With Islam continuing to be a major topic of discussion in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that the poorly understood religion is generating a crop of new titles from several university, academic, and trade presses. These new and forthcoming books showcase the intellectual legacy of Islam, reveal the impact of social media on its religious authority, and deconstruct prevailing ideas of Islam as a monolithic faith, among other topics.
The University of North Carolina Press adds to its deep list on Islam with three more titles. “We publish books combining historical research with contemporary ways of theoretically analyzing Islamic cultures and civilizations,” says Elaine Maisner, executive editor at the press. “Often revealed via this approach are sources and paths for change and reform among the vast and broad Islamic traditions thriving around the world today.”
Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace by Irfan Ahmad (Univ. of North Carolina, Dec.) argues that self-critique is one of the fundamental tenets and practices of Islam. Ahmad is an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Studies in Göttingen, Germany. Islam Without Europe: Traditions of Reform in Eighteenth-Century Islamic Thought by Ahmad S. Dallal (Univ. North Carolina, June 2018) shows that the 18th century was a period of great intellectual activity before Islam’s contact with Europeans. Dallal, dean of Georgetown University–Qatar, argues that the rich intellectual legacy of Islam during that period was thwarted by exposure to European cultures.
Hashtag Islam: Faith, Command, and Control in Cyber Islamic Environments by Gary R. Bunt (Univ. of North Carolina, 2018) looks at the expression of Islamic religious authority on the internet. Bunt, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Wales, writes that the book “explores the ways in which, through the influence of the internet, there has been a global shift in forms and styles of Muslim religious discourse within global and local contexts, impacting on issues of faith and authority.”
The field of religious studies is central to the mission of Georgetown University Press, according to Hope LeGro, director of Georgetown languages and assistant director of the press, and books on Islam have been an emphasis in recent years. “Islam is not well understood in the West,” says LeGro, who hopes the press’s books will help bring more clarity about the religion. A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is by John McHugo (Mar. 2018), senior fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies at St. Andrews University, reveals how the divide developed between Sunnis and Shiites and how that rift has come to define modern Islam.
Also from Georgetown, God’s Creativity and Human Action: Christian and Muslim Perspectives, edited by Lucinda Mosher and David Marshall (out now), also from Georgetown, emerged from the annual Building Bridges seminar at Georgetown, where scholars discuss issues pertinent to Christians and Muslims. Another volume generated by the seminar is Monotheism and Its Complexities: Christian and Muslim Perspectives, also edited by Mosher and Marshall (June 2018).
Other academic presses also have new books about Islam. Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias: Making Muslims the Enemy—Second Edition by Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg (Rowman Littlefield, Mar. 2018) uses political cartoons to illuminate Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias. This revised edition includes new cartoons, a discussion of portrayals of Muslims in film and TV, and thoughts on where the faith fits in today’s contentious political climate. Gottschalk is a professor of religion at Wesleyan University; Greenberg is the rabbi of a synagogue in New Orleans.
Introduction to Islam by Tariq Ramadan (Oxford Univ., Oct.) walks readers through Islam and its principles, rituals, diversity, and evolution. Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, is also the author of Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation and was at the center of controversy when he was denied a visa by the U.S. in 2005 under the ideological-exclusion provision; that decision eventually was reversed after the American Academy of Religion, the ACLU, and other organizations filed suit.
Out from Yale this August was Black Banners of ISIS: The Roots of the New Caliphate by David J. Wasserstein, a portrait of ISIS from a historian of medieval Islam. Wasserstein, professor of history and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University, reveals the group’s ideological and intellectual roots in the earliest days of Islam.
Finally, The Practice of Islam in America (New York Univ., Dec.), edited by Edward E. Curtis IV, focuses on how current Muslim Americans live and how their religious practices are shaped by racial and ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, sectarian roles, and other social factors. Curtis is Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis.