Acts of Faith - The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
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A young Muslim activist explains our critical need to counter the recruitment of youth by religious fundamentalists
"Acts of Faith, a beautifully written story of discovery and hope, chronicles Dr. Eboo Patel's struggle to forge his identity as a Muslim, an Indian, and an American. In the process, he developed a deep reverence for what all faiths have in common, and founded an interfaith movement to help young people to embrace their common humanity through their faith. This young social entrepreneur offers us a powerful way to deal with one of the most important issues of our time." —President Bill Clinton
"I am an American Muslim from India. My adolescence was a series of rejections, one after another, of the various dimensions of my heritage, in the belief that America, India, and Islam could not coexist within the same being. If I wanted to be one, I could not be the others. My struggle to understand the traditions I belong to as mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive is the story of a generation of young people standing at the crossroads of inheritance and discovery, trying to look both ways at once. There is a strong connection between finding a sense of inner coherence and developing a commitment to pluralism. And that has everything to do with who meets you at the crossroads."
So writes Eboo Patel at the beginning of his remarkable account of coming of age and coming to understand what led him toward religious pluralism rather than hatred.
Growing up outside Chicago, subject to a constant barrage of racist bullying, and unsure of what it meant to be Muslim, Patel had a gut-wrenching feeling of being excluded from mainstream society. In high school he rejected everything about his Indian and Muslim heritage and excelled in academics in an attempt to be like the white Americans around him. In college, this illusion came undone as Patel discovered the liberatory power of identity politics—and a deep rage at the inequities and hypocrisies of America.
He soon learned that anger is not an identity. As the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Atlanta Olympics bombing, and 9/11 occurred, Patel saw how religious extremists recruited young people with similar raw emotions and manipulated them into becoming hate-filled murderers. He, on the other hand, was encountering a set of people and ideas that illuminated a different understanding: an America striving to achieve its core value of openness to all; an Islam seeking to return to its primary teachings of mercy and reconciliation; an India with diversity woven into its original fabric. Patel's most important discovery was not about his relationship with his past but about his concrete responsibility to make the best part of that past—the possibility of pluralism—a reality in the contemporary world.
Acts of Faith
is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people, and to the notion that we find the fulfillment of our identities in the work we do in the world.
In the Media
to read an article by Patel featured in Inside Higher Ed
to read an article by Patel featured in The Huffington Post
to read an article featuring Acts of Faith
Review Kirkus Reviews - April 15, 2007
“Intriguing memoir . . . an entertaining page-turner that juxtaposes youthful mistakes with remarkable moments of insight. Offers a worthwhile look into the burgeoning interfaith youth movement.”
Review Publishers Weekly - April 23, 2007
“This autobiography of a young activist captures how an angry youth can be transformed—by faith, by the community and, most of all, by himself—into a profound leader for the cause of peace.”
Review Library Journal, starred review - May 15, 2007
“Highly recommended for all libraries as one of the best first-person stories of youth activism, interfaith cooperation, and how to be both authentically American and Muslim.”
Review By: Paul Raushenbush, Beliefnet - March 26, 2008
“So pervasive are misgivings about Muslims in America today that it is difficult to avoid religious prejudice. One remedy is to read Dr. Eboo Patel's remarkable autobiography.” Read Full Review
Review Christian Century - May 6, 2008
"...the best recent American statement about living one's faith in a pluralistic society. It challenges Christian ethis to try to make a similar statement in its own terms."
"Acts of Faith chronicles Dr. Eboo Patel's struggle to forge his identity as a Muslim, an Indian, and an American. In the process, he developed a deep reverence for what all faiths have in common, and founded an interfaith movement to help young people to embrace their common humanity through their faith. This young social entrepeneur offers us a powerful way to deal with one of the most important issues of our time."
—President Bill Clinton
“Eboo Patel is an exciting new voice of a new America. Diverse but not divisive, hopeful but not utopian. He is an American Indian whose roots are not in South Dakota but in South Asia, and he speaks for all of us from a rising generation of bright, brown and bold Americans who have much to offer a country embarking on a new millennium and in need of new blood.”
—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, executive director of the Zaytuna Institute
“Eboo Patel has crafted an elegantly written and brilliantly argued manifesto—a call to arms, really—about the importance not of interfaith dialogue but of interfaith cooperation. Acts of Faith is more than a book, it is an awakening of the mind. It should be required reading for all Americans.”
—Reza Aslan, author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
"Religious pluralism is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Acts of Faith is the inspiring story of Eboo Patel’s own life journey and his vision in creating an interfaith youth movement. He shows how educating a new generation to reject religious intolerance and work for the common good is the only way the world can avoid growing fanaticism and violence. This hopeful book shows the power that is waiting to be engaged for a better future. I highly commend it.”
—Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
“A remarkable book by a young Muslim and a Rhodes Scholar with a vast spiritual vision: a future in which young people join hands in service across the lines of religion. Refreshing, honest, and hopeful, it will speak to the soul of a generation yearning for a new way ahead. Give it to every young person in your life—and to yourself.”
—Diana Eck, author of A New Religious America: How a ‘Christian Country’ Has Become the World’s Most Religious Diverse Nation