The study of Islam is often focused on subjects involved in legal debates or ritual practice. But our understanding of Muslims should also be informed by everyday practices found in the suburbs. In Suburban Islam (Oxford University Press, 2018), Justine Howe, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Case Western Reserve University, examines the social and spiritual contexts of Muslims living outside of Chicago. Her study focuses on a “third space” for American Islam, a community space called the Webb Foundation, and its membership. Muslim identity for many Webb members is shaped by shared ideals about consumer culture, leisure activities, parenting, and the construction of family life. The fluid and open nature of the community provides room for debate and discussion about gendered practices, racial and ethnic divisions within the Muslim community, or religious pluralism. In the growing body of scholarship on Muslims in America Suburban Islam adds a unique vantage point that greatly adds to our overall vision of the community within American religious history. In our conversation we discussed the history of Islam in Chicago, female authority, pluralism in the Qur’an, consumerist practices, the public celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, adult educational programming, book groups, jurisprudence classes, religious devotion, and American Muslim suburban culture.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.