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- Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Award 2009 - Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand y - Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Award 2009 - Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world’s fastest growing religion.


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- Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Award 2009 - Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand y - Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Award 2009 - Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world’s fastest growing religion.

30 review for The Muslim Next Door: The Qurʼan, the Media, and That Veil Thing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maddi Hausmann

    This is a book about an important topic that won't be read by the people who need to read it. And for the people who are open to the topic, they'll find it was written by the wrong author. Ali-Karamali says she was encouraged to write the book because most Americans are complely ignorant on Islam and Muslim viewpoints. I can't disagree with her, but if this is your only introduction to that world, the odds are you'll stop a few chapters in and just give up. I finished it because it was for one of This is a book about an important topic that won't be read by the people who need to read it. And for the people who are open to the topic, they'll find it was written by the wrong author. Ali-Karamali says she was encouraged to write the book because most Americans are complely ignorant on Islam and Muslim viewpoints. I can't disagree with her, but if this is your only introduction to that world, the odds are you'll stop a few chapters in and just give up. I finished it because it was for one of my book clubs, and actually thought the later chapters were more interesting. Part of the problem is that the basic information she starts with wasn't anything new to me, but the bigger problem is that Ali-Karamali is just as provincial in her viewpoint as the Americans she hopes to educate. The book is full of sweeping generalizations, special pleading, and fallacy upon fallacy. Have you ever heard of the "No True Scotsman" argument? You've probably heard it before: if a person representative of a group does something bad, it's because he's "No True Scotsman," so therefore you can't condemn that group. You'll find that argument and many others more commonly found with Christian apologetics. And apologetics is the right word, because any problematical issue, event, or behavior is excused on some grounds or other. If there's a phrase in the Qu'ran that a non-Muslim points to, she'll say it's being taken out of context. If a large group of Muslims have a practice others object to, she'll say that wasn't what Mohammed meant and they're misinterpreting his words. And yet Ali-Karamali herself decides she'll skip the Islamic law about giving her son twice as large a share of her estate as her daughter, because, after all, times change. I would have gotten more out of the book if she'd condensed the first 6 chapters or so into one. And she leaves so little of herself in the book. The few intriguing scenes, such as when her high school history teacher made a claim the Qu'ran said something and she interrupted him to say it wasn't in there, stops with that exchange. What was her relationship with that teacher like the rest of the year? Did he single her out because of his Islamic animus, or did he actually learn something from the student who had read the Qu'ran when he was just repeating some ignorant "fact" he'd heard? We never know, because she never mentions it again. And for such a highly educated person, Ali-Karmali is rather ignorant of the rest of the world's religions. Look, I have a lot in common with her, growing up in a minority religion when the default is Christianity. I have a reason to pull for her, but her writing a book about religion and assuming all the readers are Christian is the same error that she so chafed against growing up! She doesn't mention any other religions comparatively, and she doesn't have that firm an understanding of all the different variants of Christianity either. Look, you can't write a religious information book for Americans if you don't understand what you're contrasting the new information with! She claims Arabic is unique, yet its qualities are so similar in Hebrew that I often understand the concepts in some Arabic phrases because the words are so similar and work the same with way. Again, she's no language expert, but puts herself out there as if she is. For some reason this book was chosen as this year's Silicon Valley Reads entry. The topic is important, but there's got to be a better way to get the information out there. It needs an author who knows what she doesn't know, and isn't trying so hard to prevent us from getting to know more about herself.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rahadyan

    I bought this book with the intention of giving it to a devout Christian (Baptist) relative so she could understand -- even if she didn't approve of -- my conversion to Islam that happened many years ago. Ms. Ali-Karamali, a Muslim of Indian and Pakistani descent, is an approximate contemporary of mine and references some Western cultural touchstones we have in common; unlike her, however, I was raised as a Christian and became a Muslim convert in later life. _The Muslim Next Door_ is well-resea I bought this book with the intention of giving it to a devout Christian (Baptist) relative so she could understand -- even if she didn't approve of -- my conversion to Islam that happened many years ago. Ms. Ali-Karamali, a Muslim of Indian and Pakistani descent, is an approximate contemporary of mine and references some Western cultural touchstones we have in common; unlike her, however, I was raised as a Christian and became a Muslim convert in later life. _The Muslim Next Door_ is well-researched, articulate and accessible, though I fear it will only be read by those who have a genuine interest in bridging cultural and religious gaps within their own families or social circles. Highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Pros: I learned a lot about the history of Islam and the prophet Mohammed. I also enjoyed hearing about the author's practice of Islam and how it enriches her life. Cons: The author is so eager to defend Islam that I found her arguments one-sided to the point that they lacked credibility. She contradicts herself many times, always in Islam's favor. At certain points of the book, when discussing destructive, violent actions committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam, she argues that those act Pros: I learned a lot about the history of Islam and the prophet Mohammed. I also enjoyed hearing about the author's practice of Islam and how it enriches her life. Cons: The author is so eager to defend Islam that I found her arguments one-sided to the point that they lacked credibility. She contradicts herself many times, always in Islam's favor. At certain points of the book, when discussing destructive, violent actions committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam, she argues that those actions have nothing to do with Islam because they are not mentioned in the Qu'ran. But at other points in the book, when discussing ancient customs sanctioned by the Qu'ran, she says they are not really part of Islam because they are no longer widely practiced. So which is it? Is the Qu'ran the final word on what constitues Islam? Or is it Islam as actually practiced by people in the 21st century? I found the author's writing on several other topics, including wearing of the veil, whether women can lead prayers, polygamy, and the punishment for adultery similarly one-sided. By refusing to examine any possible negative aspects of Islam, the author produced arguments that seemed defensive rather than intellectually honest, and were not convincing to me. I was, however, left with an overall positive impression of Islam, based mostly on the author's description of her own personal practice of her faith.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sumayyah

