Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (Beacon Press: July, 2007), is the memoir of Eboo Patel, a former

Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in religion from Oxford, is founder and director the Interfaith Youth Corps, a Chicago-based group aimed at creating a movement of religious young people, and an increasingly prominent public figure.

Why the Book is Notable: Though many academics have recent titles on American Islam (including Sherman Jackson and Haddad/Smith/Moore), as well as journalists (Paul Barrett, Geneive Abdo and Donna Gehrke White), American Muslims are themselves now filing this market niche, joining the ranks of editor Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, activist Asra Nomani and, most recently, ex-Muslim Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.

Good Parts: Describing the aspects of himself he saw in the young Muslims who bombed the London transit system in 2005 – anger at Muslim oppression around the world, a taste for risk-taking, an experience of white racism – Patel asks: “How does one ordinary young person’s commitment to a religion turn into a suicide mission and another ordinary young person’s commitment to that same faith become an organization devoted to pluralism?” His answer: Leadership.Young Muslims need visionary leaders who can make sense of modern Muslim identity and mobilize them for a vital cause.

Bad Parts: Patel’s memoir shares the same flaw for which he criticizes other interfaith events: it’s sometimes boring. “We were two twenty-somethings in

Chicago exploring spirituality, diversity, community and social justice,” he writes about himself and a friend. Patel also glosses over his peculiarity as an Ismaili Muslim: he strives to embody the “progressivism” of the Aga Khan, a spiritual leader that non-Ismaili Muslims would question. How far can Patel’s influence in the Muslim community spread? Finally, Patel doesn’t answer the central question: How to engage Muslim youth in a meaningful cause? While interfaith service projects are exciting for Patel, it’s hard to see how they might satisfy the longings of most Muslim youth.

Related Content: See journalistic coverage of radicalized youth after the

London bombings, including CNN’s documentary “The War Within.” The most recent and comprehensive study of religiosity among American teens is analyzed in the 2005 book, Soul Searching, by sociologist Christian Smith. See also theology professor Shabana Mir and Marcia Hermansen’s 2006 book chapter, “Identity Jihads: The Multiple Strivings of American Muslim Youth.”  For an interview with Eboo Patel, see Religion and Ethics Newsweekly’s April 13, 2007, episode.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Author Profile: Eboo Patel on Making Pluralism Sexy : Religion on May 30, 2007 4:18 pm

    […] also ReligionWriter’s earlier review of Patel’s […]

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