Sylvia Chan-Malik

Oct 17, 2018

Being Muslim

A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam

NYU Press 2018

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The story of Muslims in America has primarily been told through the experiences of men and often revolves around narratives of immigration. Sylvia Chan-Malik, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, expands upon and challenges this scholarly pattern in Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam (NYU Press, 2018). Chan-Malik centers Black Muslim women’s involvement in U.S. communities and the various spaces of social identity that are frequently ignored in scholarship. Crucial to her analysis is how social racial-religious formation informs both lived religion and how Muslim women are represented in public. “Being Muslim,” therefore, can be variously embodied in Black Muslim womanhood. Through an episodic exploration of Islam in twentieth and twenty-first century America Chan-Malik demonstrates the crucial ways race, gender, and religion intersect. In our conversation we discussed the “blackness” of American Islam, the Ahmadiyya Movement, domesticity, the Nation of Islam, Betty Shabazz, cultural representations of Black Muslim women, the problem with feminism and how it can be deployed, American perceptions of Iranian’s 1979 revolution, and environmentalism and food justice.

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

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