Black Mecca

Black Mecca : The African Muslims of Harlem

3.7 (17 ratings by Goodreads)
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The changes to U.S. immigration law that were instituted in 1965 have led to an influx of West African immigrants to New York, creating an enclave Harlem residents now call "Little Africa." These immigrants are immediately recognizable as African in their wide-sleeved robes and tasseled hats, but most native-born members of the community are unaware of the crucial role Islam plays in immigrants' lives. Zain Abdullah takes us inside the lives of these new immigrants and shows how they deal with being a double minority in a country where both blacks and Muslims are stigmatized. Dealing with this dual identity, Abdullah discovers, is extraordinarily complex. Some longtime residents embrace these immigrants and see their arrival as an opportunity to reclaim their African heritage, while others see the immigrants as scornful invaders. In turn, African immigrants often take a particularly harsh view of their new neighbors, buying into the worst stereotypes about American-born blacks being lazy and incorrigible.
And while there has long been a large Muslim presence in Harlem, and residents often see Islam as a force for social good, African-born Muslims see their Islamic identity disregarded by most of their neighbors. Abdullah weaves together the stories of these African Muslims to paint a fascinating portrait of a community's efforts to carve out space for itself in a new country.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195314255
  • 9780195314250
  • 1,741,038

Review quote

Intermingling ethnographic research with good storytelling and captivating interviews, Black Mecca is electrifying. Abdullah opens up the community and its individuals in ways I could not have imagined. We visit their homes, dine with them, and stay up late into the night at celebrations. We become intimate with longing, tragedy, uncertainty, loss, and triumph. This is a must-read for students of immigration, anthropology, religion, and culture. * Aminah Beverly McCloud, Director, Islamic World Studies, DePaul University * Compelling and readable. . . Abdullah is a skilled writer, and the reader moves from one inviting chapter to the next as if wandering through the city with a close friend, stopping to chat with passersby. . . . A thoughtful analysis of how African Muslims have become a vital part of Harlem social life. * American Anthropologist * Brilliantly subtle.... does a masterful job humanizing these subjects and rendering their lives and thoughts in nuanced and memorable ways. * Sociology of Religion * Black Mecca is an immensely readable book that is a must for those with a keen interest in religion and culture. Zain Abdulllah's tenacity, tact, and knowledge of Islam open up the world and lives of individuals and communities who are creating a space for themselves in a new country. * Black Theology * Black Mecca is a masterful example of thick ethnography... Combines great storytelling with deep insights... a must read for students of American Islam. * Islamic Africa *
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About Zain Abdullah

Zain Abdullah holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion and an associate faculty member in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. He works in film and photography, and serves on the Religion and Migration Consultation committee for the American Academy of Religion.
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Table of contents

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Rating details

17 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 35% (6)
4 24% (4)
3 24% (4)
2 12% (2)
1 6% (1)
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