Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged Islam

Gladdy’s Wake

It took me a while to really sink my teeth into Gladdy’s Wake. The book weaves in and out of three generations, each tying together through family, hints of religion, and the story of Nawal Habib, a devout Muslim. Nawal (once Janie Kelly) is suspected of terrorism, an act that reunites her with her estranged brother, Frank (now a priest) and hospitalized father, Daniel (a once devout Catholic); both of whom she left to eventually reinvent herself as Nawal Habib. The story runs through Nawal’s family tragedy, her rebellion, the birth of her son, and eventual religious transformation, all the while introducing the reader to her grandfather, James Kelly, a womanizing Irish immigrant interested in fast cash with no real ethical principles, lest it regard his passion: Gladdy Sage.

Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad

Although the wives of the Prophet are held up as examples for Muslim women to follow, little is told about the human beings behind the women on pedestals. We all get told the same stuff—how Khadija supported her husband, Aisha’s work as a jurist and teacher—but the discourse focuses on their actions, not their persons. Tamam Kahn’s Untold aims to tell the human stories of the Prophet’s wives—and succeeds. In the preface of the book, Kahn touches on her intentions: upon meeting strong Muslim women in Morocco, she wanted to tell the stories of strong women, including the back story. Indeed, what makes for a strong woman isn’t just her praiseworthy behavior, but also her imperfections, her humanity.

Four Lions

Four Lions, produced and directed by Chris Morris, satirizes terrorists and the response to terrorism in modern Britain. Every character is flawed and every person is spoofed. No one is spared; police, politicians, local working stiffs, neighborhood religious fanatics, and the floozie next door are lampooned with great one-liners and riotous insults. This may sound insensitive, but the humor does not obscure hard issues. Rather, it makes them approachable: you’ll likely want to talk about this funny and unexpectedly sad film after seeing it.


Phillippe Lioret’s award-winning film, Welcome, zooms in on the anti-Muslim attitudes now gripping much of the Western world. The result is compelling, poignant, and profoundly tragic. At the center of the story is Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), a seventeen-year-old Iraqi Kurd who has somehow traveled to Calais, a small city on the northern coast of France.

Velvet Jihad: Muslim Women’s Quiet Resistance to Islamic Fundamentalism

Central to Islamic scripturalist assertion, or "Islamic fundamentalism" as it is often referred to, is the notion of the ideal Muslim woman, whose status, roles and functions are defined by rules and norms deriving from a narrow, restrictive and patriarchal reading of the Islamic scripturalist tradition. The ‘ideal’ Muslim woman in Islamic ‘fundamentalist’ discourse is defined as being submissive to male authority, while being modest and virtuous in a patriarchally-defined sense. She is to be carefully controlled and monitored, at all times, by patriarchal authority.


Beauty is the outstanding first novel of British author Raphael Selbourne, winner of the prestigious 2009 Costa First Novel Award (formerly known as the Whitbread Literary Awards). The novel’s plot is seemingly predictable–an illiterate girl runs away from an abusive home where she had been forced to marry a much older mullah (religious man) at the age of fourteen.

Made in Pakistan

These days, political analysts on both sides of the aisle are calling Pakistan a failed state. While the “most dangerous place in the world” does face profound political and social turmoil, such sweeping commentary fails to capture the more personal intricacies of the lives of ordinary people living inside the country’s borders. Pakistan is more than the Taliban fighters implementing Sharia law in the Swat Valley, and it’s more than the frequent bombings of embassies and hotels from Islamabad to Karachi.

Women Without Men

The story of director Shirin Neshat is almost as compelling as her first feature. Born in religiously conservative Qazvin, Iran, Neshat has been using visual art to explore gender relations under Islam for nearly two decades, traveling back and forth between the States and Iran to enrich her perspective. But because her work has been so politically outspoken, Neshat has been exiled from her native country since 1996.

Sex and the City 2

Allow me to save you $8.


For those familiar with women’s “lifestyle” magazines, the call to be “sexy” in some way or another is not new. We women need to have “sexy” everything: attitude, legs, skin, armpits, you name it. So pervasive is this message that I’m surprised that no one has spontaneously combusted from sexual arousal at the sight of a women’s magazine devotee.

Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East

At first I hesitated to write this review. I am a non-Muslim, Western woman writing a review of a book written by a (presumably) non-Muslim, Western woman about Muslim women in the Middle East. As I read the book, however, I became much more comfortable with the idea. Isobel Coleman’s book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet, is the result of nearly ten years of research and personal interviews with women from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith

In her new book, entitled Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith, Emma Tarlo captures the diversity in the way that Islam is practiced against the backdrop of multicultural Britain.

Transforming Faith: The Story of Al-Huda and Islamic Revivalism Among Urban Pakistani Women

In Transforming Faith, Sadaf Ahmad explores the role of Al-Huda, a women’s Islamic religious school, in promoting the spread of a particular kind of Islam, especially among educated middle- and upper-class women in Islamabad, Pakistan. Ahmad sets the scene by situating her topic in an historical and global context. She provides a broad overview of the various branches of Islam, and she tells the history of Pakistan’s self-conception as an Islamic state.

