When she was growing up in Los Angeles, Sumbul Ali-Karamali would often be the only Muslim child in a classroom, at a birthday party, or the house of a friend. She found herself constantly dealing with questions and sometimes even shocked disbelief from people who didn’t even know where to begin to understand her religion. And that was before 9/11. Since that time, of course, North American’s misunderstandings around Islam have grown far worse. As Ali-Karamali tells us in The Muslim Next Door (White Cloud Press):
… the common Western perception of Islam has become a contorted, evil caricature of the real thing, like some reversed portrait of Dorian Gray, where the normal reality hides in the attic and the visible portrait becomes increasingly repulsive. Especially since the end of the Cold War, we in the United States have been bombarded with daily, unchecked, untrue, public denigration of Islam to an irresponsibly defamatory degree.
The Muslim Next Door should be required reading in the West at this time. Ali-Karamali clearly knows her subject both on a personal and professional level. Raised a Muslim in a country that didn’t at that time have a lot of Muslims in it, the author has a graduate degree in Islamic law from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and has served as a teaching assistant and research associate in Islamic law.
Just as important, Ali-Karamali writes lucidly on every imaginable aspect of her topic. The subtitle’s The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing is a terrific starting point, sure: but she goes so much deeper than that. The Muslim Next Door is an important book.