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This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror

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Over the last few years, Moustafa Bayoumi has been an extra in Sex and the City 2 playing a generic Arab, a terrorist suspect (or at least his namesake “Mustafa Bayoumi” was) in a detective novel, the subject of a trumped-up controversy because a book he had written was seen by right-wing media as pushing an “anti-American, pro-Islam” agenda, and was asked by a U.S. citizenship officer to drop his middle name of Mohamed.

Others have endured far worse fates. Sweeping arrests following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to the incarceration and deportation of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, based almost solely on their national origin and immigration status. The NYPD, with help from the CIA, has aggressively spied on Muslims in the New York area as they go about their ordinary lives, from noting where they get their hair cut to eavesdropping on conversations in cafés. In This Muslim American Life, Moustafa Bayoumi reveals what the War on Terror looks like from the vantage point of Muslim Americans, highlighting the profound effect this surveillance has had on how they live their lives. To be a Muslim American today often means to exist in an absurd space between exotic and dangerous, victim and villain, simply because of the assumptions people carry about you. In gripping essays, Bayoumi exposes how contemporary politics, movies, novels, media experts and more have together produced a culture of fear and suspicion that not only willfully forgets the Muslim-American past, but also threatens all of our civil liberties in the present.

-from http://nyupress.org/books/9781479835645/

304 pages, Paperback

First published September 18, 2015

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Moustafa Bayoumi

8 books54 followers

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5 stars
31 (25%)
4 stars
51 (41%)
3 stars
35 (28%)
2 stars
6 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
February 10, 2020
The essays were uneven--some were fantastic and others felt a bit too overplayed. I love Bayoumi's perspective on the Muslim experience in America and the book is a nice update to Orientalism (which is one of his inspirations). I also loved the cultural critiques (of 24 and Homeland, etc), but a few of the essays just seemed off to me--like you sort of trashes Reza Aslan in the same breath as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and they are nowhere near the same ballpark of bad on Islam. Aslan may have made a few generalizations, but he comes nowhere near the absurdity of Ali's takes on Islam. I also loved the portions of the book where he situates Islam in the African American resistance movement, which I would love to read more about.
Profile Image for Dina.
172 reviews1 follower
December 12, 2022
Bayoumi’s insight and wit relating to muslim life and experiences in the US/West is always engaging and relevant to read. His references to other authors in related areas is also refreshing bc he leans on the masters in studies different from his (Edward Said, Melani McAlister..) honestly the impact of the war on terror on muslim life goes beyond just politics and law and that was really shown in this book.

I think some essays could have been taken out as there was a lot of repetition but overall great!
Profile Image for Sara.
408 reviews49 followers
June 3, 2019
This is a valuable read with 3/4 of it's sections (Muslims in History, Muslims in Theory, and Muslims in Culture) being quite strong. The third section, Muslims in Politics gets a bit repetive. I really appreciated Bayoumi's dry wit.
Profile Image for Juanita Johnson.
370 reviews41 followers
July 28, 2016
I read this one for book club. I've got mixed emotions. At times, this book is self, literally, self-serving. The author is making a name for himself. However, the author provided good fact checked information that every intelligent should consider when looking at racism and bigotry in the US, or for that matter, anywhere in the world. We are not a Christian nation. We are a nation of individuals, built on the demolition of other cultures. The systematic construction of a rationalization for this behavior is the open door to information that this book provides.
Profile Image for Leigh.
24 reviews
March 19, 2021
I really enjoyed reading this book. His humor in unexpected places helped alleviate the heaviness and seriousness of the topic. I realized somewhere in the back of my mind I still think American is a benevolent accepting country but realized that is propaganda. Really grieves me. And the way the media in all its forms has played on our worst fears, again is despicable.
Profile Image for Jules Bertaut.
386 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2018
This book was more like a collection of essays, and written in a more academic register than a lot of what I've read lately, so reading it was a bit of an adjustment. Also, it feels a little dated, through, I want to emphasize, no fault of the author. Just, it was published in 2015 and I’d guess mostly written between 2012 and 2014, and reading it I felt the world has changed and not for the better. Like, now if you’re talking about immigration and Muslim Americans, you’d have to talk about Trump's Muslim ban, but this author isn’t a time traveler and so he didn’t.

I think my favorite* essay was "Racing Religion" (chapter 3), about the creation of "muslim" as a racial category in America. It talks about the way being muslim worked with the immigration system through time. The rules about who could or could not immigrate or become naturalized at any point in American history (including now!) is an endless source of appalled horror.

Overall, this is a good collection of essays about being Muslim in America. Bit academic, though.

