One woman’s personal examination of Muslim and American values.
In this follow-up to her comparative study of Muslim, Christian and Jewish identity (The Faith Club, co-authored with Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, 2006), Idliby hones in on her family’s experiences as American Muslims immediately following 9/11. The author and her husband, then longtime Manhattanites and self-described “secular Muslims,” suddenly found themselves and their children challenged by “Muslims who speak for us and Americans who reject us.” Thus confronted with repeated calls to account for the whole of Islam, and skewed views of a violent Islam at that, Idliby was forced to look within at what Muslim and American values she held dear. The author charts that reflection, as this daughter of a Palestinian father and Kuwaiti mother who had spent her youth shuttling between Virginia and Dubai painfully relates to her own children’s post-9/11 sense of being the “other.” Hoping for better for her American-born children, Idliby tailors her remarks for a largely Islam-illiterate American audience, debunking a number of widespread misconceptions about Islam. Refusing to have her children’s worldviews constricted by “clerics who peddle seventh century absolute orthodoxy as the only true Islam,” Idliby strongly advocates for reading the Quran in the cultural context of its time and not as literal doctrine for 21st-century society. For example, the author explains that female head-covering is a social convention and admonishes those donning the niqab (full face covering) for opting to be “buried alive under a black tent” and, thereby, “erased of their identities.” In Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, Idliby also points out, “face coverings are banned,” underscoring one of the memoir’s central points—that “Islam is not a nationality, but a faith, as diverse and varied as its many billion adherents.” Such diversity of belief, Idliby compellingly argues, aligns well with American individualism and cherished beliefs in equality, diversity and justice.
A bold, intimate, welcome examination of reconciling one’s faith in America.