Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Philosophy , Religion, and Science: Islam in America

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Philosophy , Religion, and Science: Islam in America

Article excerpt


Islam in America, by Jane I. Smith. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. xvi + 203 pages. Chron. to p. 207. Notes to p. 214. Gloss. to p. 218. Resources to p. 226. Index to p. 251. $18.50 paper.

Reviewed by Frederic R. Kellogg

Introductions to Islam are abundant. But one with a focus on the American experience, written in clear, readable English, with a balanced approach, solid documentation, and a list of resources with helpful annotations, is rare. Jane I. Smith's Islam in America has all these characteristics. In remarkably lucid prose, with just the right number of key words included so as to help the reader rather than to impress one with the author's knowledge of Arabic, this book gives an excellent overview.

Readers may simply skim through the first two chapters, which provide foundations (e.g., the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the Five Pillars of Islam, and the development of the Islamic community). These introductory sections on Islamic history, faith, and practice make the book understandable for persons with little or no knowledge of Islam. They also provide a good reason for including the book in general library collections. The most important contributions begin with chapter three, "Islam Comes to America."

Smith helps the reader to visualize the waves of immigration which brought Muslims to America. She describes several specific areas and cities where immigrants tended to settle, and throughout the book she shows how families tried to cope with their new life in America, while holding to the values that they brought with them. She includes valuable treatment of some of the smaller Islamic groups, and then she appropriately devotes an entire chapter to African American Muslims. While the stories of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X are familiar to scholars, she provides a clear, brief historical account of their crucial roles in the story of Islam in America. …

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