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The Curious Teenager’s Guide to Islam: Home

Introduction to Islam for NYC High School Students

Introduction to this Guide

Welcome to The Curious Teenager’s Guide to Islam.  This guide was created for young adults but we hope that it appeals to all.


Sifting through all the inflammatory rhetoric and hate speech about Islam and Muslims that is out in the world today can make finding information that is fair and accurate a real challenge. That is why, when tasked with the assignment of creating a LibGuide, we decided to create a research guide that would contribute to the positive, honest and complex body of information and literature that is already available.


Beginning a new project is always overwhelming, especially if it is a topic that you are unfamiliar with - say, Islam -  and you may find yourself asking: “there is so much information, where do I start?” We recommend this well structured starter, Islam: A Very Short Introduction. This ‘very short introduction’ explains some of the historical and cultural contexts of Islam that are referred to throughout this guide by authors, bloggers, and cultural figures. It also provides some context for the harmful misunderstandings of the Muslim culture that have resulted in damaging stereotypes and misinformation. Overall, there is a lot of great information packed into this tiny volume and the link is available right here on LibGuide’s home page! It is available as either print or electronically via the New York Public Library (yes - you will need an NYPL library card) website. Check out our video on how to access the Very Short Introductions series at NYPL. You’ll find it in the history section of the guide under the History of Islam tab. Also included in this tab is a section on Muslims who Shaped American History to provide more information on the significant role that Muslims have played in our nation’s history(for example: did you know the ice cream cone was invented by a Muslim American?).


Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the introductory materials, visit the Breaking Stereotypes and Islamophobia tab. Try to keep an open mind while browsing these resources and reflect on what you may have heard in the news or other media outlets about the representation of Islam and the differences in those representations, compared to what you’re learning throughout the guide. You can start with “What is the Truth About American Muslims,” an FAQ from This is a comprehensive guide that provides accurate information for non-Muslims about Muslims. It is created with the desire to decrease hate and promote mutual respect and understanding through more accurate representation and information, rather than stereotypes. With this grounding, check out the four additional videos, “Meet a Muslim”, “What do you think when you look at me?”, “What Islam really says about women?”, and #AskAMuslimGirl from Teen Vogue. Each of these videos will challenge your ideas of who Muslims are and what role they play in our society, especially women. These are terrific resources because we see Muslim individuals speaking for themselves and about themselves and their experiences. These videos put a face and a voice to an experience that is missing from text books, newspaper articles, and so forth, and of course these are just a few individuals who give you a glimpse of the diversity of Muslim experience. These are people in your neighborhood and in your school, on the subway, in the news, working to make the world a better place. For example, Dr. Alaa Murabit is wonderful and funny, and was nicknamed “Doogie Howser” by Jon Stewart. She is a peace activist, a UN Sustainable Development Goals global advocate and she’s only 28 years old!  More interested in the humanities than STEM?-- watch Amirah Sackett dance on her Facebook page We're Muslim, Don't Panic. She is also amazing and offers a very different perspective on what it means to be Muslim and American.


There are so many negative stereotypes around Muslims and queer and feminist experience. So you may be surprised to learn that it is in fact possible to be queer and Muslim. The LGBTQIA section includes some first-hand accounts of these intersectional experiences. Watch the video of Blair Imani telling her own story: she states that, "a lot of people assume that I'm homophobic, or that queer Muslims could not and did not exist. I do exist.”  You can hear more powerful, funny, diverse accounts of queer Muslim experience in Dylan Marron’s video series EXTREME(LY QUEER) Muslims-- and learn what it means to be a good ally as you watch him denounce Islamaphobia and lift queer Muslim voices. You can also read Homosexuality in Islam by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle for an in-depth look at what the Qur’an says about same-sex relations, which might surprise you. And make sure to take a look at the beautiful photography of Samra Habib at Just Me and Allah: a Queer Muslim Photo Project.


Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a Muslim in the US right now? Keep in mind that while people may share some common experiences, there are as many different experiences of what it’s like to be Muslim in America as there are Muslims in America. You can start to get an idea of the range of these experiences at the Muslim Experience in America page through the gorgeous photographs of Carlos Kahlil Guzman in his photo series Muslims of America. As you look through this project, keep an eye out for similarities and differences, and the ways the people he photographs don’t fit into typical Muslim stereotypes. Reflect on what surprised you. Looking for a new book to read? Browse our selection of fiction and non-fiction titles to continue your exploration of Muslim experience-- there is even a book about what it is like to be a Muslim teenager growing up right here in New York City. Then examine why you don’t see more titles related to Muslim Americans, in Laila Alawa’s article for School Library Journal. You can also take a look at the Facts and Figures page right here on our guide and learn from our friends at the Pew Research Center, who conducted surveys and produced some helpful, specific data on how often Muslims in America experience discrimination, violence, and Islamophobia in their daily lives.


Now for some fun... Muslims in popular culture! Click on the In Popular Culture tab and find out about celebrities you may not have know are Muslim-- and even Marvel Muslim superheroes! There is information on Muslim women sports figures and Muslim movers and shakers-- check out Laila Alawa who made the Forbes 30 under 30 list this year.