    The Muslim Next Door - a review Suppose you are in the bookstore, or the library, and you are looking for information on Islam. You head toward the Religion section, find Islam, and immediately, you are stumped. There are several Qur'ans, and various books claiming to have the "true" portrait of Muslims contained within its pages. But, wait, what it this? Do you want to learn about the Shi'a revival, the Sunni law making procedures, or the Sufi meditation practices? Confused yet? Sumbul Ali-Karamal The Muslim Next Door - a review Suppose you are in the bookstore, or the library, and you are looking for information on Islam. You head toward the Religion section, find Islam, and immediately, you are stumped. There are several Qur'ans, and various books claiming to have the "true" portrait of Muslims contained within its pages. But, wait, what it this? Do you want to learn about the Shi'a revival, the Sunni law making procedures, or the Sufi meditation practices? Confused yet? Sumbul Ali-Karamali has written a solution to the initial confusion. Titled "The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing", this is one book that gives a very informed introduction to some of the most pressing questions about Islam in the 21st century. Beginning with an explanation of the 5 pillars of Islam, Ali-Karamali takes the reader on a brief journey through history and ends with an overview of being an American Muslim in a post 9/11 world. Initially, I wanted to give this book 3.5 stars (out of 5). The author began well enough, but at times seemed to be contradictory and overly apologetic. Her emphasis that certain widely known (and misunderstood) practices were the result of culture and not religion quickly became repetitious. However, as I continued to read, I gained more respect for Sumbul Ali-Karamali's simplistic writing style, as well as her candid way of sharing her personal experiences as a South Asian-American Muslim woman. With ease, she describes the differences between sects, the alien concept of "clergy" to most Muslims, and analyzes several problematic verses in the Qur'an. The longest chapter in the book is chapter 7, "Women In Islam." Here she goes into detail, citing historical and anecdotal evidence that Muslim women are not the sheltered, oppressed women that they are thought to be. Overall, this book is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to quickly learn more about "real" Islam. I give it 4 stars (out of 5) and recommend it to people who crave knowledge of "what's really going on."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    Many Americans and many others throughout the Christian and Western world do not know much about Islam, yet they adopt fear and express revulsion towards a faith that has Abraham as its forefather, that believes in the same monotheistic God as the Jews and the Christians, and that reveres the life and ministry of Jesus. If you truly want to understand Islam, I highly recommend The Muslim Next Door by the brilliant Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Her book enables anyone with an open mind to have an illumina Many Americans and many others throughout the Christian and Western world do not know much about Islam, yet they adopt fear and express revulsion towards a faith that has Abraham as its forefather, that believes in the same monotheistic God as the Jews and the Christians, and that reveres the life and ministry of Jesus. If you truly want to understand Islam, I highly recommend The Muslim Next Door by the brilliant Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Her book enables anyone with an open mind to have an illuminating guide to the history, beliefs, and practices of the world’s fastest growing faith. Her book also confronts the rampant misconceptions and falsehoods that fuel Islamophobia and unjustly stigmatize Muslims in a negative fashion. Anyone beginning to learn about Islam must understand that Allah is the Arabic word for God, just like the French word for God is Dieu. Ali-Karamali provides a thorough explanation of how Allah is the same “One True God” of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims. Moreover, because Islam is an Abrahamic faith, she explains how Muslims give devotion to following the divine teachings of all the prophets among the Old and New Testaments from Adam to Moses to Noah to Abraham to Ismail to Isaac to David to Mary and, of course, to Jesus, who is, indeed, one of Islam’s most revered prophets. So the question arises: Who is Muhammad? Ali-Karamali offers us an inspiring portrait of Muhammad’s remarkable life during a tumultuous era, and she outlines the legacy of his extraordinary achievements as God’s final prophet who shared God’s message of the Qur’an, which sealed and confirmed the previous scriptures in the Bible. I find most profound her description of Muhammad “as someone who had unfailing patience, a contemplative and gentle personality, an abhorrence of violence, a loving relationship with his family, honest and trustworthy even before his prophethood, a shyness of demeanor, and an active sense of humor.” This is, indeed, the extraordinary type of individual Muhammad was, and reading Ali-Karamali’s book will allow you to understand the importance of how his prophethood of humane and just teachings, leadership, and reforms called for the improvement of humankind, inclusive of every race and religion. What is both fascinating and marvelous to me about the Qur’an is not only its ingenuity and beauty in offering an explanation about the world and human creation, but also its logic and reason in providing a guide for its adherents to living a righteous life, and Ali-Karamali offers profound insight for how to better read and understand the inspiring message of the Qur’an. For example, she makes clear how every comment in the Qur’an that references punishment is always balanced with an understanding that forgiveness is far better. Another fact she stresses is how the Qur’an has no male-dominant language and instead always focuses on the inclusiveness of women. She provides more vital facts regarding the self-defense verses. She explains how passages that address fighting constitute less than one percent of the Qur’anic verses, and yet Islamophobes insist on reading single lines out of context about self-defense and then refuse to continue with the logic and reason that always follows in the same verse, which forbids aggression and requires the making of peace. Therefore, if you want to know Islam, you need to understand the fact that the Qur’an welcomingly accepts other religions and respects people of all races and backgrounds. Reading Ali-Karamali’s book allows you to gain an understanding of how the Qur’an stresses compassion, forgiveness, and peace as the guiding force for an individual’s pursuit of how to improve one’s life and self. One of the strongest and most inspiring aspects of her book is the chapter where she confronts the falsehood that Islam allows for the mistreatment of women. She offers the facts about how Islam has never taught the oppression of women because the Qur’an states clearly that men and women are equal, and it was Muhammad who, within the patriarchal society of the 7th Century, relied vitally on his wives and other women leaders in the ummah, the Muslim community, for advice on every facet of life. Ali-Karamali provides the facts about how Islam gave women property, inheritance, and divorce rights, and she reminds us how women throughout Islamic history and in Muslim-majority countries have served in high offices and have been presidents, queens, heads of state, and rulers. In the contemporary Muslim world, women make up a substantial number of doctors, engineers, lawyers, and professors in their fields. Ali-Karamali offers a plethora of facts that show the truth of how valued and venerated women are in Muslim societies. Regarding head coverings, Ali-Karamali sets the record straight about how misconceptions over several centuries have led to misinformed contemporary views that hijabs are symbols of oppression. She explains how the Qur’an instructs both men and women to be modest, and the Qur’an entrusts women to choose whether they want to wear a head covering for the reason they decide upon. Ali-Karamali explains how wearing a hijab is a personal choice and it has “always represented modesty and religious devotion.” She further observes how the hijab offers women “freedom to be judged on their intelligence and personality rather than their looks.” Hijabs can only be oppressive when a state strips away a woman’s personal choice whether to wear or not wear a head covering. Therefore, it has always been culture, customs, and traditions that lead to oppression in some countries because the Qur’an clearly states the equality of women and men. In many ways, Islam is about an individual’s quest to connect with God, and Islam offers a guide for how to live a righteous life of prayer, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. This struggle in striving for goodness and the improvement of one’s self is the true definition of jihad. The word jihad is so egregiously misused throughout Western society to the extent that Ali-Karamali reminds us how easily people can develop falsehoods about Islam without any reliance on truth and facts. She says, “Media portraits of the ‘Islamic world’ are often drawn exclusively from Khomeini, bin Laden, isolated verses of the Qur’an taken out of context, and extremist militant groups like the Taliban [and ISIS]. It would be equally delusive to assemble a portrait of the ‘West’ or even America exclusively from examples of the Ku Klux Klan, quotes from Pat Robertson, isolated verses of the Bible, and certain actions of the CIA.” The truth is that throughout history, Muslim societies and empires have always been multireligious and multicultural, and Ali-Karamali condemns extremists and radicals for the common criminals they are. My interest in Islam started years before 9/11 when I had been studying world religions and became fascinated with and inspired by Islam’s overwhelming message of peace and humanity. Furthermore, my admiration and embrace of the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad became natural because of Islam’s many bridges that connect Christians and Muslims. Ali-Karamali’s The Muslim Next Door is an outstanding work of scholarship, blended with anecdotes from her life, that can offer anyone with an open mind an inspirational understanding of Islam that will hopefully leave you with more appreciation for the great humanity of the world’s fastest growing religion.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Clifford

