On March 17, scholar Zareena Grewal presented a lecture, Islam Is a Foreign Country, to an enthusiastic audience at Elmhurst College.
Grewal’s topic was drawn from her 2013 book of the same name, which explores some of the most pressing debates about and among American Muslims: What does it mean to be Muslim and American? Who has the authority to speak for Islam? Do the ties American Muslims have to the larger Muslim world undermine their efforts to make Islam an American religion?
The book follows the journeys of American Muslim youth who travel in global, underground Islamic networks. Devoutly religious and often politically disaffected, these young men and women are in search of a home for themselves and their tradition. Through their stories, Grewal captures the multiple directions of the global flows of people, practices and ideas that connect U.S. mosques to the Muslim world. By examining the tension between American Muslims’ uncertainty toward the American mainstream and their desire to enter it, Grewal puts contemporary debates about Islam in the context of a long history of American racial and religious exclusions.
Grewal is a historical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker who teaches American studies and religious studies at Yale University. Her films include By the Dawn’s Early Light, which centers on the controversy surrounding a Muslim NBA player’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. Her research centers on issues of race, gender, religion and nationalism within a wide spectrum of Muslim communities in the United States.
Grewal’s talk was part of the al-Ghazali Intercultural Lecture Series at Elmhurst College.