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American Muslim Women

Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender within the Ummah

Jamillah Karim

Publication Year: 2009

African American Muslims and South Asian Muslim immigrants are two of the largest ethnic Muslim groups in the U.S. Yet there are few sites in which African Americans and South Asian immigrants come together, and South Asians are often held up as a "model minority" against African Americans. However, the American ummah, or American Muslim community, stands as a unique site for interethnic solidarity in a time of increased tensions between native-born Americans and immigrants.

This ethnographic study of African American and South Asian immigrant Muslims in Chicago and Atlanta explores how Islamic ideals of racial harmony and equality create hopeful possibilities in an American society that remains challenged by race and class inequalities. The volume focuses on women who, due to gender inequalities, are sometimes more likely to move outside of their ethnic Muslim spaces and interact with other Muslim ethnic groups in search of gender justice.

American Muslim Women explores the relationships and sometimes alliances between African Americans and South Asian immigrants, drawing on interviews with a diverse group of women from these two communities. Karim investigates what it means to negotiate religious sisterhood against America's race and class hierarchies, and how those in the American Muslim community both construct and cross ethnic boundaries.

American Muslim Women reveals the ways in which multiple forms of identity frame the American Muslim experience, in some moments reinforcing ethnic boundaries, and at other times, resisting them.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

First I would like to thank those who contributed to the early stages of this book project: Vincent Cornell for his guidance and insistence that I produce rigorous scholarship, Rkia Cornell for her wisdom and tenderness, and Omid Safi for inspiring me to research, write, and teach about Islam as I watched him teach Rumi ...

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pp. 1-24

We were seven brown-complexioned women, each of us covered in vibrantly colored head scarves: pink, green, yellow, blue, and white. Together we sat in Husna’s living room, our feet dangling from her posh white sofas onto carpet posing as silk clouds. In her condo on Chicago’s North Side, a unique mix of women met regularly ...

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1. African American and Immigrant Relations: Between Inequality and Global Flows

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pp. 25-50

Safiyyah, a Muslim woman who lives on the South Side of Chicago, calls herself black, as do most of the others who live in her neighborhood. But Safiyyah dresses her little girl in shalwar kamiz (traditional South Asian garments) and dreams of traveling to Pakistan, a place of belonging and roots for Safiyyah. Her real roots, however, ...

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2. Race, Class, and Residence in the Chicago Ummah: Ethnic Muslim Spaces and American Muslim Discourses

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pp. 51-88

The racial landscape of a city influences how close American Muslims have come to fulfilling the ummah ideals there. When I arrived in Chicago in the spring of 2002 to research Muslims in the city, two things stood out. One was the city’s diversity. Chicago was a nexus of global flows. Filled with people from all ...

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3. Across Ethnic Boundaries: Women’s Movement and Resistance in the Chicago Ummah

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pp. 89-124

“People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into nations and tribes so that you should get to know one another (li-ta‘arafu). In God’s eyes, the most honored of you are the ones most aware of Him: God is all knowing, all aware” (Qur’an 49:13). This verse affirms human differences ...

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4. Negotiating an American Muslim Identity after September 11: Second-Generation Muslim Women in Chicago

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pp. 125-162

I began researching Muslim women’s movement in Chicago only a few months after the events of September 11, 2001. These women’s intricate narratives demonstrated how inequalities motivated some of them to move across ethnic borders in the American ummah. What, then, about the discrimination that American Muslims ...

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5. Negotiating Gender Lines: Women’s Movement across Atlanta Mosques

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pp. 163-205

The city of Atlanta has a reputation of promise and opportunity in the American ummah, particularly for African American Muslims. Indeed, many leave cities like Chicago and Philadelphia to join the Atlanta ummah, known for its African American Muslim professionals, its progressive African American mosque communities, ...

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6. Negotiating Sisterhood, Gender, and Generation: Friendship between Second-Generation South Asian American and African American Muslim Women

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pp. 206-227

Young Muslims, particularly before going to college, usually follow their parents’ patterns of ethnic mosque attendance, if they attend at all. While I was growing up Muslim in Atlanta in the 1980s, before the proliferation of mosques, Al-Farooq was my only exposure to immigrant mosque communities, and only during Ramadan ...

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pp. 228-242

On a summer day in Chicago, Sister Zubaydah and I drove to see an Arab American Muslim friend, Manar, for a women’s gathering at her home. Sister Zubaydah, whom I described in chapter 3, had recently returned from her trip visiting Muslims in China, where she was traveling with a group of mostly immigrant Muslim ...


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pp. 243-268


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pp. 269-280


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pp. 281-284


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pp. 285-291

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About the Author

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p. 292

Jamillah Karim is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Spelman College. Her research interests include Islam and Muslims in the United States, Islamic feminism, race and ethnicity, and immigration and transnational identity.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814749111
E-ISBN-10: 0814749119
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814748091
Print-ISBN-10: 0814748090

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 647699950
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Muslim Women

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women immigrants -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Race relations.
  • South Asian American women -- Religious life.
  • African American women -- Religious life.
  • United States -- Race relations -- Case studies.
  • Sex role -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Social classes -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Muslim women -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Atlanta (Ga.) -- Race relations.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Social conditions -- Case studies.
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