    While the book is highly informative and well-written, it seems to present an IDEAL of Islam, and perhaps that's because the author is a legal expert from America who is accustomed to defending her religion. She is, I think, insufficiently critical of the Islam that is actually practiced around the world, and spends almost no time at all talking about the conflict with Israel. Still, it is a useful guide to the basic concepts and history of the religion, and it's very readable. It also makes some While the book is highly informative and well-written, it seems to present an IDEAL of Islam, and perhaps that's because the author is a legal expert from America who is accustomed to defending her religion. She is, I think, insufficiently critical of the Islam that is actually practiced around the world, and spends almost no time at all talking about the conflict with Israel. Still, it is a useful guide to the basic concepts and history of the religion, and it's very readable. It also makes some excellent points about the bigotry directed toward Muslims in America, especially after 9/11.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nura Yusof

    The author has made learning about Islam far more accessible with this book, even for me, a sometimes practicing Muslim. Islam is a complex religion (for me, at least). Over-simplifying it, or misinterpreting it, is what's giving it bad rep. And it also doesn't help that the media picks and chooses to highlight the 'negative' aspects of Islam which in fact, are not even Islamic to begin with. What the author is trying to say (and which not many are paying attention to) is that, Islam is not an evi The author has made learning about Islam far more accessible with this book, even for me, a sometimes practicing Muslim. Islam is a complex religion (for me, at least). Over-simplifying it, or misinterpreting it, is what's giving it bad rep. And it also doesn't help that the media picks and chooses to highlight the 'negative' aspects of Islam which in fact, are not even Islamic to begin with. What the author is trying to say (and which not many are paying attention to) is that, Islam is not an evil religion. It's those who claim to be Muslims but doing un-Islamic things that are evil.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what the heck Islam really is, to regular people who profess it as their religion, and what it isn't. Ali-Karamali, an attorney born in the US to parents who immigrated from India, clears away a lot of misconceptions promoted by ignorant people, and at every turn highlights the similarities between Islam and other religions. Religion is a human construct, thus all religions constructed by humans are going to have similarities because humans are a I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what the heck Islam really is, to regular people who profess it as their religion, and what it isn't. Ali-Karamali, an attorney born in the US to parents who immigrated from India, clears away a lot of misconceptions promoted by ignorant people, and at every turn highlights the similarities between Islam and other religions. Religion is a human construct, thus all religions constructed by humans are going to have similarities because humans are all similar. Sorry if this seems to overstate the obvious, but in both my experience and clearly hers, people don't want to know or believe in the similarities. It made me so sad to see the amount of complete ignorance pushed into her face for her whole life - I don't understand where people get off telling an actual practicing Muslim that she's wrong about her own religion, based on what they have seen on TV. It also made me sad to read a personal account of the fear she and her family experienced after 9/11 and how she stayed up all night to paint a flag to put in her window so that her home and children would not be in danger. I am fortunate to personally know Muslims who've been willing to sit down and talk to me about many of these matters, and they've told me a lot of this already, but this book compiles it all into one accessible place. This is the personal level counterpart to Garry Wills' more scholarly overview of the Quran, and will tell you a lot more about the views of an actual Muslim person. Please hear her. We are all in this together.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Wells

    I read this book for class, and I found it really informative and easy to understand. Really good for someone that doesn't know anything about Islam and is interested in learning. I do think at some times she was a little too uncritical (which was discussed in the class I was talking) but overall a really solid read. I enjoyed my time reading this and taking the class period. I highly recommend anyone interested in learning more about Islam to take a Muslim history class! I read this book for class, and I found it really informative and easy to understand. Really good for someone that doesn't know anything about Islam and is interested in learning. I do think at some times she was a little too uncritical (which was discussed in the class I was talking) but overall a really solid read. I enjoyed my time reading this and taking the class period. I highly recommend anyone interested in learning more about Islam to take a Muslim history class!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Soroush

