Becoming American? A Book Review

Professor Haddad's book is a treasure trove of information. Her summaries of the development of the struggle to form Arab and Muslim identity in American, and her analysis of the prejudices and bars that have or still prohibit their complete inclusion are informed by not only her own reasoning, but by a wealth of scholarship. For those of us coming to these issues with little or no understanding of any ongoing scholarly conversation, Becoming American? not only provides her summary of this conversation, but a voluminous bibliography for further study. I have marked a number of works I hope to read as I learn more about Islam and Islam in America.

Haddad reports that the latest generation of Arab-American activists takes American values very seriously, and they believe that their Arab or Muslim heritage can be a part of making America better, into an America "that is not blinded by special interests but is truly guided by the values it preaches." (95) As I wrote in this column last month, the best recent poll shows just that: American Muslims embrace America and want to be embraced in return as American citizens.

That hasn't happened yet. Haddad quotes, for example, a woman who says "I feel American, I bleed American, my country denies me that identity because I am a Muslim." (96) But surely we can see how patently unfair that seems.

Books like Becoming American? that inform general readers about the other side of the question can-and one hopes will-be a part of that process of change.

For more conversation on Becoming American? visit the Patheos Book Club here.

9/19/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Greg Garrett
    About Greg Garrett
    Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post,, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.