 220. $29.95.

Poston begins with a cursory introduction to Islamic Da'wah. His use of terms is sometimes imprecise here: speaking of "the expansion of Islam from the first to the twelfth century a.d." (11) ignores the fact that Muhammad was born in the sixth century; and the term "West" in the title refers primarily to the U.S.

P. discusses the "pietism" of Spencer and then considers three Muslim personalities: Al-Banna, Mawdudi, and Murad. Al-Banna may not be a household name, but his followers, "The Moslem Brotherhood," are well known. The popular press labels them anti-West fanatics, and P.'s likening of Al-Banna to Hitler (68) will perpetuate these misconceptions. P. does not deal with the missionary activities of these Muslims, but with the reform these "pietists" tried to effect within Islam.

Among Islamic missionary activities, Muslims in the West have formed splinter groups within Islam in their efforts to define and defend their identities. Thus "paramosques" for small localized groups have been started by disaffected individuals or sprung up on university campuses. The influence of these paramosques has been primarily within the Muslim communities. These activities have yielded individual converts to Islam, but P. delves more into the psychology of conversion than into its religious dimensions. He gives statistics on the backgrounds of 72 men and women converts. There is little discussion of the religious dynamics of personal conversion apart from the sectarian religious banalities one expects to hear in such situations.

P. attempts a history of Islamic missions, but he surveys only narrow aspects of his subject: the intra-Islamic activities of a few selected personalities and institutions. The comprehensive history of Islamic missionary activity has yet to be written.

Solomon I. Sara, S.J.

Georgetown University
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Author:Sara, Solomon I.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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