Muslim men are stereotyped as either oversexed Casanovas willing to die for seventy-two virgins in heaven or controlling, big-bearded husbands ready to rampage at the hint of dishonor. The truth is, there are millions of Muslim men trying to figure out the complicated terrain of love, sex, and relationships just like any other American man.
In Salaam, Love, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi provide a space for American Muslim men to speak openly about their romantic lives, offering frank, funny, and insightful glimpses into their hearts—and bedrooms. The twenty-two writers come from a broad spectrum of ethnic, racial, and religious perspectives-including orthodox, cultural, and secular Muslims—reflecting the strength and diversity of their faith community and of America.
By raising their voices to share stories of love and heartbreak, loyalty and betrayal, intimacy and insecurity, these Muslim men are leading the way for all men to recognize that being open and honest about their feelings is not only okay—it's intimately connected to their lives and critical to their happiness and well-being.
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About the Editors
Ayesha Mattu is a writer and international development consultant. She lives in San Francisco.
Nura Maznavi is a civil rights attorney, writer, and Fulbright scholar. She lives in Chicago.
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"This is a magnificent collection. It's all here: love, loss, confusion, sex, and more than sex, that magical quest for intimacy. In short, what it means to be human: seeking, finding, losing, cherishing. A wonderful contribution to American Muslim narratives in their own voices." —Omid Safi, author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters
"This diverse and humane anthology documents what heartbreak and hilarity goes down (often in silence) in the American-Muslim community. It should also confuse government agents." —Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust: A Portrait of a Muslim as a Young Man
"Intimate and compelling, Salaam, Love is a glimpse of the emotional balancing act American Muslim men face as they navigate the demands of faith, family and their own hearts. A must-read." —G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen
“Salaam, Love is an important book because it sheds light on a subject that is unknown and scary to many Americans: Muslim men and their relationship to love, sex, and intimacy. It’s a book that shows how similar we all are, how much we have in common, when there’s so much hate-based propaganda floating around about how different we all are. But beyond being an important book, it’s also a great read. Funny, sad, cool, hot, counterintuitive, and perhaps most importantly, sexy.” —David Henry Sterry, author of Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent
“While many of the tales end in marriage, none ignore the flaws and difficulties presented by romantic relationships. Throughout, there are men who lost love, lost themselves and found things they weren’t looking for, as well as those still searching. Whether read all together or in single doses, faith and love abound, and there is no shortage of entertainment. In the introduction, the editors write, ‘There’s nothing like a good love story to connect us to one another and also help satisfy our curiosity about the lives of others.’ This collection proves the honesty in that assertion.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Simultaneously lighthearted entertainment and an important addition to public discourse around the place of Islam in America.... Indeed, the entire collection seeks to offer as much variety as possible, with stories reflecting a broad range of sexuality, ethnicity, religiosity, and romantic success. In this way, it pushes back against common cultural stereotypes of both Muslims and men, showing Muslims with a full range of ordinary American life experiences and showing men with tender and heartfelt emotions that they articulate beautifully. For insiders to the community, this work will prompt joyful recognition as well as thoughtful exploration of different experiences; for outsiders, it will counter one-dimensional negative images about American Muslims. For everyone it will be an insightful, thoroughly charming read.” —Publishers Weekly
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Questions for Discussion
- In their introduction, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi ask the question, “What if it’s not that men don’t want to talk about their feelings, but rather that they don’t have the space to do so?” Do you agree that men don’t have the space to be “honest and vulnerable about matters of the heart?” Were you surprised by the responses they received from American Muslim men?
- What was your perception of Muslim men before reading this collection? Has it changed after reading these stories? If so, how has it changed?
- How do the stories in this book fit into your understanding of how men view love and relationships? Which story most resonated with you, and why?
- What role do family, friends, and their community play in how these Muslim men view their “sense of self and search for love?” How do these men negotiate situations where their family, friends, or community do not support their identity or chosen partner, like in “Mother’s Curse” and “The Ride?”
- In “Soda Bottles and Zebra Skins,” Sam Pierstorff describes the five essential pillars of Islam taught to him by his mother, “1) believe in Allah and his final prophet, Muhammad; 2) pray five times a day; 3) don’t look at girls; 4) don’t speak to girls; 5) don’t think about girls.” How does this humorous description of the pillars of Islam accurately capture a real tension in the lives of American Muslim men?
- The second section of the collection, entitled “Sirat: The Journey,” describes the romantic, personal, and spiritual transformations that occur over the course of these men’s lives. What transformation did you find especially surprising or compelling?
- In the final section, the contributors lift the “façade of happily ever after to share what it really takes to keep a relationship going over a lifetime.” What moments from these stories resonated with you? Do you believe the contributors accurately capture the work and sacrifice necessary to maintain a lifelong relationship?
- Mattu and Maznavi write, “By raising their voices, these Muslim men are leading the way for other men to recognize that being open and honest about their feelings is not only okay—it’s intimately connected to their lives and critical to their well-being.” How does the collection as a whole open the door to a larger discussion about masculinity, love, and intimacy?
- As the editors describe, these American Muslim men “welcome us—with open arms—into the most intimate aspects of their lives.” Were you ever surprised by the level of intimacy and private details shared in these stories? How did this affect you?
- In “Finding Mercy,” Anthony Springer Jr. writes that, “Having a safe space to share my story was liberating. I’d realized that ‘Anthony, the Muslim’ and ‘Anthony, the skeptic’ could coexist. I could be Muslim and have questions about faith.” What role does Islam play in the identities of these American Muslim men? In what ways is Islam a source of comfort and also a source of friction? How do individual writers find a way for their religion and their larger identities to coexist together?
- The contributors to Salaam, Love reflect on how their religious traditions have influenced their attitudes toward love, marriage, and intimacy. If you were raised in a different religious tradition, how has that tradition affected your relationships? How is this similar and different to the experiences of the Muslim men who contributed to this collection?
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