Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America by Ranya Tabari Idliby
|Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America by Ranya Tabari Idliby|
|Category: Spirituality and Religion|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: A highly readable personal insight into being a Muslim in the not-all-that-tolerant United States, this is an interesting book that's easy to get into and learn from.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: February 2014|
|Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan|
I can’t imagine it’s that easy to be a Muslim in most areas of the USA. Even if you don’t ‘look like’ a Muslim, even if you don’t drop to your knees in the direction of Mecca 5 times a day, even if you give your kids arguably Jewish names. And being openly Muslim cannot have got any easier in the wake of 9/11. This book examines one Muslim-American family’s life and the constant challenges they face from friends, neighbours and teachers.
It is, I must say, a very interesting read. I like books about living in the States anyway, but the religious angle added a new dimension to what could otherwise have been a standard story of soccer games and sleepovers and trips to the mall. Some might say the author and her family are not ‘too’ Muslim, however offensive that is to say. They are regular Americans, and that’s just the point, but the argument here is that Islam has as many interpretations as other religions, and you can be orthodox or progressive and still fall under the same umbrella. Idliby, for example, does not choose to wear a head-covering, something which causes consternation among other members of her religious community whom she meets on speaking tours. They have a Christmas tree and her kids receive presents from Santa. They celebrate Independence Day and wear the ubiquitous American-flag stamped clothing. Their neighbours probably think of them as quite ‘safe’ Muslims, as in if you have to have Muslims among you, these are the ones you’d want.
For these reasons, the book isn’t quite what you might expect. The American life and the Muslim life blend in quite a straightforward way, there aren’t too many issues or stand offs between the two. You almost wonder why the book needed to be written. After all, it seems no more remarkable than a Jewish version called Borscht, Baseball and Apple Pie would be. At the same time, I did learn quite a bit more about Islam from this book, and the short, essay-style approach worked well, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks that were easy to read and digest. The writing style is excellent, far more Bill Bryson than Qur'an (not to say there’s anything wrong with the latter, but for most of us it’s not really weekend, curled up on a sofa reading). I wanted to read more from the author when it ended, and was disappointed the last few pages were references rather than further content. That said, there was one thing that bugged me:
Ten years ago, I spent some time working in the USA and I remember being bemused by my colleagues’ faux-openness to religion. One even said to me, We’re very tolerant. You can be Christian or Jewish, it doesn’t matter not appearing to grasp that there were further options beyond those two. This also came across a little in this book, albeit with the addition of Islam. The author makes reference to her Christian and Jewish friends, and how her children have spent many a weekend at a Bar Mitzvah with their classmates. She discusses inter-faith marriage and more, and yet there always is this unspoken acknowledgment that whatever faith her friends and neighbours and potential future children in law may have, they will have faith, and they will belong to one of those three religions. As someone who was brought up to belief that God, like Father Christmas, didn’t exist this made me roll my eyes a little. I should add that I don’t object to the Islam that is portrayed in this book – I simply think Christianity and Judaism are just as loopy and the three should go off for a nice long lie down in a dark room for a while during which time the atheists can get on with sorting out the mess their religious friends have left the world in. This may sound flippant (which it is) or disrespectful (not my intention) but the fact remains that the take-home message from this book seems to be let’s all be friends and tolerate each other’s religions without acknowledging that not everyone believes in a deity.
I really did enjoy this book, despite this. I think that’s because it was much more personal, and a real family’s life story, albeit with religious interludes. Agree or disagree with what she says, I found it hard not to enjoy the way she said it, and it’s a book I’d like lots of people to read because I think it would make for some interesting discussions.
Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.
For more on this subject, readers might like The Butterfly Mosque: A Young Woman's Journey to Love and Islam by G Willow Wilson
You can read more book reviews or buy Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America by Ranya Tabari Idliby at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America by Ranya Tabari Idliby at Amazon.com.
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