One part of the NewGround process that stood out for me was being able to talk about Islam the way I understood it, how I practiced it and without having to speak and be held accountable for a billion people who also share my faith. Just being heard in that space was liberating for me. When I read my friend Tariq Jalil’s new book “Islam Plain and Simple” I felt him channeling that liberated spirit in discussing Islam, I felt his empowerment and connected to his desire to speak in a straightforward manner about Islam.
In NewGround, we have the opportunity to build relationships by building on a web of interactions. We start with the preliminaries and move into more sensitive areas of getting to know other fellows, but all of this happens because we create a safe space and have some amazing facilitators leading us through this difficult process. Not everyone has that opportunity to be part of a process like NewGround, but it should not be an obstacle to people reaching out to interact with American Muslims.
In an Altmuslimah interview, Jalil said that his desire in writing the book was to “present the religion of Islam purely according to its teachings, not on the basis of how some Muslims choose to practice it.” Obviously this is a hard thing to pull off, because in the end, even what Jalil presents about Islam is his interpretation of the religion. But for readers, it’s a unique opportunity to read a Muslim write about his understanding of Islam without an academic or proselytizing feel to it.
He speaks with a unique voice because he was raised in an mid-western multi-faith extended family of Conservative Christians and with a traditional Indian Muslim father; all of which shaped his understanding of Islam and his identity as an American Muslim. In a very American way the book is an opportunity for him to amplify his voice above the static that is out there about American Muslims. Readers will appreciate that Jalil doesn’t hesitate to discuss topics that are heated. Instead he methodically presents his understanding of things as varied as women, terrorism and Quranic interpretation.
The book provides a foundation and leaves it to the reader to seek out more about Islam and Muslims. One constricting aspect of NewGround was that there were so many Muslim perspectives, and each deserved equal space and ample time, so it was hard to keep sharing without shutting someone else’s voice. This provided an opportunity to practice an important tool we learned, to step back and practice the sacred art of listening. Jalil was not constricted by a NewGround construct and therefore you can choose to read through the short book in one sitting or take in small portions, digest them and go back to the book at your pleasure.
Having relationships with people is the surest way to dispel bigotry and prejudice, and Jalil’s book is a great way to begin understanding Islam so you can have meaningful interactions with Muslims. While nothing can replace the one-on-one relationships that NewGround fosters, Jalil’s book is a good starting point for someone who would like some background information from a Muslim’s perspective before engaging in a one-on-one communication.
My friend and Hollywood producer Tariq Jalil’s book titled “Islam Plain and Simple,” is scheduled for release on Amazon later this month. He was gracious enough to forward me advanced digital copy of the book to read. Check out his piece in AltMuslimah and read more about the critical acclaim the book has received here.