American Muslims run the gamut from fanatical minister Louis Farrakhan to Mother Theresa-like AIDS activist Tarajee Abdurj-Rahim in this provocative study by New York Times journalist and practicing Muslim Steven Barboza. Interviewing dozens of Muslims, both black and white, male and female, famous and ordinary, Barboza shatters the stereotype of the ``nasty rag head'' who is often portrayed in the media as, at best, a lewd polygamist and, at worst, an AK-47-toting terrorist. Even the word ``jihad'' has been misconstrued: according to Barboza, it does not mean holy war but struggle or striving for peace. Some of the most moving stories are those of former drug-addicts and criminals who, like Malcolm X before them, are reborn in Allah, finding the hope and purpose that eluded them on the street. Also noteworthy are the portraits of Malcolm X's daughter, the writer and lecturer Attallah Shabazz; Muhammad Ali's daughter, rising rap star May May Ali; and Atlanta-based imam Jamil Abjullah Al-Amin, formerly H. Rap Brown. Muslim women, meanwhile, struggle to square feminist principles with old-world customs like the jihab, requiring that they cover themselves from head to toe. With its very clear reverence to Allah, this may not be an unbiased account of Islam; still, it's a good place to start in trying to understand the world's fastest growing religion.