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This Muslim American Life

Dispatches from the War on Terror

“Engaging and refreshingly insightful.” The New York Times

“Moustafa Bayoumi…allows us to experience the dislocation and maddening injustice of what it is like to be suddenly stereotyped and held responsible for the actions of distant others, yet never loses a sense of hope and optimism.”  — Juan Cole, author of The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East


ver the last few years, Moustafa Bayoumi has been an extra in Sex and the City 2 playing a generic Arab, a terrorist suspect (or at least his namesake “Mustafa Bayoumi” was) in a detective novel, the subject of a trumped-up controversy because a book he had written was seen by right-wing media as pushing an “anti-American, pro-Islam” agenda, and was asked by a U.S. citizenship officer to drop his middle name of Mohamed.

Others have endured far worse fates. Sweeping arrests following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to the incarceration and deportation of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, based almost solely on their national origin and immigration status. The NYPD, with help from the CIA, has aggressively spied on Muslims in the New York area as they go about their ordinary lives, from noting where they get their hair cut to eavesdropping on conversations in cafés. In This Muslim American Life, Moustafa Bayoumi reveals what the War on Terror looks like from the vantage point of Muslim Americans, highlighting the profound effect this surveillance has had on how they live their lives. To be a Muslim American today often means to exist in an absurd space between exotic and dangerous, victim and villain, simply because of the assumptions people carry about you. In gripping essays, Bayoumi exposes how contemporary politics, movies, novels, media experts and more have together produced a culture of fear and suspicion that not only willfully forgets the Muslim-American past, but also threatens all of our civil liberties in the present.


How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?

Being Young and Arab in America


“[T]hese are great stories about people who might be your neighbors, and Bayoumi delivers them with urgency, compassion, wryness and hints of poetry.”   −

Just over a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois posed a probing question in his classic The Souls of Black Folk: “How does it feel to be a problem?” he asked. Today, Arab and Muslim Americans, the newest minorities in the American imagination, are the latest “problem” of American society, and their answers to Du Bois’s question increasingly define what being American means today.

In a wholly revealing portrait of a community that lives next door and yet a world away, Moustafa Bayoumi introduces us to the individual lives of seven twentysomething men and women living in Brooklyn, home to the largest number of Arab Americans in the United States. Through telling real stories about young people in Brooklyn, Bayoumi jettisons the stereotypes and clichés that constantly surround Arabs and Muslims and allows us instead to enter their worlds and experience their lives. We meet Rasha, Sami, Lina, Akram, Yasmin, Omar and Rami and discover through them often-unseen entanglements: government surveillance and detentions, workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, threats of vigilante violence, the infiltration of spies and informants into their midst, and the disappearance of friends or family. Their richly told stories connect us to their quests for meaning, from falling in love to finding God, and we feel their triumphs and watch them stumble along the way. As their lives turn on the winds of global conflicts, these young Arab Americans manage the major issues of our day while forging the contours of our future society. What the stories in this book prove is that the fight for equality and the commitment to compassion are as necessary today as ever, if not more so.

Moustafa Bayoumi immerses his reader in a reality at once inconceivable and achingly familiar to unveil an unforgettable American story of race, religion, and civil rights, full of struggle, promise and hope.

edited books

Midnight on the Mavi Marmara

The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict

Moustafa Bayoumi, Editor

“[T]his dynamic 302-page anthology conveys the importance of writing history from divergent viewpoints and in the context of different experiences. In this process, as the book shows, comes the difficulty, and therefore the power of communication.”   — Al

At 4:30 am on Monday, May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos, boarding from sea and air, attacked the six boats of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it sailed through international waters attempting to bring humanitarian relief to the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza. Within minutes, nine peace activists were dead, shot by the Israelis. Scores of others were injured.

Within hours, outrage at Israel’s action echoed around the world. Spontaneous demonstrations occurred in Europe, the United States, Turkey, and Gaza itself to denounce the attack. Turkey’s prime minister described it as a “bloody massacre” and “state terrorism.”

In these pages, a range of activists, journalists, and analysts piece together the events that occurred that May night. Mixing together first-hand testimony and documentary record with hard-headed analysis and historical overview, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara reveals why the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla may just turn out to be Israel’s Selma, Alabama moment: the beginning of the end for an apartheid Palestine.

Contributors include: Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, George Bisharat, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Martha B. Cohen, Juan Cole, Murat Dagli, Jamal Elshayyal, Sümeyye Ertekin, Norman Finkelstein,, Neve Gordon, Glenn Greenwald, Arun Gupta, Amira Hass, Adam Horowitz, Rashid Khalidi, Stephen Kinzer, Paul Larudee, Iara Lee, Gideon Levy, Daniel Luban, Alia Malek, Henning Mankell, Mike Marqusee, Lubna Masarwa, Yousef Munayyer, Ken O’Keefe, Kevin Ovenden, Ilan Pappé, Doron Rosenblum, Sara Roy, Ben Saul, Eyad Al Sarraj, Adam Shapiro, Raja Shehadeh, Henry Siegman, Ahdaf Soueif, Raji Sourani, Richard Tillinghast, Alice Walker, Stephen M. Walt, and Haneen Zoabi.

The Edward Said Reader

Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin, Editors

“[T]he format of the collection is particularly effective, for it provides a sense of [Said’s] personal and political … development as a writer … aided in no small part by Bayoumi and Rubin’s commentary on the climate in which each piece was written and the manner in which each was received.”   − Kirkus Reviews

Edward Said, the renowned literary and cultural critic and passionately engaged intellectual, is one of our era’s most formidable, provocative, and important thinkers.  For more than three decades his books, which include Culture and Imperialism, Peace and Its Discontents, and the seminal study Orientalism, have influenced not only our worldview but the very terms of public discourse.

The Edward Said Reader includes key sections from all of Said’s books, from the groundbreaking 1966 study of Joseph Conrad to his memoir, Out of Place. Whether he is writing of Zionism or Palestinian self-determination, Jane Austen or Yeats, music or the media, Said’s uncompromising intelligence casts urgent light on every subject he undertakes. The Edward Said Reader will prove a joy to the general reader and an indispensable resource for scholars of politics, history, literature, and cultural studies: in short, of all those fields that his work has influenced and, in some cases, transformed.