This Muslim American Life

Dispatches from the War on Terror

304 pages

September, 2015

ISBN: 9781479835645



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Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America, which won an American Book Award and the Arab American Book Award for Nonfiction. He is the editor of Midnight on the Mavi Marmara and co-editor of The Edward Said Reader. He is Professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY).

All books by Moustafa Bayoumi

Winner of the 2016 Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Arab American Book Award

Over 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.


  • "This Muslim American Life serves as an important extension of Bayoumi’s earlier work and secures his position as a major voice."

    Journal of American Culture

  • "Chagrined about the treatment of Muslim Americans after 9/11 and still puzzling over even more strenuous anti-Muslim demonstrations since the election of President Barack Obama, Bayoumi probes the so-called 'War on Terror culture,' which ascribes a malevolent aspect to all things Muslim...A thoughtful study [and] certainly relevant."

    Kirkus Reviews

  • "[Bayoumi's] essays provide an engaging and refreshingly insightful window on the world from the perspective of an English professor of Egyptian origin at Brooklyn College."

    New York Times

  • This Muslim American Life, with its explanation of the War on Terror Culture, balances an impressive breadth of subject matter with an equally diverse range of writing styles.”

    Al Jadid

  • “Bayoumi’s book does much to contribute to Muslim studies.”


  • “Moustafa Bayoumi’s This Muslim American Life… combines first-hand experience with scholarly research to deliver a sobering account of the ‘War on Terror culture,’ and its repercussions on the lives of American Muslims.”

    Against the Current

  • "Muslim Americans form a unique group of recent immigrants in the United States because of the special scrutiny and treatment they have received.  Moustafa Bayoumi gives them a voice in This Muslim American Life."

    The Progressive

  • "[A] fascinating collection of pieces--sometimes hilarious, often unsettling, always probing and provocative--about, well, Muslim life in America, past and present."

  • "Fascinating...the author's narrative places the predicament of Arabs and Muslims in today's America in a broader historical and sociocultural framework.This engrossing book challenges the entrenched...stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims."

    Library Journal

  • “Moustafa Bayoumi is a true public intellectual. In the midst of the post-9/11 culture wars, he offers a sane voice and thoughtful commentary during this ideological firestorm. Compelling, insightful, and at times hilarious, This Muslim American Life paints a rich picture of the cultural politics of being Muslim in the U.S. today.”

    —Evelyn Alsultany, author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media

  • "Moustafa Bayoumi’s calm and precise voice takes you into the world of governmental paranoia and its social costs. What does it mean to be an American Muslim today? Read him. Beautiful writing for an ugly world."

    —Vijay Prashad, editor of Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation

  • “Moustafa Bayoumi is an essential guide to the contradictions and challenges facing the Muslim American community in the age of the so-called War on Terror. He 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