    This is a book that I would recommend to those who are not familiar with Islam, and those who would like to learn Islam from a liberal Muslim lawyer. I would not recommend this book to Muslims, who have studied Islam for years, and are familiar with traditional and classical scholarship. Why? Because the author presents Islam and certain much-discussed Islamic topics according to her personal opinions and interpretations of religious texts. Her approach may be bothersome to those who have learne This is a book that I would recommend to those who are not familiar with Islam, and those who would like to learn Islam from a liberal Muslim lawyer. I would not recommend this book to Muslims, who have studied Islam for years, and are familiar with traditional and classical scholarship. Why? Because the author presents Islam and certain much-discussed Islamic topics according to her personal opinions and interpretations of religious texts. Her approach may be bothersome to those who have learned Islam through the works of classical scholars. She has opinions that stand in clear contradictions to those of traditional views, and she presents them as Islamic views or "just another valid opinion." Her modern approach may seem disingenuous because of her selective approach to available Islamic resources. For these reasons and more, serious students of Islamic studies should probably stay away from this book. However, this is a good book for those who aren't familiar with the diversity of opinions within Islam. It undermines the misguided narrative that Islam is a monolithic religion. It brings to attention the availability of multiple perspectives regarding various topics, which in turn can help to enrich discussions and debates. Furthermore, because this book isn't only focused on the legal aspect of Islam and examines the religion from a historical and sociological perspective as well, it includes a wide-range of information that can surprise many different readers coming from different directions. As a successful American Muslim lawyer, the author has chosen to respond, in this book, to many preposterous questions and comments regarding Islam that she has received throughout her life. Consequently, the reader will become familiar with many common misconceptions about Islam and a Muslim's response to them. If you would like a light read on Islam, without much depth or nuance, then this book is for you. It has the potential to inspire you to study Islam further.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    The Muslim Next Door, written by Sumbul Ali-Karamali provides a unique and valuable perspective on Islam. Ali-Karamali is an American Muslim woman. Perspectives like hers on Islam are often overlooked by people when discussing the Muslim world. Personally, it is not a perspective I have encountered much because I’ve spent most of my life in the Middle East, and I thoroughly appreciated Ali-Karamali’s perspective and learned a lot about what it is like to be a Muslim in America, particularly an A The Muslim Next Door, written by Sumbul Ali-Karamali provides a unique and valuable perspective on Islam. Ali-Karamali is an American Muslim woman. Perspectives like hers on Islam are often overlooked by people when discussing the Muslim world. Personally, it is not a perspective I have encountered much because I’ve spent most of my life in the Middle East, and I thoroughly appreciated Ali-Karamali’s perspective and learned a lot about what it is like to be a Muslim in America, particularly an American Muslim woman. In The Muslim Next Door, Ali-Karamali provides a basic overview of Islam and what the basic practices and beliefs are, by highlighting and explaining the five pillars, describing how and why Islam fits into the Judeo-Christian tradition, and giving a brief history of the origins of Islam and Prophet Muhammad’s story. The rest of the book is devoted to specific controversial topics surrounding Islam, such as the Qur’an, women’s rights, and violence and extremism. She explains the inaccurate stereotypes surrounding these issues, then discusses how she believes Islam truly addresses these issues. Lastly, she explains why she believes the misconceptions and prejudice persist. Throughout her book, there are some major themes that I “heard” Ali-Karamli claim about her faith. First, Islam is disproportionately represented in the media and that cultural practices is often mistaken for religious. Second, because of those misconceptions, Islam is therefore misunderstood. Lastly, despite such misrepresentation, Islam is in fact a tolerant, flexible religion that advocates for social justice. Throughout her book, Ali-Karamali addresses the misconceptions many westerners have towards Muslims and Islam. She continuously reminds the reader that the main story the media produces about Muslims, while true, is only representative a small percentage of Muslims, and therefore does not accurately represent all Muslims. For example, she discusses that many think Islam itself is oppressive towards women, when that is not accurate. However, she reocognizes if the only story someone knows about Muslims is the Taliban and their oppression of women, people will assume that is representative of all of Islam. Ali-Karamali consistantly points out that while the Qur’an can be and is used to justify actions such as oppression of women, violence, or polygamy, doesn’t mean it is a legitimate justification according to the Qur’an. She writes, “To ignore the textual context, the intertextuality of the Qur’an, and its historical context is ignoring the Qur’an’s own history and cannot, in the modern view, give an accurate reading (pg. 162).” She reminds us that the Qur’an was more progressive and humane than pre-Islamic Arabia, and the majority of the world in its historical context. She argues that many of the verses used to justify such things are often taken out of that context, and she contrasts those few verses with the overall message of the Qur’an, which is one of peace, equality, and social justice. A passage I found particularly valuable and beautiful was when she