I am starring this review, knowing full well it is an unusual book that will infuriate many readers, because I am fascinated by Moezzi's interviews, telling the life stories and faith stories of 12 American Muslims. They will change forever the way most readers understand Islam. The 12 are young professionals, most in their 20s, very bright and articulate. Many are COFOB (children of immigrants fresh off the boat, as Melody calls them, including herself, whose parents are from Iran); two are white American converts to Islam--Michael, Melody's husband, and Sarah, an American living in Cairo. I had heard one of the interviewees on NPR, Asra Q. Nomani, author of Standing Alone in Mecca. A young woman who worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal for years, she returned from the horror of her friend Daniel Pearl's death in Pakistan to give birth to her son as an unmarried woman, sheltered by her family in West Virginia. Asra is a feminist activist determined to change practices such as the separation of men and women during prayers in mosques.
Moezzi believes it is possible that an Islamic renaissance could happen in America, among educated American Muslims, accustomed to reason and the pursuit of justice. She herself is a lawyer in Atlanta, and her mentor at the law school at Emory is Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, who has written the foreword to Moezzi's book.
Moezzi writes, "It is a basic teaching of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism that only God is fit to judge us, but somehow this teaching has escaped the minds of so many Muslims, Christians, and Jews, especially when it comes to issues relating to sexuality." In fact, Faisal A., one of her interviewees, is openly gay, the founder of the world's largest Muslim GLBTIQ organization, whose members frequently get death threats. Falsal says he believes God would not have created him as he is only to repudiate him. Each of the 12 is unique, and it is impossible to make generalizations about them--except that all identify themselves as American and Muslim. For all of them, their faith is central to their lives. They each are appalled by the events of 9/11 and wish to separate themselves from the current American media portrayal of Islam as a religion of fanatical terrorists.
This unusual book will make all readers, whether Muslim, from another faith, or skeptics, reconsider their own understanding of Islam. It will especially speak to readers from immigrant families who are trying to reconcile what they have learned and experienced in America with the traditions of their parents. -- Claire Rosser, KLIATT