Editor's Note: This introduction, written by Wajahat Ali, and the photographs come from the recently published book: All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim (I SPEAK FOR MYSELF)
American and Muslim.
To some, this might seem like the greatest oxymoron since military intelligence, or affordable housing, or…American Muslim.
According to the essays compiled in this book, however, there at least forty-five men whose narratives prove that individuals can live and identify fully as both Muslim and American—without conflict.
And apparently they’re not that rare.
In traditional times in Muslim lands, the storyteller was more valuable than the swordsman. The storyteller was responsible for sharing the tribe’s history and narrating tales that reminded them of their shared values, identity and legacy.
In the seventh century, a merchant from Saudi Arabia was given a revelation in the Qur’an, Islam’s Holy Book: “Oh those who believe, we have made you of different nations and tribes, so that you may know one another.”
And how do we get to know a people, really?
Even in America, we often say, “Hey man, tell me your story.” So, here are forty-five American Muslims telling their story.
We’re a bunch of Whirling Dervishes constantly in motion—with ecstasy, love, fear, panic, hope, and energy in no short supply.
The American Muslims within these pages are all unique protagonists of their universal narratives who proudly claim both Islam and America as core foundations of their identity. From an Iranian American breakdancer and a white convert who embraced Islam through Hip Hop and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, to South Asian Americans who found their calling through stand-up comedy and others who discovered a passion for politics. Presented here are poets, scientists, a US soldier, and a teacher. These men run the gamut from married, divorced, straight, and gay, to single and ready to mingle (or Facebook poke).
Remember, the storyteller was once more valued than the swordsman. In today’s world, we have enough swords and bombs and hate and fear.
We need more storytellers to share their tales of love, hope, pain, resilience, and understanding. We need stories that are by us, but for everyone. And maybe even new stories about the tastiness of peanut butter and hummus sandwiches.