Cover image for New faiths, old fears : Muslims and other Asian immigrants in American religious life
New faiths, old fears : Muslims and other Asian immigrants in American religious life
Lawrence, Bruce B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 197 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1490 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2525 .L39 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

Bruce B. Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Religion an chair of the department of religion at Duke University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

For a work on the subject of the faiths of Asian immigrants in the US, this book has little to say about what such people believed in the lands they left behind, or what they believe now in their new context. Instead, it speaks at length on the social, political, and religious tensions within American culture today. Lawrence (Duke Univ.) argues and laments that immigrants enter a racially divided culture and take their respective places somewhere in the pecking order that already exists. American culture is white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, though Roman Catholics and Jews belong to it. He advocates that, rather than simply paying lip service to diversity, people should value all cultures. The problem is that American culture is different from the cultures the immigrants call "home," and amalgamation into one "melting pot" is no way to preserve their religious cultures. The challenge for Asian Americans is to understand where they are and where they should be in American society. Lawrence also argues that the 21st-century US needs to learn from these peoples and grant them full acceptance into American culture. It is difficult to fault this diagnosis and proposed remedy. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above. P. L. Redditt Georgetown College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
New Faiths, Old Fearsp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 American Religion as Commodity Culturep. 23
Chapter 2 Civil Society and Immigrantsp. 48
Chapter 3 New Immigrants as Pariahsp. 69
Chapter 4 Religious Options for Urban Immigrantsp. 87
Chapter 5 Reimagining Religious Pluralismp. 105
Conclusionp. 133
Notesp. 145
Selected Bibliographyp. 179
Indexp. 187