6. Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, by Benazir Bhutto
This manuscript, completed just days before the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, stretched beyond her own political narrative to look at historic and contemporary Islam’s interactions with the West. Her thesis looks at “two critical tensions… [which] must be reconciled to prevent the clash of civilizations:” Islam’s own internal tensions, and its relations with the non-Islamic world. By looking at jihad, women’s equality, and the differences between Islam’s Shia and Sunni sects, Bhutto argues that “democracy and Islam are not only compatible but mutually sustaining.”
7. I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, edited by Maria M. Ebrahimji and Zahra T. Suratwala
Rarely in the rhetoric of Muslims in America do we hear the voices of Muslim women in America, yet so much of the debate centers around them, looking to them and their role in Islamic society as misinterpreted symbols of female oppression and subjugation. Of the over one billion Muslim women in the world, an estimated six million live in the United States. In this new anthology, edited by Maria M. Ebrahimji from CNN and Zahra T. Suratwala from Zahra Ink, stories of being Muslim, American and female are interwoven around the themes of limitlessness and individuality. “While their commonality is faith and citizenship,” each woman’s story shows variance in experiences, messages, voices, even identities. “Muslim women are often portrayed and depicted as silent slaves, unable to speak for themselves, and at the mercy of a male custodianship,” Kurdish-Muslim feminist Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar noted in a recent review. “This book debunks that myth… It truly represents the Muslim community as it is– diverse and full of intelligent women, not afraid to speak their mind.”
8. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid
This sophomore fiction by writer Mohsin Hamid looks at the life of Changez, a Pakistani national fresh out of Princeton when 9/11 happens. Despite the title’s connotation, never once in the book is religion mentioned, which leaves the reader to wonder what type of fundamentalist Changez is. Throughout the narrative, he fights both a moral battle and an internal political battle, in how both he and America react to the news of 9/11. In both his depiction of America’s backwards-thinking of the events and his lack of compassion for trying to understand it all, we see in both him and America the dangers that come from the inability to accept change.
9. War on Error: Real Stories of American Muslim, by Melody Moezzi
In this collection of 12 interviews with other Muslim Americans, Melody Moezzi, a Muslim lawyer of Iranian descent, presents a series of short biographical vignettes, from non-religious “cultural” Muslims to converts in hijabs, looking at the varying experiences and identity questions that characterize many Muslim Americans’ experiences today. Though the details of the stories vary, like Living Islam Out Loud, the unifying theme is that Muslim Americans are no different in their quest for place and identity than any other population of Americans, and through that shared journey, these stories show how more alike Americans of all faiths are, as opposed to different.
10. The Soul of Iran: A Nation’s Journey to Freedom, by Afshin Molavi
A far cry from the simplistic depictions of Iran that plague mainstream American media, here Afshin Molavi weaves history, politics, culture and personal narratives to show another, much less represented side of Iran, one that has fallen astray from the 1979 revolution that put Islamist rule on the international radar. Throughout the book, stereotypes are debunked, generalizations are examined, and through it all, a new picture of Iran forms, one that shows its people more frustrated with their own government than they are with America and the West.
Read more: Afshin Molavi, arab, benazir bhutto, books, culture, Edward Said, egypt, Feisal Abdul Rauf, iran, islam, islamic world, israel, Leila Ahmed, literature, Maria M. Ebrahimji, Melody Moezzi, middle east, Mohsin Hamid, muslim, Omid Safi, palestine, politics, reading list, Reza Aslan, Roy Mottahedeh, Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, Zahra T. Suratwala
Photo courtesy of hapal via flickr.
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