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Muslim and American: Two Perspectives

The Muslim Next Door

Sumbul Ali-Karamali



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.

About the Author

Sumbul Ali-Karamali grew up in California, balancing her South Asian, Muslim, and American identities. Often the only Muslim her acquaintances knew, she had ample practice answering questions about Islam and Muslims. ("What do you mean you can't go to the prom because of your religion?") While working as a corporate lawyer, she was repeatedly asked to recommend books on Islam, so she decided to write a book that was both academically reliable and entertaining to read. Consequently, she moved to London and earned her L.L.M. in Islamic Law from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. She served as a teaching assistant in Islamic Law at SOAS and a research associate at the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law in London, and then she wrote The Muslim Next Door for everyone who ever asked - or wanted to ask - a question about Islam. To learn more about Sumbul, visit her website

Sumbul Ali-Karamali


"Sumbul Ali-Karamali's exceptional The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing is a conversational piece of work that illuminates numerous facets of the Muslim faith in terms and language that the average reader can understand. Ali-Karamali's book illuminates what it means to be a Muslim and what it means to live with honour and dignity. She is academic, yet never exclusive, in her approach to the subject matter. Always kind and credible, Ali-Karamali delivers point after point of intelligibility and authority.... Sumbul Ali-Karamali's The Muslim Next Door should be required reading (along with a Qur'an) for anyone interested in the subject of Islam and its many misconceptions among Westerners. While we aim for a future in which harmony prevails and justice and compassion are tantamount, we must remember to combat the most portentous demon of them all: misinformation. Ali-Karamali's book does that beautifully."


What is religion? What is the purpose of religion? What is the difference between religious doctrine and what religionists do in practice? What is culture? How is it intertwined with religion? Is it so intertwined in the United States? Why or why not? What was your perception of Islam before reading this book and has it been transformed or confirmed after reading The Muslim Next Door? In what ways, if any, has it transformed? What information or argument or perspective in the book did you find especially surprising or compelling? Did this book inspire you to read more about the history of Islam and Muslims? Is there anything you learned about this history that you wish to investigate further? Samuel Huntingdon and others insist that a "clash of civilizations" is inevitable. What do you think? Do you adhere to a religion that has a religious text? If so, how old is that text? Do you know what every word means? Would you take every word literally? If not, why not? The author claims that we in the United States grow up with the white, Western viewpoint. Do you agree? Give examples supporting your view. Why does the Muslim head covering provoke such reflexive reactions in many non-Muslims? Is it different from nuns' habits? Jewish orthodox head coverings? What are the issues involved in religious dress? What are the parameters of dress and modesty in our own world, religious or non-religious? Are the words "objective," "apologist," and "biased," appropriate to a discussion of religion? How are they used in the public discourse? Is there an objective view or only different points of view? Can you think of aspects of your own traditions or cultures or religions that could be misunderstood or that other people could point to in a negative light? 

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