Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

by Eboo Patel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807006221
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 07/27/2010
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 175,906
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Eboo Patel is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit building the interfaith youth movement. He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and CNN. Named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, he was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Acts of Faith is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: The Faith Line Someone who doesn’t make flowers makes thorns.

Excerpted from "Acts of Faith"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Eboo Patel.
Excerpted by permission of Beacon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Faith Line xi

1 The Crossroads of the Identity Crisis 1

2 Growing Up American, Growing Up Other 19

3 Identity Politics 37

4 Real World Activism 59

5 An American in India 77

6 The Story of Islam, the Story of Pluralism 101

7 The Youth Programs of Religious Totalitarians (or Tribal Religion, Transcendent Religion) 125

8 Building the Interfaith Youth Core 151

Conclusion: Saving Each Other, Saving Ourselves 175

Postscript 181

Afterword 183

Acknowledgments 189

Bibliographic Essay 191

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Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
KWoman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The book started out strong and definitely had an impact on this reader. But as each chapter went by, it started to drag incessantly and lost my interest. It was well-written however.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was a passionate and honest look into contemporary society's lack of drive toward religious pluralism in youth, and what some individuals like Patel have done about it. For anyone interested in religion, religious pluralism, or youth movements, this book is worth picking up. It is part memoir, part manifesto, and looks into the only slightly divergent paths that lead some toward the religious extremism of terrorists and violent protest while others move toward pacifism and pluralism. It also shows one man's struggle to find his own identity, both culturally and religiously. This is the kind of book we ought to be assigning to students entering college as their summer-reading to build community, identity, and appreciation for culture and diversity
clamairy on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a worthy read, even for a non-believer such as myself. Not only is it an earnest attempt to explain that broad-minded religious indoctrination can be a force for great good in this world, it is also just a good read as an autobiographical work. Eboo Patel has worked closely with practitioners of many faiths. If anyone has the right formula for bringing young people of various religious persuasions together to learn from each other and to work cooperatively on various issues to better their communities, it is Patel. I wish him nothing but the very best of luck, and I hope he keeps writing.
nbmars on LibraryThing 5 months ago
As I came to the last chapter in ¿Acts of Faith¿ by Dr. Eboo Patel, I was ready to jump up and shout, ¿Hey, I know! Let¿s put on a musical!¿ No wait, that was Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. But still, you really do feel energized and even hopeful after reading Patel¿s book.This inspiring memoir of the quest for identity by an engaging Muslim American of Indian descent can be mapped by two streams running through the story: the personal, and the political. Early on these streams flow independently, and later they merge into something more powerful. Patel¿s personal story is charming, self-effacing, and humorous. But it is the story of his place in the greater world that gives his book importance.Patel spent much of his childhood and early adult years involved in service activities, giving up time to help others, and getting self-actualization in return. A connection with his faith was harder to come by. Gradually, however, he learned he could combine service and faith, and moreover, he could do so together with those of other faiths who also believed that God's meaning was best expressed through helping others. Patel tries to understand why it is that "doing God's work" can be interpreted by some (such as suicide bombers and the 9/11 perpetrators) to include terrorist activities. What he concludes is that "religious violence ¿ is more about sociology than scripture.¿ Young people, Patel charges, need a role in life; an opportunity to matter; a feeling like they are an important part of their world. But all too often, there are no options for young people to exercise their need for efficacy outside of joining up with manipulative extremists who co-opt religious language for a violent message. Patel argues (after Desmond Tutu) that religion is only a tool, much as a knife is. You can use it to cut bread, or you can use it to kill. He stresses, ¿a religious text comes to life through its interpreters. Violence committed in the name of a religion is really violence emanating from the heart of a particular interpreter.¿He contends that whereas extremists invest the time and money into harnessing the energy and discontent of youth, ¿too many members of the established older generation don¿t even try to connect.