Sociology and Anthropology

Muslim Families in North America

The writers contributing their researches to this book deal with an are8 that has not yet been adequately studied. Most of the literature on Muslims is historically or politically oriented and views immigrant Muslims in North America as extensions of their homelands, in particular the Middle East. This book discusses Muslim families as part of the pluralistic and ever-changing social fabric of the United States and Canada. The families of African-American Muslims and Muslim converts are not studied. We are going to present our critique chapter by chapter.

Muslim Normative Traditions and the North American Environment
(Sharon Mclrvin Abu-Laban).

The clear and workable typology of Muslim immigrant families presented here points out major social patterns and links to Islam. They are divided into three cohorts based on "the dynamic interaction between social conditions and group characteristics" (p.7): pioneer (nineteenth century to WWII); transitional (post-WWII to 1967); and differential (1968to present). Different generations within each cohort are examined. African-American Muslims are excluded, as their case is unique.

The first cohort lived in an era of total conformity to a sociocultural milieu dominated by the English language and Christianity. This cohort's second generation assumed a more conformist role due to its disadvantaged social status, distance from its original home and culture, and lack of financial resources and ethnic institutions. Intermarriage with the wider society was high. Ironically, all of this "generated the particular disdain of the newest Muslim immigrants," who arrived after 1976 (p. 18).

The transitional cohort consists mainly of foreign students from well established indigenous elite families who had been Europeanized before their arrival. As a postcolonial generation, they saw nationalism, not religion, as a valuable means for development and social change. They intermarried with North Americans at a higher rate than their predecessors.

The second generation of this cohort, along with the third generation of the pioneers, experienced the most discrimination and media stereotyping. The differential cohort assumed an anti-assimilationist position, for members came from a very diverse range of Muslim countries and at a time when their homelands were assuming more geopolitical importance. Local development was bringing forth both positive and negative fruits, and, most importantly, the revival of Islamic pride and the conviction that Islam could solve all problems was growing. This group stressed such Islamic norms as halal food and women's dress code, which put them in a less structured normative situation as regards assimilation. Interestingly, this cohort tends to differentiate itself not only from non-Muslims but also from other Muslims based on their practice of Islam. It was the first cohort to enjoy widely available Muslim institutions. With the increasing plurality of North American society, their children "are less likely to find themselves relegated to ethno-religious silence and they are more likely to find others who share similar (minority) world views" (p. 25).

Earle H. Waugh, Sharon McIrvin Abu-Luban, and Regula Burckhardt Qureshi (eds.). Calgary: The University of Alberta Press, 1991, 369 pp.

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