New Faiths, Old Fears

Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life

Bruce B. Lawrence

Columbia University Press

New Faiths, Old Fears

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Pub Date: October 2004

ISBN: 9780231115216

192 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: November 2002

ISBN: 9780231115209

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: October 2004

ISBN: 9780231505475

192 Pages

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List Price: $29.99£25.00

New Faiths, Old Fears

Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life

Bruce B. Lawrence

Columbia University Press

As a result of immigration from Asia in the wake of the passage of the 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration Act, the fastest-growing religions in America—faster than all Christian groups combined—are Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. In this remarkable book, a leading scholar of religion asks how these new faiths have changed or have been changed by the pluralist face of American civil society. How have these new religious minorities been affected by the deep-rooted American ambivalence toward foreign traditions?

Bruce Lawrence casts a comparativist eye on the American religious scene and explores the ways in which various groups of Asian immigrants have, and sometimes have not, been integrated into the American polity. In the process, he offers several important correctives. Too often, Lawrence argues, profiles of Asian American experience focus exclusively on immigrants from East Asia, to the exclusion of South Asian and West Asian voices.New Faiths, Old Fears seeks to make all Asians equally important and to break free of traditional geographic markers, most reflecting nineteenth-century imperial values, that artificially divide the people of the "Middle East" from the rest of Asia, with whom they share certain religious and cultural ties. Iranian Americans, in particular, emerge as a vital bridge group whose experience tells us much about how Asians of many different backgrounds have found their way in their new nation.

Beyond simply expanding and refining our conception of who Asian Americans are, Lawrence draws instructive comparisons between Asian Americans' experience and those of Native, African, and Hispanic Americans, exposing undercurrents of racial and class antagonisms. He concludes that we cannot fully comprehend the contours and valences of culture and religion in America without understanding how this racialized class prejudice shapes the views of the dominant class toward immigrants and other marginal groups.

[Lawrence] speaks at length on the social, political, and religious tensions within American culture today... recommended.


Bruce Lawrence concludes his thought-provoking essay with a powerful critique of multicultural approaches that ignore divergencies within religious traditions...

Malise Ruthven, Times Literary Supplement

a compelling, informed critique and analysis that should provoke citizens to a finer citizenship

James L. Peacock, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

an inventive and timely exploration of contemporary American religion, politics, and culture, and exploration that will surely stimulate further research and discussion

Karen Leonard, History of Religions

This book holds strong challenges for students of immigration and immigrant experiences, for culture and media theorists, for scholars of race and ethnicity, for religionists (academic and practicing), for champions of 'the American way of life,'for proponents of multiculturalism, and for all who ponder what would make for a civil society.

Robert Gregg, Stanford University

This is the place to visit to join the conversation about religion in America in the twenty-first century.

Alan F. Segal, Barnard College and Columbia University

New Faiths, Old Fears speaks to one of the most pressing issues of our time—pluralism and its role in the construction of civil society. This book illuminates the changing religious landscape of America and clarifies issues related to inter-cultural and inter-religious pluralism.

Azim Nanji, director, Ismaili Institute, London

Lawrence's breadth of scholarship, salient geopolitical sophistication and evident respect for all who have come to this country is breathtaking.

The Reverend Canon Edward W. Rodman, professor of pastoral theology and urban ministry, Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

This book not only fills in some key theoretical gaps, but also offers new and hopeful models for conceiving of American diversity.

American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
1. American Religion as Commodity Culture
2. Civil Society and Immigrants
3. New Immigrants as Pariahs
4. Religious Options for Urban Immigrants
5. Reimagining Religious Pluralism
Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Bruce B. Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Religion and chair of the department of religion at Duke University. He is the author of many books, including Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age.