"Homegrown, radicalized Islamists have set off bombs in Madrid and London; could it happen here? Given rising anxiety about the possible alienation of American Muslims, a readable book offering a responsible yet sympathetic profile of that community should be welcomed. Five years after 9/11, Geneive Abdo, who has reported skillfully on Islamism in Egypt and Iran, has produced just such a book.
Her reporting shows that Muslim immigrants have much in common with Americans from other lands and cultures. Traditional Muslims arriving from the Middle East and South Asia fear that their children will succumb to the allure of big-city life and abandon the faith. Such newcomers are embracing the same strategies adopted by Jewish immigrants a century ago: setting up religious schools, charities and houses of worship that double as community centers."
—Steven Simon, The Washington Post, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, co-author of "The Age of Sacred Terror" and "The Next Attack."
"Honest, perceptive, and nuanced.... Introduces a Muslim community that is both an American immigration success story and a population struggling to define itself under unprecedented circumstances."
Christian Science Monitor
My fellow American Muslims . . .
The New Statesman, Andrew Stephen
Published 05 July 2007
Muslims living in the US enjoy a better life than those in Britain, says new research. Can Bush teach Brown a lesson?
By no means all commentators and experts on Islam, in fact, believe that the Pew study is an accurate reflection of the situation here. Geneive Abdo, a US-born Maronite Christian of Lebanese origin who is author of the acclaimed Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11 - tells me Pew makes "false comparisons" between the US and Europe. She also estimates the Muslim population of the US to be six million.
"You can't compare Muslims in different cultures and from different ethnic backgrounds," she says. In her book, Abdo paints Islam in the United States as an "enclave culture", a religious community that sees itself as beleaguered, and is thus divided - between men and women, us and them, genuine Muslims and ersatz believers, and so on.
The result, she concludes, is that a post-9/11, more religious Islamic population in the US is accelerating towards alienation and separatism from mainstream America - "a people apart", in her words. The Pew study reflects American wishful thinking, she suggests, that "Europe" is getting everything wrong while America is doing everything right.
New Books Look at Muslim Life
by Andrea Useem, Religion BookLine -- Publishers Weekly, 2/28/2007
Islam means peace, right? That's what many American Muslims insisted, when microphones were thrust in front of them after 9/11. No, Islam is inherently violent, shot
Geneive Abdo, also a journalist, told RBL she wrote Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11 (Oxford, Sept.) to fill a gap in the literature about Islam in America. "Most of what is written about it comes from the 1990s. The whole community has changed dramatically since 9/11," she said.
Bypassing secular Muslims, whom Abdo says many Americans wrongly focus on, Abdo looks at the lives of young, religious Muslims. She argues that the harassment and hostility American Muslims have faced since 9/11 has driven young people to embrace Islam as their primary identity—a move she says parallels trends among Muslims U.S.
"Geneive Abdo’s work captures in great detail the
immense hardships Muslim face in the post-September-11th
world and offers hope for their success and co-existence
in America. Her book shatters stereotypes about Muslims
and teaches us that more understanding of Islam is
needed for global peace."
—Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
"There is no better time and no better book to understand
the American Muslim experience today than Mecca and
Main Street. Abdo has written an important, insightful
and provocative book. ‘Must reading’ for anyone who
wishes to engage American Muslims in their faith and
—John L. Esposito,
University Professor and Founding Director of the Alwaleed
Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown
and author of What Everyone Needs to Know About
"Islam is the fastest growing religion in America,
yet for most Americans the lives of their Muslim neighbors
remain shrouded in mystery. In this rich and probing
book Geneive Abdo provides an intimate account of American
Islam; its roots, beliefs and the challenges that confront
it today. With an eye for detail and nuance, sharpened
during years of reporting from Egypt and Iran, Abdo
lays bare the diversity of this community of migrants
and converts as it balances faith with modernity in
post-9/11 America. Well-written, engaging and sophisticated,
this is a must read for all Americans and Muslims."