* I mean favorite in that it put things together for me in an interesting and memorable way, not on the basis of subject, because in fact all the subjects are good.
Profile Image for Marie.
1,517 reviews9 followers
September 28, 2021
The War on Terror has become self serving and self justifying. It has furthermore crated its own War on terror culture., one that exploits people's fears and traffics liberally in the stereotypes of others.

Dozens of countries around the world, many of them run by repressive governments, have adopted antiterror laws modeled on the Patriot Act.

The United States encourages the passing of such legislation, laws that limit civil liberties and expand the powers of law enforcement in the name of national security.

The war on Terror culture too often rationalizes away unnecessary killing while supporting authoritarian leaning practices. It is further obsessed with exploiting fear and with shaping the realms of politics, the law and representation in its own image, and it feeds on the dubious and paranoid logic of scapegoating others.
Profile Image for David Lucander.
Author 2 books5 followers
August 28, 2018
An incisive and well-written collection of essays, this book is an obvious (and long awaited) follow up to Bayoumi's How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. My favorites were "East of the Sun," which had an interesting take on Coltrane's "Love Supreme" and "Disco Inferno," which is about how American culture itself is weaponized in the War on Terror. This book has a lot of criticism on the NYPD's programs for spying on ordinary Muslims, the erosion of civil rights and civil liberties, and popular films and movies. Readers might find some of Bayoumi's takes overly sensitive, but he's got a lot to say and much of it is worth hearing.

Profile Image for Toni.
1,374 reviews9 followers
July 16, 2020
Though this book was written before Trump was in the White House, much of it is even more relevant today. I learned a lot about the consequences of 9/11 and the "war on terror" for Arab Americans.

I read this book because I want to learn more about Islam, and I learned a little. I learned more about the racial injustices that happen to Arab Americans. Two-thirds of Americans have never met someone who is Muslim, and the images most Americans see of Muslims come from stereotypes in action movies. Many white Americans are afraid of Muslims (including a former sister-in-law of mine) because of these stereotypes.

Profile Image for Diane.
158 reviews
May 14, 2021
A collection of essays and stories about living in America as a Muslim. I had a little trouble getting through some of the more academic essays but really appreciated his perspectives on how difficult it is to live as a Muslim in America right now, the appalling treatment of American citizens who happen to share a religion with some extremists in the world. We are seeing this play out all around the world, and we must speak up about it.
Profile Image for Hermine.
292 reviews5 followers
August 16, 2021
While comprehensive in its historical detailing, this book’s origins in academic essays was at the expense of being inaccessible, and disjointed at times. Nevertheless, I’m horrified at the extent the US government and American society has othered Muslims over the course of time, and accelerated through War on Terror culture.
Profile Image for Dominique.
31 reviews
December 5, 2021
Many of the essays are too academic and repetitive for casual reading, and at times they read more as a book review.
Profile Image for Amy.
278 reviews
June 10, 2016
I found this book with its plain blue cover sitting on the new book shelf at the library. I had just picked up another book "The Terrorist's son" by Zak Ebrahim that I had on hold. I was very glad I decided to take it home. This book is such an informative read on what life is like is like as a Muslim in the U.S, and everything that has occurred since 9/11.
These are a series of essays which is why the book seems to repeat itself in some areas and is a little disconnected from chapter to chapter.
This book gently forces a person to really comprehend the individual rather than the faceless "groups" that the media is so fond of promoting today. People do not act/react as a mass unit, but as individuals. This book also covers the historic dangers of thinking in absolutes. A must read.
164 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2016
A very good book with a lot of great insight and information.

The first couple chapters are important but rough. Bayoumi makes a lot of references to Muslim thought and Arabic words without necessarily defining or explaining all of them. For someone with only a very basic (very, very basic) knowledge of Islam, this was very hard to follow; i definitely missed a lot.

However, after those first two sections, the rest of the book is much more digestible by a general audience.

Definitely worth the read!
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 7 books37 followers
May 11, 2016
This turned out to be reprints of a number of relatively recent articles by Bayoumi, some better than others.
Didn't finish it, though that's probably not Bayoumi's fault.
Profile Image for Ava Rezai.
14 reviews17 followers
November 17, 2016
One of the more raw and insightful discourses I've read regarding Muslim-American life post-9/11.
Profile Image for Renee Kiner.
97 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2017
Not the easiest book to read, but it does give insight into how we view Muslims in America
Profile Image for Jake.
464 reviews5 followers
November 22, 2021

Another good, but frustrating read. Another thing our country has been doing poorly. This collection of stories highlights aspects of the Muslim American experience.
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews

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