discussed the hijab, and why women may choose to wear it. In a short yet impactful sentence, she declares, “The hijab, therefore, can be a way to become equal to men (pg.136).” While I have heard (and agree with) the perspective she discusses about the choice of modesty, this way of wording was incredibly powerful to me. It shows how the hijab can be not only a choice of modesty, but one to show strength, independence, and power. I appreciated that she explained various positive reasons why a Muslim woman may choose to cover, even though she does not choose to wear a hijab herself. Another topic that stood out to me of Ali-Karamali’s views is the flexibility of Islam. Ali-Karamali mentions that while the Qur’an is the word of God and never changes, it is also not static. She voiced that the flexibility and fluidity of her religion is something she sees as very valuable and important to her faith. She writes, “Classical Islamic law is a policy-oriented system, not a rigid penal system (pg. 203).” This explanation and understanding of Islam and the Qur’an is something I can relate to because this is how I see Christianity and much of the Bible’s message: that it provides policies and principles rather than rigid or strict laws. This explanation also gives me a deeper understanding and connection to how Muslims view their religion and the practice of their religion, as well as how Muslims see the legalistic portrayals of Islam are misrepresentative of Islam as a whole. Many of the frustrations Ali-Karamali voiced about how she sees the Qur’an and Islam misused and misrepresented by other Muslims is something I can relate to. I have seen news stories of Christians promoting or doing something I see as very un-Christ-like, and I have also seen how that affects others’ views of Christianity as a whole, though not to the extent that Muslims experience. Particularly she notes, “What I find most disturbing about extremist and fundamentalist movements of all creds is their lack of tolerance for other religions and cultures. In particular, Muslims who are intolerant of other religions and cultures are violating the very principles of religious tolerance set out in the Qur’an (pg. 192).” She mentions how Muslim extremists go against fundamental aspects of the Qur’an in several areas, though this one stuck out to me because I deeply relate to her feelings about this. Loving those different than us is an extremely high value in Christianity, and I have felt the same about the intolerance of many Christians as she feels of Muslims who are intolerant. Again, this points to the misrepresentation of Islam that she discusses. When all Americans see of Islam is intolerance, they’re going to assume Islam is intolerant, even when it is the opposite. Ali-Karamali illustrates an informative, important view of Islam, and how she has lived it out. One of the most impactful points she makes consistently is how, when the Qur’an is read and interpreted in its historical context, one can see clearly how progressive Islam was, and how it aligns with important values, such as human rights, that people often claim it doesn’t promote. This is a book that everyone, no matter their background knowledge on Islam, can learn from and see the value of. It is a powerful, impactful, and very moving book that displays Islam well as a whole, but also as Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s personal faith.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Waynette

    Wonderful book! I've always been curious about Islam as a culture and as a religion but found it hard to ask a friend without appearing ignorant. I usually am brave about asking, justifying it to myself that I'd cut off my ignorance sooner by learning the answer to my question. But aspects of this much maligned religion is controversial and somehow social events didn't seem the right time or place (the book has an example of this too). Anyhow, this book provides knowledge about the typical Musli Wonderful book! I've always been curious about Islam as a culture and as a religion but found it hard to ask a friend without appearing ignorant. I usually am brave about asking, justifying it to myself that I'd cut off my ignorance sooner by learning the answer to my question. But aspects of this much maligned religion is controversial and somehow social events didn't seem the right time or place (the book has an example of this too). Anyhow, this book provides knowledge about the typical Muslim person and I appreciate it very much. While reading, I've had many moments of "ooohh, that's why." It wasn't on purpose but I read this after Ali Soufan's Black Banners. Soufan's book lends a peak on extremists and terrorist's beliefs (not in the Quran). The difference is alarming and the only descriptor I could think of is "good and and really evil. When I finished the book, the feeling of satisfaction I had felt like I had a exceptionally good gourmet meal. I want to learn more. Butterfly Mosque is next on my list.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is one of the 2012 Silicon Valley Reads books. I've read the first chapter and am enjoying it a lot. Her writing is informative, yet humorous and readable. It's helping me to understand what it feels like to be Muslim and American. Now that I've finished the book, I'll add that it helped me to develop a sensitivity to the basic assumptions about Islam that we are fed by the media and our culture. A few negative incidents are highlighted while the many positives are completely ignored. This b This is one of the 2012 Silicon Valley Reads books. I've read the first chapter and am enjoying it a lot. Her writing is informative, yet humorous and readable. It's helping me to understand what it feels like to be Muslim and American. Now that I've finished the book, I'll add that it helped me to develop a sensitivity to the basic assumptions about Islam that we are fed by the media and our culture. A few negative incidents are highlighted while the many positives are completely ignored. This book is well worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kamala