—Vali Nasr, author
of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam
Will Shape the Future
"Going beyond abstract debates about what Islam does
or doesn’t say, Geneive Abdo vividly describes the
many concrete ways in which American Muslims practice
their religion. Shunning the clichéd opposition of ‘good’ liberal
Muslims to ‘bad’ fundamentalist or conservative Muslims,
Abdo shows how the new generation is shaping a truly
Western, yet still orthodox, Islam. Contradictions,
compromises, and tensions between US-born and immigrant
Muslims accompany an ongoing shift from diverse ethnic
communities to a common faith community—a faith community
that is definitively Western. Mecca and Main Street
fills a vacuum in the study of American Muslims."
—Olivier Roy, author
of Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah
"Abdo has written a book that succeeds in striking
a very difficult balance; it is simultaneously honest,
highly informative, critical, thought provoking, entertaining,
and very readable-in fact once picked up, the reader
will have a hard time putting the book down. This is
one of the few studies on the subject that is firmly
grounded in the realities and dreams of American Muslims.
The author insightfully elucidates both the internal
and external strifes and challenges that plague Muslims
living in the United States in particular, but also
more generally, those living in the West. Muslims and
non-Muslims alike will benefit greatly from reading
Mecca and Main Street."
—Khaled Abou El Fadl,
Prof. of Law,
UCLA School of Law,
and author of The Search for Beauty in Islam and
The Great Theft
Praise for No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam
"Geneive Abdo chronicles Egypt's contemporary moderate Islamist movement with clarity and insight.... [She] has a firm grasp of the history of which she writes and an obvious empathy for her subjects. She is a fine journalist and a sensitive analyst."
—The Washington Post Book World
Recommend by Time magazine in a small list of books to read afer September 11.
"A fascinating look at an Islamic subculture mostly unknown to the Western non-Muslim. Abdo presents fruitful cross-cultural undercurrents that provide hope for peace and understanding between secularism and religion."
"Geneive Abdo has produced a remarkable volume. She makes the dynamics of Egyptian society come alive. Combining sound scholarship and observation with an engaging style, readers will be given an insight into Egypt today and tomorrow that cannot be found elsewhere. The author's long and in-depth experience in Egypt, particularly her access to sectors of society that are often inaccessible to outsiders, gives this volume a depth and authenticity that cannot be found elsewhere. It is also the reason why she avoids so many of the pitfalls to which others succumb."
—John L. Esposito Director, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding Georgetown University
"Abdo...conducted hundreds of interviews within previously closed segments of society 'to present the true face of Islam.' Along the way, she discovered a great diversity of religious expression in a social transformation that poses a greater challenge to Western interests than the military movement now in decline.... This firsthand account will serve as a role model for Islamic reform in the 21st century."
"Abdo's No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2000) examines the grass-roots revival of Islam in Egypt, a development that is postcolonial, populist, a hybrid of traditionalism and modernity and uniquely national. Abdo's analysis is fresh, nuanced and grounded in extensive interviewing and observation in that country."
Praise for Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First Century Iran
"Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons argue persuasively in their new book, Answering Only to God, that Khatami has failed. Despite his well-publicized talk of change, the ruling clerics remain as powerful as ever."
—David Ignatious, The Washington Post
"The first foreign correspondents to reside in Iran permanently since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Abdo and Lyons reported from there from June 1998 until early 2001. This husband-and-wife team was obliged to flee Iran in January of that year, just before being expelled or worse. Their individual and joint reportage, all well contextualized by a use of available scholarly literature on Iranian history and culture, provides a readable, somewhat discursive survey of Iran today. Especially effective are the pages devoted to President Mohammed Khatami, the opposition cleric Ayatollah Hussain-Ali Montazeri, the opposition press, and the poignant account of the few Iranian secularists who, at the time of the Revolution, drafted a liberal constitution but saw their efforts shunted aside by the institutionalized clerical authoritarianism that emerged. There are also insightful asides on such matters as feminism and Islam in Iran and the political artwork ubiquitous on walls and billboards."
—Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs
"In this timely report on Iran's theocratic experiment, Geneive Abdo and her husband, Jonathan Lyons, avoid any notion of a "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West. Instead, they describe an Iran in the throes of a battle within Islam itself: Leading Shiite clerics, many of whom helped bring the Ayatollah Khomeini to power, have turned their backs on the fundamentalist government and are leading a struggle for democratic reforms."
"Riveting...a side of Iran that is often misrepresented by the world's media--[an] insightful, captivating book."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Abdo and Lyons have expertly delineated the struggle for the political soul of Iran...written with verve and authority"