As the fasting month of Ramadan approaches, the world’s nearly 2 billion Muslims are preparing to focus, once again, on the Quran. Nightly gatherings of the faithful are a widespread tradition—especially to hear the Quran recited by a qari, or expert at chanting the Quran for audiences following traditional styles.
Islam, after all, is a faith founded with a revelation from God that began with the one-word command, “Read!” The Quran also tells believers that God teaches through “the Pen.” This truly is a religious tradition that teaches the pen is mightier than the sword.
So, who publishes Muslim books?
The answer varies. There are enormous publishing operations producing Qurans and other Islamic books in predominantly Muslim countries. However, there are relatively few publishers in the U.S. focusing on Islam.
Publishers Weekly magazine’s most recent roundup of Muslim publishers included Kazi Publications in Chicago, Tughra Books in Clifton, NJ, Amana Publications in Beltsville, MD, and Mecca Books in Allentown, PA. Various university presses also produce books on aspects of Islam for scholars and classroom use. But, so far, the Big Five publishers have not made a serious commitment to the Muslim audience—with one exception.
Simon & Schuster’s Salaam Reads is the first imprint at a major publishing house to focus on Muslim characters and stories. That launch in 2016 was big news, carried by National Public Radio, which pointed out that this is a savvy marketing move since the U.S. population of Muslims is expected to grow. The New York Times also carried news of the launch, telling its readers that there is a real gap in the marketplace—”Muslim characters remain scarce in mainstream children’s literature.”
Publishers Weekly made the same point:
Books about Islam by Muslim publishers for English-speaking readers constitute a rich niche market—with centuries of classic materials in addition to contemporary work. But in addition to the usual challenges faced by small publishers trying to reach readers, several Muslim publishers we talked with spoke of an extra burden: countering cultural misunderstanding.
That is why our publishing house has included Muslim-themed books since our founding a decade ago.
One of our authors who is dedicated to including true stories of Muslim peacemakers is Daniel Buttry, who is the international peace advocate from American Baptist Churches and is highly respected as a global peacemaker. In the four books we have published with Dan, he always includes what he likes to call “interfaith heroes” from all of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Dan also reaches far beyond those three faiths—but, these days, he regularly talks about the importance of combating Islamophobia. In one of his online columns, he writes: “With refugees and immigrants filling the news as well as the shrill voices of fear and inhospitableness, we need to increase the voices of the counter-narratives and ethical challenges for hospitable responses.”
We agree with Dan.
For example, we have worked closely with the Michigan State University School of Journalism to include 100 Questions & Answers about Muslim Americans in their popular MSU series of guides to cultural competence.
In 2018, we plan to do more.
By the end of the year, we plan to publish Our Muslim Neighbors, the memoir of Muslim peacemaker Victor Begg—a book rich with personal stories connected to major news events. We regard this upcoming book as a thematic blend of the compelling personal narrative in The Namesake with the sharp advocacy on behalf of a minority community found in Hillbilly Elegy.
Yes, we know! That’s quite a mash-up of concepts! Stay tuned!
And to our Muslim readers this month: Ramadan Mubarak!