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BOOK REVIEW: What it means to be a Muslim in the West

31st Jan 2014

BOOK REVIEW Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie.

Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie. By Ranya Tabari Idliby. Palgrave Macmillan. Pp 233. 2014

Before 9/11 Idliby only considered herself Muslim when she needed to tick a box, first and foremost she was American. But on September 11 when the towers fell, she found Islam was on trial and she had to decide if she wanted to defend it.

A daughter of Palestinian refugees Ranya Tabari Idliby and her family moved to America, her ‘chosen home.’ A country in which she felt safe and protected; a place where she finally belonged. But 9/11 changed that. The attacks made her question if the God her mother worshipped still existed, or what it would mean for her children to be both ‘American and Muslim.’ As a mother she understood the Islam she was handing down to her American-born children had become more of a burden than a privilege.

Idliby utilises crucial aspects of motherhood to tell her tale about finding faith and empowering her children through her spiritual journey. The book delves into the difficulties Muslims endured after 9/11 by answering the arduous realities Idliby’s children face at school, in class, and most importantly on the playground. She confronts the ‘Muslim Scare’ head on by providing her children with essential tools to find strength in their beliefs and combat the challenges of being a Muslim in the post 9/11 America.

In her moving memoir, Idliby discusses what it means to be Muslim in the West and how to raise her children; to make them proud of both their American and Muslim heritage. She explores life in the modern day, a world where her son is called a ‘terrorist’ and her daughter questions if she can marry a Jew.

Fearfully honest, Ranya is not afraid to address controversial issues and challenge many aspects of the religion. She distinguishes fact from fiction; she covers a vast range controversial yet stimulating of topics from polygamy to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Her book acts as a medium by which she challenges common misconceptions and stereotypes. She takes the reader on a journey expelling the hateful lies and revealing the true beautiful Islam which has been tainted by those whose sole mission is to spread hate.

Idliby is a brave voice working to counter the negative anti-Islam propaganda that has permeated American society. Throughout her book she eloquently proves an ‘American Muslim’ is not an oxymoron, she separates Islam from culture reminding the reader that they are two different entities and should not be confused.

Idliby writes fluent and powerful prose, her book overflows with passion and conviction. Her poignant tale is not only inspiring but it is empowering for Muslims and non-Muslims alike; in the face of adversity Idliby came out even stronger in her faith. Her memoir is not only about her struggle and the racism she endured, but also it recounts a woman coming to her religion and seeking divine intervention. In my opinion, we need more women like Ranya, women brave enough to challenge stereotypes and more importantly prove them wrong.

Aliya Padhani

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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013


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