Veiled Voices

When people think of Muslim leaders they rarely envision women; however, many women are have made their mark as religious leaders in Islam. Veiled Voices presents the lives of three such women, allowing them to tell their own stories filled with struggle, triumph, and irony. The film centers on Ghina Hammoud from Lebanon, Huda Al-Habash from Syria, and Dr. Su’ad Saleh from Egypt.

Names: Poems

Marilyn Hacker is a poet after the heart of not just poetry readers but poetry writers. I was immediately enthralled by the rich language of this National Book Award winner—for Presentation Piece in 1974—a language pulsating with raw indignation at injustice and celebration of what are life’s quotidian and banal joys: the small pleasures of winter light, sips of Sunday coffee, and the company of friends.

A Jihad For Love

To ponder the relationship between Islam and homosexuality is to consider something that does not exist. Parvez Sharma’s groundbreaking documentary, A Jihad for Love, calls this frequently held assumption what it is: a lie.

Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime

Rana Husseini is a journalist from Jordan, and in Murder in the Name of Honor, she writes of the aftermath and trauma of honor killings in Jordan and around the world that she has researched and witnessed. Honor killings are defined as the murder of a woman by a family member(s), usually a man or men, because the woman has in some way brought dishonor upon the family.

Red Bracelet

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Luckxurys was started by designer Tali Rosen out of a personal frustration: she was unable to find a traditionally turquoise hamsa, palm-shaped amulet used in jewelery that is thought to protect a person from the evil eye. The tradition of using a hamsa (the Arabic word for the number five, hence the symbolism of a hand) to ward off evil began in the Middle East as a practice of Islam, and is now a part of Jewish mysticism. After searching unsuccessfully for her prized stone, Rosen decided to simply make one herself.

31 Hours

Following the event, I promised myself I would never read "a 9/11 book," fiction or not. Having admitted that, I can't explain what exactly led me to almost eagerly pick up John Updike's Terrorist in the year it was published, save for the vague hope that this was a writer who could help make some sense out of a senseless situation.

Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression

Ida Lichter’s Muslim Women Reformers ambitiously highlights the work of Muslim women around the globe involving an array of interrelated issues, including lack of gender equity in education and the workplace, domestic violence, human trafficking, biased family law practices, and rape with impunity.

City of Borders

I grew up in Berlin. The images of the wall, of barbed wire around strips of no-man’s land dividing the city, and of rigorous border controls and heavily armed border guards were a normal part of my life for a long time.

New Muslim Cool

You might come to this film with some knowledge of hip-hop, or you might not. You might even have some knowledge of Islam, too. Neither is required, however, because New Muslim Cool is, when you get right down to it, a story of a man trying hard to know and be himself in the world. Jennifer Maytorena Taylor gives us Hamza Pérez (formerly Jason), a Puerto Rican Muslim from the streets of Boston who, along with his Muslim community from Beantown, has transplanted himself to Pittsburgh, PA to start a mosque and put down some roots.

Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women

_We are not [wo] men for whom it is a question of either-or. For us, the problem is not to make a utopian and sterile attempt to repeat the past, but go beyond it.

Inside The Koran

Inside the Koran is an excellent insight into Islam through the interpretations of a vast category of people from ayatollahs, clerics, and scholars to farmers, activists, housewives, and modern Muslim women.

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East

The brash leather-clad sex columnist who hosts her own television show, The Biography of Love, is: a) a Parisian whose show airs in France b) an American whose show airs in the U.S. c) a Kuwaiti whose show is broadcast throughout the Middle East The surprising answer is C.

The Mosque in Morgantown

Reading the official synopsis of The Mosque in Morgantown, I quickly got the impression that it was a documentary film that revolved around the battle between journalist-activist Asra Nomani and “the extremists” in her hometown Morgantown, West Virginia.

Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society

Institutional racism: we all know it exists, yet many deny it does. In this book, Sherene Razack, author of Looking White People in the Eye, edits a set of deeply disturbing accounts of racially-motivated public policies and resultant public consciousness in North America.

Skunk Girl

Skunk Girl is Sheba Karim’s first novel. It is told from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Nina Khan, self-described as “a Pakistani Muslim girl” and from a small white town in upstate New York. Although published in 2009, the story is set in approximately 1993. In a fast-paced, entertaining read, Nina narrates her life and drama as the only Pakistani and Muslim girl in her high school.

Forbidden Sun Dance

My body belongs to me. I make the choice of whether or not I use contraception, dance like a silly garden gnome, use drugs like booze, and paint my toenails green or pink or leave them natural.

American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender Within the Ummah

Jamillah Karim takes an extremely complex and contentious set of topics—race, class, gender and faith—and skillfully examines them within the framework of the ummah, or the Muslim community.