The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism

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In this cultural history of Americans' engagement with Islam in the colonial and antebellum period, Timothy Marr analyzes the historical roots of how the Muslim world figured in American prophecy, politics, reform, fiction, art and dress. Marr argues that perceptions of the Muslim world, long viewed not only as both an anti-Christian and despotic threat but also as an exotic other, held a larger place in domestic American concerns than previously thought. Historical, literary, and imagined encounters with Muslim history and practices provided a backdrop where different Americans oriented the direction of their national project, the morality of the social institutions, and the contours of their romantic imaginations. This history sits as an important background to help understand present conflicts between the Muslim world and the United States.