In his new book Muslim American Politics and the Future of US Democracy
(New York University Press, 2019), Edward E. Curtis IV
interrogates the limitations of American liberalism in light of the states’ and its various actor’s exclusionary politics and rhetoric around Muslim American citizens. Curtis argues that the place of Muslim Americans in the narrative and praxis of American law, politics, rights discourse, and much are, must be questioned. To do so, the book examines various case studies of Muslim American institutions, figures, soldiers, and women who have navigated and negotiated their place within American democracy as citizens. For instance, the Nation of Islam (NOI) is one such case study explored in the book.
Curtis considers how the NOI maintained certain forms of American liberalism (i.e., use of law and incurring of capital) while challenging others (i.e., racial and religious logics) as the movement developed. While Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) quintessentially models political dissent against American imperialism precisely because of his Islamic ethics and revolutionary politics. Both in and beyond his involvement in the NOI, Malcolm X’s politics was defined by global pan-African movements, as well as by revolutionary Muslim state leaders like Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser. Using various other such examples, from the ways in which Muslim American women’s bodies were used by the nation state to justify foreign policies and military interventions to the memorialization of fallen Muslim American soldiers by American politicians, Curtis provocatively challenges his readers to content with the exclusionary, problematic, and complex rhetoric of American liberalism’s treatment of Muslim Americans as second-class citizens and Muslim Americans’ responses to this injustice. The book is a must read for scholars interested in American Islam and politics, while chapters of the book can also be accessibly used in courses on contemporary Islam, American Islam, and religion and politics.
Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of
Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of
Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found on here and here. You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier