For over a decade, popular and scholarly literature has examined the pernicious aftermath of 9/11 that Muslim Americans have endured. Evidence of the nation’s misrepresentation of Muslims as terrorists, strangers and intruders is abundant. In a new and fresh perspective, Mucahit Bilici, Assistant Professor of Sociology, traces the journey of Muslim Americans from outsider/immigrant to citizen by employing a multi dimensional look into the process of naturalization in his new book, Finding Mecca in America: How Islam is Becoming an American Religion(University of Chicago Press).
Bilici illuminates the ways in which 9/11 facilitated interfaith dialogue and has been a catalyst for multicultural/religious incorporation. Finding Mecca in America is an ethnographic portrait of the ways Muslims are embracing America, the evolving symbiotic relationship between Islam and America, and the ways they are influencing one another’s growth and evolution.
“I focused on how 9/11 led to more integration. After 9/11 there was an explosion of interfaith communication initiated by Muslims. They are acquiring the language of what people are calling American civil religion,” said Bilici. “No matter what faith you are involved with in this country, you respect other faiths and recognize religiosity and the value of faith. Islam has increasingly become more pluralistic. This shows Muslims as human beings.”
Christian Smith from the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Notre Dame commented that Finding Mecca in America is “A very insightful and important book…Bilici’s insights help to break through simplistic stereotypes and deepen our understanding of Islam in the United States, while expanding our imagination concerning the presences of minority religions in a Christian/secular nation.”
After interviewing members of the Detroit Muslim community and attending events and mosques, Bilici discovered that third generation Muslims actually consider America to be more Islamic than most Muslim countries in which people suffer under dictatorships and political, social and religious oppression.
“America is a democratic society where there is no coercion, no oppression, and there is freedom to practice your religion. It’s a very interesting change of perception from the anxiety around America to seeing it more Islamic than Muslim countries. My conclusion is that crises are good for integration because they force people to communicate and to find common ground,” said Bilici.
Bilici is a cultural sociologist focusing primarily on Islam and social theory. He works in three main fields: American Islam, social theory, and Muslim intellectual traditions. He teaches courses on social theory and seminars on a variety of topics and has designed and taught graduate- and undergraduate-level courses on Islamophobia, Rethinking Violence, and Social Theory and Islam, among others.
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