Zareena GrewalIslam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority

New York University Press, 2013

by Elliott Bazzano on April 15, 2014

Zareena Grewal

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic StudiesZareena Grewal‘s monograph Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (NYU Press, 2013), seamlessly interweaves ethnographic research with an in-depth historical perspective in order to yield an unparalleled account of American Muslims and their intellectual and spiritual journeys. Where does knowledge come from? Where does Islam come from? Can Americans find it in California, or must they travel to Egypt, or Syria? How does skin color, religious conversion, and national origin play into these queries? In order to answer these questions and many more, Grewal guides the reader through a complex history of Islam in the United States–including key institutions, important figures, and critical events–while also recounting her ethnographic research from Cairo, Damascus, and Amman. Grewal follows the stories of American youth as they travel overseas in search of something they believed could not be found domestically, yet at the same time, these students seek to return to the United States after acquiring what they set out to find. How their idiosyncratic identities and concerns play out in their respective locales offers a frame in which Grewal explores her larger questions surrounding authority, identity, and religious truth. The monograph is an example of scholarly rigor while simultaneously welcomes non-specialists to explore the challenges she puts so eloquently into words. Islam is a Foreign Country is thoroughly digestible and although with big ideas often come big words, Grewal’s prose proves inviting and absorbing, making it an absolute pleasure to read and a conversation starter for any number of audiences.

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