A garage rock band with songs like “Shariah Law in the U.S.A.” and “Blow Shit Up.” A dead terrorist’s widow. A mother whose made it her mission to seek justice for her son, a paramedic killed on 9/11, but whose name was smeared by the New York Post because he was Muslim. A Texas farmer who once held pig races to discourage Muslims from building a mosque next to his land, but is now a good neighbor. The women who run a shelter for Muslim women, and the Islamophobes who undermine their work. LGBT Muslims who demand respect from fellow Muslims. A few buffoons from Fox News. A disgraced former FBI agent and Islamophobe who offers counter-terrorism training to law enforcement. The parents of a Muslim man accused of conspiring to commit terror. A Muslim American solder who served in Iraq, but was spied on by the FBI after he returned home.
Those are a few of the characters in my upcoming book, “Crescent Mirror in a Glass House: Stories about Muslim-Americans and what they reflect about the USA.” Crescent Mirror is the culmination of 10 years of reporting about Muslim Americans, and as the title implies, will reveal as much about America as it does about its Muslims.
I never planned to become a religion reporter, so Crescent Mirror is an unexpected project. True, I grew-up in an observant Bosnian Muslim home and was well-versed in Islam and Islamic culture. But by the time I was into college, I had mostly stopped practicing, except for the occasional Eid service with my father. I still felt connected to Islamic culture, however, but that never translated into a desire to become a religion reporter.
That didn’t change after 9/11 either, even with the nation’s new interest in Islam, and for the next few years I went on with my work as a business and general assignment reporter in New York City, New Hampshire and Vermont, and for the last 11 years, Boston.
Of course, I followed the news about Islam and Muslims, and was bothered by what I read and heard. News reports were frequently misleading or incorrect, failing to provide readers an accurate picture of the faith and its followers in America – at least as I knew them growing up. The blogosphere was worse, frequently inciting hatred by demonizing Muslims.
Given my background and relationship with religion, I decided I could bring some much needed experience to the Islam beat while striking a balance between my own intimacy with and distance from religion. I sought to explain Muslim beliefs and practices, cover problems and controversies with sobriety instead of sensationalism, and bring Muslim characters to life for readers.
Crescent Mirror will dig deep into Islamic beliefs on women, democracy, violence, other religions, and bring readers into the lives of extraordinary Muslims and Americans. But Crescent Mirror will also explore complexities and conflicts in American society: bigotry, tolerance, close-mindedness, curiosity, egalitarianism, elitism, media superficiality, political cynicism and civic activism.
It’s a tall order, but if you’ve read the About Me page of this website, you’ll know I’ve been bridging America and Islam since before I was born.