    See http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/02... and http://revuse.wetpaint.com/page/Ten+Q... See http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/02... and http://revuse.wetpaint.com/page/Ten+Q...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ti Bryan

    Even as a lawyer in U.S., the author's defence against what she perceives as 'misconception' around the religion, was surprisingly weak. Disclaimer: Je suis atheist. So I'm biased. Even as a lawyer in U.S., the author's defence against what she perceives as 'misconception' around the religion, was surprisingly weak. Disclaimer: Je suis atheist. So I'm biased.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronni

    Childish attempt at a defense that is poorly supported and contradictory. Truly 0 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is an informative book, and I don't regret having read it, although I admit I was getting fed up with it during the final chapter. As a Jesus follower, I suspected I might not agree with everything in "The Muslim Next Door." But my point was to learn, not to argue with the book, and for the most part I succeeded. What brought out my defensiveness was the author's attack on another community of which I am a part, the media. Her view is that the media generalize their reporting of Muslims, put This is an informative book, and I don't regret having read it, although I admit I was getting fed up with it during the final chapter. As a Jesus follower, I suspected I might not agree with everything in "The Muslim Next Door." But my point was to learn, not to argue with the book, and for the most part I succeeded. What brought out my defensiveness was the author's attack on another community of which I am a part, the media. Her view is that the media generalize their reporting of Muslims, putting them in the worst possible light on the basis of extreme examples. In doing so, she generalizes about the media. I couldn't help but notice with regards to some of the things she accuses the media of ignoring that when I followed the footnotes the source for her information was ... the media (typically BBC online). I've been a member of the media for longer than I care to think about, and one thing that seems to be consistently true is that people seem to believe the media are against whatever group they are part of. If you are a liberal, the media are tools of the corporate right-wingers. If you are a conservative, the media are dominated by liberals. If there are two high schools in town, the local newspaper always favors the other school in its sports coverage and virtually ignores your school. My perception of how the media cover the Islamic religion and those who practice it is entirely different from the author's. To me, it appeared that very soon -- not immediately -- after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. media bent over backward to present the (accurate) message that many Muslim people were victims of those attacks, and that the terrorists and those who applauded them didn't reflect the thinking of the vast majority of the 1.5 billion Muslims on the planet. If there's any religious group that I think "the media" portray unfairly, it's Jesus followers, or at least the conservative, evangelical -- dare I say fundamentalist -- variety of the same. But then, I'm one of them. Hoist by my own petard. Certainly, Ali-Karamali makes some legitimate points. I remember when I first saw Disney's animated "Aladdin" in the theater, I thought it was quite wonderful. I'm embarrassed by that now. Among the movie's sins is the commentary in the opening song about Arabia: "It's barbaric, but it's home." How could the movie's makers have thought that was acceptable? How could I have not noticed and how could I have not been revolted by it? Given the subtitle, I thought "The Muslim Next Door" might be a little entertaining, as well as informative. It's really not entertaining at all, which is OK. It repeats itself a lot, which is not OK, but perhaps the author felt doing so was necessary to get her points across. But the rant that made up the final chapter was, I thought, over the top.

