Book Review: The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing (Sumbul Ali-Karamali)
What if you could sit down at a kitchen table with an American Muslim mom and ask her anything you wanted about her faith and religious practice?
So starts the description on the back of the book The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing . Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali is the American Muslim mom in this description and her book serves as a response to a person who can ask anything they want about Islam and Muslims.
Ali-Karamali, a Muslim lawyer of South Asian descent who grew up in Los Angeles, presents a book written in an approachable manner that accomplishes quite a bit. Not only does the author provide the reader with the basic tenets of Islam, but she also manages to answer pretty much any attack or falsehood that is aimed at the religion.
Seriously, just about any misconception that Islam can’t seem to shake away in the eyes of the West is intelligently explained in this book, including why people think the Qur’an is violent, oppressive, etc. Ali-Karamali makes a very good case to the reader of why an English translation of the Qur’an cannot just be picked up, read, and understood due to the fact that the actual Qur’an is in Arabic and from a time 1,300 years ago in which verses were revealed due to specific circumstances. She even delves into the linguistic nature of Arabic that can cause trouble for non-Arabic speakers. Therefore, an English translation with no footnotes or context given for verses should not be the basis of one’s understanding of the Qur’an.
The author also writes about why these misconceptions remain to exist, citing the media’s lack of fair coverage as one source. For example, she writes about how people still wonder, and have asked her, why the Muslim clergy and the Muslims in general have not made statements denouncing the acts of 9/11. She explains the extent to which Muslims have denounced the attacks but how they never made the news. Furthermore, she points out the difference in language the media uses when the story is about Muslims, for example she writes: “We do not ‘attack’ Muslims, we ‘respond’ to them,” she says.
The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing is a must read for anyone with doubts about Muslims and what they stand for. Although Muslims might contend with the author on a few points, it is still a good book for all Muslims to read as well since it enables one to actually have a response when faced with tough questions about their own religion. Using her own experiences along with extensive research, Sumbul Ali-Karamali has written an engaging and important book that will hopefully aid in further understanding of Muslims in the Western worldview.
Note: The author includes discussion questions at the end that can be used to foster discussion in a classroom environment.
The book’s official website: The Muslim Next Door http://muslimnextdoor.com/index.html