Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas

Category: Book
By (author): Mouallem, Omar
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural Heritage
  HISTORY / Social History
  NON-FICTION / Canadian
  SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: September 2021
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 384
Size: 9.00in x 6.00in x 1.20in
Our Price:
$ 34.99
Available to order

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*Journalist Omar Mouallem travels to thirteen remarkable mosques and discovers the surprising history of their communities. But what he finds also challenges his own long-held personal beliefs, and even his sense of identity.

"Until recently, Muslim identity was imposed on me. But I feel different about my religious heritage in the era of ISIS and Trumpism, Rohingya and Uyghur genocides, ethnonationalism and misinformation. I'm compelled to reclaim the thing that makes me a target. I've begun to examine Islam closely with an eye for how it has shaped my values, politics, and connection to my roots. No doubt, Islam has a place within me. But do I have a place within it?"

Omar Mouallem grew up in a Muslim household, but always questioned the role of Islam in his life. As an adult, he used his voice to criticize what he saw as the harms of organized religion. But none of that changed the way others saw him. Now, as a father, he fears the challenges his children will no doubt face as Western nations become increasingly nativist and hostile toward their heritage.

In Praying to the West, Mouallem explores the unknown history of Islam across the Americas, traveling to thirteen unique mosques in search of an answer to how this religion has survived and thrived so far from the place of its origin. From California to Quebec, and from Brazil to Canada's icy north, he meets the members of fascinating communities, all of whom provide different perspectives on what it means to be Muslim. Along this journey he comes to understand that Islam has played a fascinating role in how the Americas were shaped-from industrialization to the changing winds of politics. And he also discovers that there may be a place for Islam in his own life, particularly as a father, even if he will never be a true believer.

Original, insightful, and beautifully told, Praying to the West reveals a secret history of home and the struggle for belonging taking place in towns and cities across the Americas, and points to a better, more inclusive future for everyone.
Review Quote*"Mouallem's curiosity-about the promise of a global ummah and his personal relationship with Islam-is inviting and engaging. His journalistic style informs, while his spiritual inquisitiveness encourages self-reflection. A necessary meditation on the richness and multiplicity of Islamic history and practice."
DESMOND COLE, journalist and author of The Skin We're In
Review Quote*"Mouallem is one of Canada's most masterful nonfiction writers and there's no one I'd rather follow on a journey like this: across centuries, around the world and into intimate corners of family and personal history. With a deep generosity of both intellect and heart, he offers a rich and complex view of Muslim communities, and of his own ever-evolving relationship to the faith." 
RACHEL GIESE, author of Boys: What it Means to Be a Man, winner of the Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
Review Quote*"Thoughtful, deeply personal, and rich in long ignored and buried histories, Praying to the West reshaped my understanding both of Islam-or, the many Islams-and the history of North America. Omar Mouallem has written a fascinating, essential book."
EVA HOLLAND, author of Nerve: A Personal Journey Through the Science of Fear
Review Quote*"Mouallem performs a daring act of historical excavation and cultural reconstruction of Islam's history and perseverance as a faith and a community builder in the Americas. Through insightful reporting, masterful storytelling, and exquisite prose, he provides both a panoramic and an intimate view of peoples and sects within a religion often willfully misunderstood and mischaracterized in the West. What a towering achievement this book is and what a gift to have Mouallem guide his readers through its complex and urgent explorations."
KAMAL AL-SOLAYLEE, author of Return and Brown, winner of the Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
Review Quote*"This book is a remarkable achievement."
MARCELLO DI CINTIO, author of Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Life in Contemporary Palestine
Review Quote*"At once a work of historical scholarship, fascinating travelogue, and deeply personal assessment of lost and rediscovered faith, Praying to the West is a balm against the depiction of Muslims as some kind of nefarious monolith. Omar Mouallem has excavated so many buried stories of Islam's relationship with this part of the world, and in doing so created a timely, vital, and thoroughly readable biography. This is a book that eschews easy answers and generalizations, and the result is both honest and kaleidoscopic." 
OMAR EL AKKAD, bestselling author of American War and What Strange Paradise
Review Quote*"Mouallem shatters the myth of a monolithic Islam by revealing a sweeping array of cultures within the Muslim faith. Part adventure story and part investigative probe, his journey spans the Americas, from an Arctic mosque to the Maya Muslims of Mexico. Written from the perspective of an ‘atheist Muslim,' Mouallem asks tough questions and offers surprising insights. Like all great books, it is transformative. After reading Praying to the West, you'll never see Islam in the same way again."
ZIYA TONG, science broadcaster and author of The Reality Bubble
Biographical NoteOmar Mouallem is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His journalism has appeared in The GuardianThe New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Maclean's, WIRED, and more. He coauthored the national bestseller Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter's Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray, and codirected Digging in the Dirt, a documentary about mental health in the Alberta oil patch. In 2020, he founded Pandemic University School of Writing. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with his family. Follow him on Twitter @OmarMouallem and find him at Visit for more information.