  18. 5 out of 5

    NC Weil

    The Muslim Next Door by Sumbul Ali-Karamali reviewed by NC Weil Ms. Ali-Karamali’s book would be more useful if it had been written more recently. With a copyright of 2008, it cannot take into account the events of Arab Spring nor the rise of Daesh (known in this country as ISIS or ISIL) - she states repeatedly that the only examples of extremists acting in the name of Islam are Osama bin Laden and the Taliban of Afghanistan. Would that were so. She says that “only a few” nations live under Shari The Muslim Next Door by Sumbul Ali-Karamali reviewed by NC Weil Ms. Ali-Karamali’s book would be more useful if it had been written more recently. With a copyright of 2008, it cannot take into account the events of Arab Spring nor the rise of Daesh (known in this country as ISIS or ISIL) - she states repeatedly that the only examples of extremists acting in the name of Islam are Osama bin Laden and the Taliban of Afghanistan. Would that were so. She says that “only a few” nations live under Sharia - she lists Yemen and Saudi Arabia. But according to Wikipedia, such nations also include Sudan, twelve states in Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Mauritania, Iraq, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Aceh, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. While reading her examples of what I would call “ideal Islam” I couldn’t help recalling Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel, in which the Mogadishu native excoriates Muslim-majority countries as being the most backward and the most oppressive of women, of all countries in the world. Her assessment highlights the primary issue I have with The Muslim Next Door - Ms. Ali-Karamali’s inability to square her beloved bookish Islam with the realities of how it is practiced in many parts of our modern world. She asserts, for example, that in the Quran adultery was deliberately given a near-impossible burden of proof: a minimum of four eyewitnesses to the act of penetration; on this basis she condemns the practice in some countries of stoning women accused of adultery. If you were a Saudi woman being put to death by stoning, how important would it be to you that those killing you were not adhering to the Quran? How much comfort could you take in knowing they are wrong and you are being treated unjustly? She attributes the barbarities committed in the name of Islam to Arab culture, and yet she also judges the Quran incomprehensible to anyone with no knowledge of Arabic. It seems to me that the Quran is inextricable from its Arabic origins, in language and culture, and that what she sees as distortions and the politicization of religion, are in fact basic to what Islam was, is, and will be. Either Ms. Ali-Karamali or Salman Rushdie is incorrect about the fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollahs in 1989 after publication of The Satanic Verses: she says only Iran adhered to the fatwa, which was ignored across the Muslim world. According to Rushdie, who should know, heads of many Muslim-majority states, without ever having read it, upheld the fatwa and banned his book. He lived over a decade in hiding and anonymity, under the protection of British police. And thanks to them, he’s lived to write about it. I agree that fundamentalist Christianity and Orthodox Judaism have adherents as intolerant as the Taliban and the Ayatollahs, and that we would all benefit from more intermingling and less demonizing of one another’s faiths and cultures. Likewise, I share her anger over the racism and cultural stereotyping of Disney’s Aladdin - but surely she realizes Hollywood has been indulging in this particular vice since its inception. Cavalry vs. Indians, anyone (where Indians with speaking parts are played by whites)? How about the happy darkies singing spirituals on Massa’s plantation? Or that blockbuster Gone with the Wind, in which white Southern womanhood is rescued by the KKK from defilement at black hands? She is a bit disingenuous about intolerance of Muslims in present-day US - she states that “very few people realize what it is like to be the subject of daily socially acceptable lies, slander, defamation and distortion.” I guess she hasn’t talked to many African Americans, Native Americans, or Latinos about their lives in America. I appreciate her lessons about Islam, its origins and its teachings. I just wish I could see more embodiment of that faith in countries where what she calls “political Islam” dominates.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This should be a must read for all Americans. It is a powerful, extremely well-written, Historical and also current look at at the distortions that Western culture has perpetrated against Islam. I grew up in Kenya with many Muslim friends. I’ve worked with many Muslims, had doctors who were Muslim, have friends and Co-workers who are Muslim and I know that the practice of Islam by most Muslims is peaceful and gentle and includes community service and an emphasis on learning. I recommend this boo This should be a must read for all Americans. It is a powerful, extremely well-written, Historical and also current look at at the distortions that Western culture has perpetrated against Islam. I grew up in Kenya with many Muslim friends. I’ve worked with many Muslims, had doctors who were Muslim, have friends and Co-workers who are Muslim and I know that the practice of Islam by most Muslims is peaceful and gentle and includes community service and an emphasis on learning. I recommend this book to anyone seriously intent on learning the truth about Islam. I received this book as a gift from a Muslim friend after I gave the Jewish perspective in fasting at a Taste of Ramadan event. It was a true Interfaith event with great camaraderie among all. This is how it should be.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lia

    I started this book some years back, and came back to it this year to finish reading it. A great introduction for those curious about learning about Islam and for Muslims as well. Written by an American Muslim woman, her first-person lived experiences give the reader a warm connection to the faith which then lead to clear and well-researched topics on some of the main questions that are asked about Muslims in the west. Compared to older literature on Islam which can be a bit dry at times, this b I started this book some years back, and came back to it this year to finish reading it. A great introduction for those curious about learning about Islam and for Muslims as well. Written by an American Muslim woman, her first-person lived experiences give the reader a warm connection to the faith which then lead to clear and well-researched topics on some of the main questions that are asked about Muslims in the west. Compared to older literature on Islam which can be a bit dry at times, this book offers an interesting current voice from both a lawyer and female perspective of a Muslim living in the west. This introduction to popular topics will give valuable perspective, and offers further readings in the form of a booklist and citations at the end of the book. Highly recommend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I learned of this book and author from a podcast (can’t remember which one), and I thought it would help me learn what it is like, at least a little, to be an American Muslim. I knew the basic tenants of Islam, but I have to say it was illuminating to learn what it looks like practically in every day life. I learned a lot about the nature of Islam, how it relates to Christianity and Judaism, how different Islam can look in various countries, and interpretations of the Qur’an on several topics. I I learned of this book and author from a podcast (can’t remember which one), and I thought it would help me learn what it is like, at least a little, to be an American Muslim. I knew the basic tenants of Islam, but I have to say it was illuminating to learn what it looks like practically in every day life. I learned a lot about the nature of Islam, how it relates to Christianity and Judaism, how different Islam can look in various countries, and interpretations of the Qur’an on several topics. I was hoping for more personal stories than we really got, and she left many things unexplained. For example, she mentions one thing she learned in Sunday school, but never really explained why they have Sunday school and what is usually taught there. I’m still a little fuzzy on who in her Mosque decides what gets taught or if it matters because there is no real leader there necessarily, but I did learn a lot.

  22. 5 out of 5

    CarolAnne

    Enlightening perspective of the Islamic religion and what it is like to be Muslim in America. She addresses misconceptions and prejudice and provides insight into the meaning of customs and practices.

