Center for the Study of Law and Religion Books
What is an American Muslim?: Embracing Faith and Citizenship


What is an American Muslim?: Embracing Faith and Citizenship



Abdullah An-na'im offers a pioneering exploration of American Muslim citizenship and identity, arguing against the prevalent emphasis on majority-minority politics and instead promoting a shared citizenship that both accommodates and transcends religious identity. Many scholars and community leaders have called on American Muslims to engage with or integrate into mainstream American culture. Such calls tend to assume that there is a distinctive, monolithic, minority religious identity for American Muslims. Rejecting the closed categories that determine the minority status of a particular group and that, in turn, impede active, engaged citizenship, An-na'im draws attention to the relational nature of identity, emphasizing a common base of national membership and advancing a legal approach to a public recognition of a person's status as citizen. Rather than perceive themselves or accept being perceived by others as a monolithic minority, he argues, American Muslims should view themselves as American citizens who happen to be Muslims. As American citizens, they share a vast array of identities with other American citizens, whether ethnic, political, or socio-economic. But none of these identities qualify or limit their citizenship. An-na'im urges members of the American Muslim community to take a proactive, affirmative view of their citizenship in order to realize their rights fully and fulfill their obligations in social and cultural as well as political and legal terms. He shows that the freedom to associate with others in order to engage in civic action to advance rights and interests is integral to the underlying rationale of citizenship and not something that must be relinquished to become an American citizen. What Is an American Muslim? provides acute insight into the nature of citizenship and identity, the place of religious affiliation in American society, and what it means to share in a collective identity.



Publication Date



Oxford University Press


Islam, Law and Religion

What is an American Muslim?: Embracing Faith and Citizenship