A book on the American Muslim experience that’s brimming with information, although it also misses opportunities to tackle...

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MUSLIMS IN AMERICA

EXAMINING THE FACTS

Considine (Sociology/Rice Univ.; Islam, Race, and Pluralism in the Pakistani Diaspora, 2017) explores questions and answers about the lives of Muslims in the United States.

As stated in the introduction, this book is part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary Debates reference series, each volume of which identifies and addresses “30-40 questions swirling about” a particular topic. What follows is a question-and-answer session concerning the topic of the title: the community of followers of Islam who live in America. Or, more specifically, the book is aimed at addressing present-day controversies surrounding Islamic identity and its place in the pluralist American society. Questions range from the easily quantifiable (“Are Muslims in the United States responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks on American soil?”) to the more abstract (“Are American Muslims happy to be living in the United States?”). By and large, the conclusions are that Muslims have a long history of living in America, that they aren’t more dangerous than any other group, and that an entire industry has sprung up around the culture of Islamophobia. These conclusions are supported by polls (many by Pew Research), various historical citations, and assertions that Islam is a broad topic and “no one Islamic organization or mosque speaks for all American Muslims.” The book makes frequent use of recent events, such as the Trump administration’s attempts at limiting immigration from certain predominantly Muslim countries, and a number of proposals for anti-Sharia laws in the United States. This is a careful study that’s most illuminating when making use of historical details. For example, how many Americans know that a frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court shows an image of someone holding a copy of the Quran? Or that Thomas Jefferson had a personal collection of books on Islam? In contrast, some of the questions on modern issues have obvious answers (such as “Do American Muslims engage in interfaith and intercultural dialogue with non-Islamic religious and cultural communities in American society?”). The portions on Islamophobia, such as “Is Islamophobia on the rise in the United States?” provide information on how prejudiced people scapegoat Muslims. A section on the funding behind some anti-Islam groups will provide readers with some insight, although some of them may wish that the author had gone deeper into the topic. It’s easy to criticize the statements of organizations with names such as “Stop Islamization of America” and to interpret their activities as fearmongering. However, the book doesn’t adequately address the opinions of more respected critics of Islam, such as the popular author Sam Harris. Likewise, a question about why Islamist extremists believe that their thinking is in line with the Quran might have provided more substance than softballs such as “Have American Muslims contributed to the well-being, vitality, and cultural enrichment of the United States?” Although the answer to the latter is clearly yes, the answer to the former is unaddressed here.   

A book on the American Muslim experience that’s brimming with information, although it also misses opportunities to tackle some difficult questions.  

Pub Date: June 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4408-6053-9

Page Count: 212

Publisher: ABC-CLIO

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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