The Muslims of America

By Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | Go to book overview

4
The Muslim as the "Other":
Representation and Self-Image
of the Muslims in North America

Abubaker Y. Al-Shingiety

The politics of representing Islam and Muslims in American cultural and political discourse and the Muslims' reponse to it in how they interpret Islam and identify themselves, reveal a dialectical relationship between Western representations of Muslims and Muslims' self-image. In this dynamic process, the "otherness" of Islam and Muslims has two functions. It acts as a dynamic of identification, by default, for the American. At the same time, it is appropriated by the Muslim as a form of self-identification. Both functions are germane to a mode of representation characteristic to a particular and dominant political and cultural discourse in the United States: a mode that is essentially ethnocentric.

Instances in which Muslims have broken off or started to break off this ethnocentric mode of representation show the same signs: abandonment of absolutism and racism as an ideology; a move toward a more "orthodox" interpretation of Islam as a comprehensive way of life; demystification of social forms of organization, cultural symbols, institutions, and practices; identification with a broader Islamic political and social reality, which extends beyond the boundaries of the American experience geographically and historically; and finally, recognition of the American context as the ground for self‐ identification in a way that is more complex and sophisticated than earlier separatist beliefs and practices.

I have chosen to focus on the experience of the Nation of Islam to illustrate this thesis for two primary reasons: First, it is the largest organization to succeed in generating mass appeal based on its claims to Islam and black nationalism. Second, the kinds of ideological, political, organizational, and other forms of symbolic transformations the Nation of Islam has witnessed since it was founded in the 1930s provide a paradigmatic case for the study of the dialectic of representation and self-image.

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The Muslims of America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Religion in America Series *
  • The Muslims of America *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Contributors *
  • Introduction- the Muslims of America 3
  • Notes 8
  • I- The Muslims of the United States *
  • 1- Muslim Organizations in the United States 11
  • Notes 24
  • 2- Estimate of Muslims Living in America 25
  • Notes 35
  • References 36
  • II- Perceptions of Muslims in the United States *
  • 3- Perspectives of American Churches on Islam and the Muslim Community in North America 39
  • Notes 49
  • 4- The Muslim as the "Other" 53
  • Notes 61
  • III- Islamic Thought in the United States *
  • 5- Ismail R. Al-Faruqi 65
  • Notes 78
  • 6- Seyyed Hossein Nasr 80
  • Notes 92
  • 7- The Legacy of Fazlur Rahman 96
  • Notes 105
  • IV- Islamic Activity in the United States *
  • 8- Political Activity of Muslims in America 111
  • Notes 123
  • 9- Da''Wa in the West 125
  • Notes 134
  • 10- Muslims in Prison 136
  • Notes 151
  • 11- Islamic Education in the United States and Canada 157
  • Notes 173
  • V- Muslim Women in Intercultural Perspective *
  • 12- African-American Muslim Women 177
  • Notes 186
  • 13- Two-Way Acculturation 188
  • Notes 200
  • VI- American Muslims and the Question of Identity *
  • 14- Islamic Issues for Muslims in the United States 205
  • Notes 215
  • 15- American Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Its Impact on the Identity of Arab Muslims in the United States 217
  • Notes 231
  • 16- Convergence and Divergence in an Emergent Community 236
  • Notes 248
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