American Medina: A Study of the Sunni Muslim Immigrant Communities in Chicago
Abstract: Sunni Muslims have immigrated to and lived in Chicago for more than a hundred years. In her book Schmidt seeks, on basis of two periods of extended fieldwork, to provide a description of some activist strata of these religious communities. The description is framed by the portrayal of a number of Muslim institutions existing within the city and the interpretation of Islam that takes place within them. Accordingly, the book grants us a view of the life and activities of a number of Chicago’s Muslim Sunday Schools, full-time schools, Qur’anic schools, Muslim colleges, students’ associations, major Muslim centers, and “paramosques”, as they appear by the late 1990s. The following analysis focuses, from a theoretical point of view, on the dynamics of knowledge production and objectification of knowledge within and directed from these Muslim institutions. Who are considered able to present “authoritative” interpretations of Islam, and how do they obtain this status? Who is their audience? How do such interpretations relate to the diverse ethnical background of the community’s members and the powerful “other” of the United States? Is it at all possible to talk about an “American Islam” and where and how, by whom and for whom, is it formulated?
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