¿ Part of the problem, as Patel found in his own efforts to build an interfaith youth movement, is that the older leadership of mainstream religious communities resists youth involvement. It is as if, Patel muses, they worry that too much exposure to other faiths will hijack the loyalty of these young, unformed persons. Moreover, many parents don¿t press for youth religious activities because they view their kids as ¿too self-absorbed, materialistic, and anti-authoritarian to be interested in religion.¿ Maybe, Patel points out, they just need more opportunities.The idea Patel has worked to materialize is an interfaith movement for youth that emphasizes pluralism and service; that aims to build strength in one¿s own faith through exposure to and interaction with people of other faiths; and that promotes working together to express the values that different religious communities hold in common ¿ ¿hospitality, cooperation, compassion, and mercy.¿At the end of the book, Patel has come to accept his identity as an American with Indian Muslim roots, and to live out his dream of combining service to others with his faith and with his career. He even gets the girl. And yet you know this is no ¿ending¿ at all. It is only the beginning for Patel and for the Interfaith Youth Core.
jlhilljr on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Dr. Patel's book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslin, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, is an excellent book, in both content and style. His personal story and conviction regarding how the global community will win the struggle against extremism is inspiring. As a clergy member of the Christian faith, I find myself sometimes cringing and at other times heartbroken at what some do while giving credit to their "Christian" beliefs. Eboo Patel issues a hopeful challenge to all faith community members of goodwill. He both believes in and outlines a way forward, through reaching the youngest generations. This book does what great books do: It makes me want to read more. I look forward to incorporating his story into my church's self-examination of our role in our community.Generally, I find fault in books I read either in content or writing style. I can fault neither with this volume. I rarely give a book 5 stars -- my librarything profile says I have marked only 25 of my 512 books with the highest rating. This book is number 26.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In Acts of Faith, Eboo Patel seeks to outline what he believes draws many youths to extremism and the ways in which this can be combated. He relates his reaction when he heard of the bombings in London and how he could identify the similarities between himself and those young men who decided to kill not just themselves but also take other innocent bystanders with them. He feels that he could have ended up like those men but for the influences of his parents enrolling him(despite his objections at the time) into his local YMCA. Though it may have seemed odd, here he was a Muslim boy with Muslim parents spending his free time in a Christian organization, he credits this organization with most likely saving him from extremism and its lure. Not only was he occupied during his free time, he was trusted with responsibilities and felt like he was genuinely cared for people outside of his family. He was taught to serve others and while he did this he forgot to be self conscious as he did everyday at school. Patel believes that the support he earned from the people he met at the YMCA helped draw him away from the streets, gangs and other adverse influences.As the son of immigrants, he talks of trying to explain to his parents the bullying that he was suffering at school and the feeling of being an outsider. His mother's response was to tell him to study hard and if he did better in his maths, the other boys would not bully him. To a westerner that may see like an odd response, but this is an attitude that is very familiar to many immigrant children. One may deride this line of thinking but you have to remember that for most immigrants, they are told that in America you can achieve anything as long as you work hard. Education for them is the key to all success and if you did well, then all should be well. So imagine if he did not meet a group of people who embraced him and made him feel safe and accepted. He could have been lured into a gang or gotten seduced by an extremist group. Patel goes beyond advocating the co-existence of religions, he believes that people of different religions should actively engage with each other. By engaging each other and truly talking to each other rather than just being politically correct with one another, then people can really understand those from faiths foreign to them. He believes that the group most in need of this dialogue are young people whose impressionable minds are ripe to be planted with seeds of hope so that they can resist the alternate messages I really enjoyed this book as it was both personal to Patel but universal to all of us. He is honest about the problems facing religion and its adherents but he is optimistic that there is change in store. There were times that I felt that the book got a bit dry but all in all, I think it is a very important read and will be useful reading material in colleges and high schools as they educate the youth on religious pluralism.
