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How does the practice of Islam and its community of believers change in the American context?

Islam in Urban America

Sunni Muslims in Chicago

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Garbi Schmidt

"Islam in Urban America contains a wealth of detailed material about a variety of immigrant Muslim institutions and organizations in Chicago. It reflects amazingly meticulous fieldwork and thoughtful reflections. Presented in a lively fashion, and often in the words of Chicago's Muslim immigrants themselves, this book is an outstanding contribution to an exciting new field."
Karen Leonard, Departments of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at UC Irvine, and author of Muslims in the United States: The State of Research

In recent years, world events have trained a harsh spotlight on the Muslim religion and its adherents. The misunderstanding and bias against Muslims in the United States not only persists but has deepened. In this detailed study of an immigrant community in Chicago, Garbi Schmidt considers the formation and meaning of an "American Islam." This vivid portrait of the people and the institutions that draw them together contributes to the academic literature on ethnic and religious identity at the same time as it depicts an immigrant community's struggle against bias and forces that threaten its cohesion.

Chicago has long been home to Muslim immigrants from numerous countries in the Middle East and South Asia. For some members of these groups religion carries more weight than ethnic identity in the American context and enables them to form and participate in a broad spectrum of institutions that support their religious and social interests. Schmidt offers her observations of the schools and student associations that serve young Muslims as well as the social, religious, and political organizations that serve adults. By looking at the ways in which children, adolescents, and adults come together in these institutions, she is able to show the dynamic process in which a variegated American Muslim identity takes shape. Readers will come away from this book with a better understanding of the ideological and cultural differences among Muslims and a greater appreciation of their struggles in becoming Americans.

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Excerpt

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"This is a wonderful, informed, readable and comprehensive look at Sunni Islam as practiced by immigrant Muslims in Chicago in the mid to late 1990s. Garbi Schmidt examines the practice, teaching, and foci of Islamic activists and members of community organizations, Muslim student groups, and paramosques. She deals well with issues of gender and the meaning of women's dress. As a study of religion and the religious aspect of immigrant communities, it is an extremely well done study and interpretation. Islam in Urban America is an invaluable tool for persons studying communities of Muslims."
Dr. Louise Cainkar, University of Illinois-Chicago, Great Cities Institute

"This work contributes significantly to the academic literature on ethnic and religious identity."
Islamic Horizons

"[Schmidt] has produced a straightforward, low-key account, with no grand theoretical frame. Readers must come to their own conclusions—a sensible approach in the current climate."
Wilson Quarterly

"Schmidt is an assiduous, empathetic, and intelligent fieldworker, and her book's strength lies in its recording and analysis of significant meetings and encounters... [there is] an excellent account of a women's study group in which she participated at one of Chicago's large Islamic centers."
The Journal of Anthropological Research

"The book poses two questions: Can Islam in America be considered an 'American' religion? Is the Muslim community monolithic? In an attempt to answer them, Schmidt focuses on the study of Sunni Muslim institutions in Chicago."
Arab Studies Quarterly

"[Schmidt's] interesting descriptive account with many original observations [is] by someone who seems to have put much effort into trying to understand Muslims on their own terms...this is where the value of the book lies, a detailed recording of many sides of Sunni Muslim Chicago life..."
The Journal of American Ethnic History

"The book has significant strengths. The author writes well and interestingly. Her almost anecdotal accounts of what happened at meetings of individuals and organizations capture the reader's attention, and are backed by some evidence and by careful reflection.... This is a useful and thought-provoking book."
Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

"Garbi Schmidt provides readers with some insight through a case study of the everyday lives of Sunni Muslim immigrants living in metropolitan Chicago....Though this study is small, it is extremely insightful as it sheds a good light on what concerns the community itself....[Schmidt] provides a wealth of information that will spur readers to read more."
The Muslim World

"[T]here is a lot of good information here....Islam in Urban America will be a good source for those developing sociological theory and knowledge of both immigrant communities and urban religion."
Contemporary Sociology

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Contents

Acknowledgments
A Note on Transliteration
1. Introduction
2. The History of Muslims in Chicago: An Overview
3. Between Michael Jordan and Muhammad: Muslim Children in Chicago
4. The Circle and the Cutting Edge: Muslim Colleges and Students' Associations
5. The House of God and Beyond: Understanding Islam, Islamic Identities, and Islamic Authority among Adults
6. Muslims in America: E Pluribus Unum
Notes
Glossary of Arabic Words and Phrases
Index

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About the Author(s)

Garbi Schmidt is a senior researcher and coordinator of the ethnic minorities initiative at the Danish National Institute of Social Research, Copenhagen.

Subject Categories

Anthropology
Religion
Race and Ethnicity

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