  23. 5 out of 5

    lila

    I honestly and truly think if anyone one gives this book a bad review it is because they still don't approve of Islam. I cannot stress it enough, this book is fantastic! I honestly and truly think if anyone one gives this book a bad review it is because they still don't approve of Islam. I cannot stress it enough, this book is fantastic!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Wayman

    read many years ago. informative and personal.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Very good, interesting, and helpful, will review later. Parts are clearly written by a lawyer. Overall, quite educational.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    So many details I wasn't aware of. Great intro to Islam from a layperson perspective. So many details I wasn't aware of. Great intro to Islam from a layperson perspective.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pat Jennings

    The Muslim Next Door will serve as reference for me for all things Muslim/Islam. The tenets of Islam are much like the tenets that I hold sacred. The author wrote diligently to report what Islam is and what Islam is not. The author was successful in presenting her insights as a Muslim building clarity and understanding. Often, the book seemed a bit repetitive but overall, I am really glad that I read this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erina Sumaiya

    Although this book got a little bit boring at times because of the amount of information that was packed into one book, it was still really interesting to read. Being a Muslim girl myself, I have never been interested about my religion and I never learned anything about. When I saw this book, I realized that maybe it was time to learn a couple of things about my religion rather than just calling myself a Muslim. This book gave me an incite into the incredible world of Islam. The main goal of the Although this book got a little bit boring at times because of the amount of information that was packed into one book, it was still really interesting to read. Being a Muslim girl myself, I have never been interested about my religion and I never learned anything about. When I saw this book, I realized that maybe it was time to learn a couple of things about my religion rather than just calling myself a Muslim. This book gave me an incite into the incredible world of Islam. The main goal of the author for writing this book, is to show everyone that Islam isn't everything the media says it is. In fact it is just a peaceful religion that guides humans into the right path in life. (not saying that other religions aren't good). I would highly recommend this book to people in the teenage group because many people at this age are learning a lot of things about themselves including the real meaning of religion. Even if the writer explains the many aspects of Islam very nicely, I probably wouldn't recommend this book as a fun quick read since there is so much information crammed into one book. However, the reading level is quite easy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Feather Stone

    For about four years, I began a study on the Middle East and the lives of Muslims. Having read several books on the history of the Middle East, I have come to appreciate the complex culture of that region and the turmoil caused by shifting alliances, civil strife, and the aggression of many nations into the area. In essence, I understand why the present day Middle East is in flux, trying to find balance, peace and yet assert its right to autonomy and respect. What has endured even more than trib For about four years, I began a study on the Middle East and the lives of Muslims. Having read several books on the history of the Middle East, I have come to appreciate the complex culture of that region and the turmoil caused by shifting alliances, civil strife, and the aggression of many nations into the area. In essence, I understand why the present day Middle East is in flux, trying to find balance, peace and yet assert its right to autonomy and respect. What has endured even more than tribal laws and borders is the religion of Islam. However, even to understand Islam is a difficult journey and fraught with misconceptions and opposing interpretations by scholars and even by individual Muslims. When I came across Sumbul Ali-Karamali's book, The Muslim next door, I knew I'd found a reference that I could trust to help me understand Islam in basic terms. She discusses all aspects of being a Muslim and how she enjoys a close relationship with her faith and Allah. I hear her excitement when she speaks of knowing that Islam guides her to living a peaceful life, a fruitful life, and passionate life. I hear her reverence when quoting passages from the Koran, teachings that encourage tolerance, peaceful co-existence with other religions, respect, fairness. I loved her sense of humor and light hearted approach concerning challenges she had to face growing up in an American community with very few other Muslims. In spite of having experienced bigotry and relationships of closed-minded people, she has risen above the impulse to blame an entire culture based on the misguided actions of a few. Anyone who is curious about Muslims and Islam should read her book. I'm wishing I had the good fortune of living beside a Muslim.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    New immigrants tend not to have very nice anywhere, and the US, while better than most, is no exception. The Gangs of New York gives a taste of the reception of the Irish (and by extension, Catholics in general) in 19th century America. Of course, the sunny side of the story is that the US is particularly good at assimilating people and customs, the practically national status of St. Patrick's Day is a testament to how far the Irish have come. In the Muslim Next Door, Sumbul Ali-Karamali is doing New immigrants tend not to have very nice anywhere, and the US, while better than most, is no exception. The Gangs of New York gives a taste of the reception of the Irish (and by extension, Catholics in general) in 19th century America. Of course, the sunny side of the story is that the US is particularly good at assimilating people and customs, the practically national status of St. Patrick's Day is a testament to how far the Irish have come. In the Muslim Next Door, Sumbul Ali-Karamali is doing her part in hurrying along the integration of Muslim America into the broader national fabric. The book is written for non-Muslim audiences who want to understand the basics of the religion and its practice. It is also written from a practioner's, rather than an disinterested observer's, perspective. As such fans of Tim LaHaye on the one side, and Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris on the other, will not be pleased with this book. That aside, Ali-Karamali does a good job of explaining the basic religous practices in terms understandable to those with Christian or Jewish backgrounds. Her main point is that Islam is a religion with a set of beliefs that are essentially democratic and egalitarian and hence well suited to the political culture of the United States. The violence and repression that we see in the media are outliers like 17th century Salem, MA or the Florence of Savonarola. All in all this is a good introduction to what will continue to be a growing part of the American cultural landscape. It is in everyone's interest that we understand one another and avoid the tensions that plague Muslim populations in Europe. Reading this book can certainly help.

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