peacemover on LibraryThing 5 months ago
"Acts of Faith," by Eboo Patel is a thoughtful, refreshing memoir by an American Muslim who was born in India. Patel persuasively gives voice to, as he rightfully claims in his subtitle "the Soul of a Generation." He brings to the mainstream American consciousness a perspective from moderate Islam.Since the tragic events of 9/11/2001, the West has often cast Islam in a very negative light. Mainstream media and political figures have contributed to this mis-perception through frequent portrayals of many in the Muslim community as being supportive, or at the very least sympathetic to the small minority radical, fringe groups behind most of the violent acts, such as 9/11and the handful of terror attacks on western civilian targets, etc.Patel deftly reclaims the voice of moderate, peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims, who comprise the vast majority of people of this honorable religious faith that has been around for more than 1300 years and comprises around 20% of the world population with approximately 1.5 billion followers, including nearly 2.5 million in the United States.This is no dry demographic report, though. Patel brings to life his own story within the context of moderate Islam in a powerfully moving and compelling narrative. He tells of his own journey from India, and speaks of the commitment to peace, social justice, and a moderate, inclusive Islam, that he asserts is far more prevalent than media reports and most politicians suggest.He begins by placing in context the apparent double standard of religious fundamentalists of all stripes, both in America and around the world, whom he refers to as "religious totalitarians." Two examples he cites are Pat Robertson and Osama bin Laden. Each espouses and condones radicalism in their own way.He then goes on to share how, at an early age, writings of great civil rights figures like W.E.B. duBois and Martin Luther King, jr., Gandhi, Aga Khan and Dorothy Day influenced his thought and development as a youth.He laments how, as youth, those who later chose the path of extremism faced turning points along the way where they were influenced. He lifts up once again the importance of reaching Muslim youth with a message of peace, hope and involvement in positive social change.Patel is very candid about the challenges and struggle he faced as he puts it in one of his chapters "growing up American, growing up other." How he struggled to find his own cultural and faith identity. He goes on to share his story of becoming involved internationally as a youth activist advocating for peaceful change and interfaith dialogue.In sum, Patel's book is a wonderfully encouraging view into his life as a moderate Muslim and the emerging movement of Muslims committed to peace, interfaith dialogue and social justice. Highly recommended!
herdingcats on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Eboo Patel is very smart and is a former Rhodes scholar. He has doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford and is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, "an organization that unites young people of different religions to perform community service and explore their common values. "He tells two stories in this book. He tells his own personal story, one of growing up Muslim in America, being bullied by other kids because he was brown and Muslim, and his rejection of and later return to the Muslim religion that he was raised in. The other story that he tells is how impressionable teenagers are brought into extremist youth groups because their religions have failed to engage them in positive ways. He gives examples of Christian, Jewish and Hindu extremist groups as well as those that are Muslim.Eboo's personal story is interesting and I learned more about the Muslim religion that I did not know. He is an Ismaili Musilim, part of the Shia group that follows an Imam who is a supreme leader to them rather like the Pope is to the Catholics. Their current Imam is known as the Aga Kahn. Eboo's parents wanted him to learn service and charity to others and so they made him participate in a YMCA youth service group, which he feels helped to give him identity and kept him from possibly falling prey to extremist Muslim groups.Eboo feels that extremist groups are more political than religious and that none of them really represent their religions as their religions are meant to be practiced. He recognizes that extremist groups give huge amounts of money to create youth indoctrination groups, which certainly is true of the Muslim extremist groups. He tells about the school that Osama Bin Laden went to and decribes some of their teachings and methods. He also gives examples of White Supremacy groups posing as Christian Youth educational groups and of a small Jewish extremist group in the 1960s. He also tells of the Hindu extemist group called the National Volunteer Corps or RSS whose goal is "a pure Hindu nation" and while initally attracting youth w/ Hindu ideology, this group has been responsible for the murders of thousands of Muslims.Eboo feels that the solution to extremist groups is to unite the youth of the various religions together to serve for a common purpose so that they will know and understand one another as similar human beings. His group, the IFYC strives to do that. I think that is a nice idea.
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