Muslim experience in America has unfortunately been represented very negatively in mainstream news and culture, when it’s represented at all. It’s important to keep this in mind as you watch the news, see Muslim characters on TV or movies, or meet people in your own life. This LibGuide can’t tell you everything you need to know about Muslim experience, or provide another side to every story. So, we’ve also included a guide on How to Evaluate Resources so that you can continue to think critically about stereotypes as you learn more about different cultures. Try to keep these ideas in mind whenever you are gathering information. There is a lot out there that is just CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)! Not sure how to determine what is or is not considered CRAAP? Read through the Evaluating Sources LibGuide from our friends at Northwestern University’s library or watch one of the videos from Stanford or Western University’s libraries.


Thanks for checking out our LibGuide, come back again soon!


About the Authors

J. Coty (, E. McLaughlin (, and R. Miller ( are graduate students studying Information Science at Pratt Institute. 

Abou El Fadl, K. (2010). Speaking in god’s name: Islamic law, authority and women. Oxford: Oneworld.

Khaled Abou El Fadl (Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law) is a jurisprudence rock star. He often challenges the ethical foundations of the Islamic legal system and this book is no exception. He draws upon his extensive background as an Islamic legal scholar to defy authoritarian interpretations of sacred scripture that has been devastating to Muslims. He notes that the frequently misinterpreted Islamic law has caused so much suffering, especially for women and cites numerous injustices including driving bans and clothing restrictions on women to support his arguments. This may be a challenging topic for the student new to the subject, but with El Fadl’s thoughtful and accessible writing, in addition to the support of an appendix of translated legal opinions and glossary of terms, even the uninitiated will find this provocative book engaging and useful.


Aftab, A. (2017). Queering Islamophobia: The homonationalism of the Muslim ban. Bitchmedia Retrieved from

The author, a Global Feminism writing fellow at Bitch Media, discusses Trump’s Muslim Ban effects on queer and trans Muslim communities locally through the co-optation of LGBTQ rights by the current administration. The article discusses the divisive use of LGBTQ issues in politics as a strategy to “other” non-white non-straight identifying peoples seeking entrance in the US, many of whom are asylum seekers. This article discusses intersectionality, racism in the LGBTQ community, and ideas of radical resistance in the queer community.


Alawa, L. (2014, May 01). Representing the Muslim American Experience. Retrieved from 

There is an extreme lack of representation of Muslim Americans in literature.  Laila Alawa discusses the importance of diverse representation for Muslim Americans.  No single race or ethnicity makes up more than 30% of the American-Muslim population and because of this there needs to be more than just representation: diverse representation is vital.  Arab literature is important but it only reflects a small portion of the community.  Additionally, there is a lack of material on library shelves due to radical groups and concerned parents.  A majority of the portrayals in American culture are those of negativity and extremism.  This leads to students not being able to humanize, understand, and relate to their Muslim peers.  Likewise, it also leads to Muslim students feeling othered, and that their identity as Muslim cannot be reconciled with their identity of being American.  Alawa argues that if Muslim Americans cannot see themselves in books, their non-Muslim classmates won't either.  Representation is important for both members of diverse groups, and those that are not.  It is time that multi-faith and multi-cultural characters and depictions are commonplace in literature.


Ansary, T. (2010). Destiny disrupted: A history of the world through Islamic eyes. New York: PublicAffairs.

Tamim Ansary provides an thought provoking and thoroughly engaging look at world history from the time of the prophet Muhammed to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. In showing the events of time through the eyes of the Islamic world, Ansary explains how those outside its frame, could grow up with so little knowledge of this civilization. He describes the intersections and puts our modern day struggles with understanding Islam in historical context. He stops short of describing this as a “clash of civilizations” and is never apologist in tone throughout the book. This is a must read for anyone who is grappling with the chaos of our world today and trying to understanding where jihadist and militant Islamic factions fit in the larger historical context.

Coming home to Islam and to self. (2015). Washington, DC: Human Rights Campaign Foundation.  Retrieved from

Coming Home to Islam and to Self is a guide created by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for members of the LGBT community struggling to reconcile their sexual, spiritual,and cultural identities.  Drawing on the experience of Muslim voices, this document seeks to guide LGBT Muslims towards their journey to self-acceptance.  It provides general insights, suggestions, and advice on topics such as coming out to traditional parents, what to do in case of hate crimes or violence, and interpretations from the Qur'an.  Faith is central to so many people's identities just as important as family, sexual orientation, and community.  The guide provides an idea of what is possible for LGBT Muslims who may feel distanced or rejected by their community or from Islam.  It is important to embrace all aspects of one's self and leads to a greater happiness and fulfillment, and that is what this document hopes to help achieve for many people who are currently struggling.


Lapidus, I. M. (2014). A history of Islamic societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

This is a classic historical guide to Islamic societies that no student should be without. While it  provides a comprehensive and authoritative history of the Islamic world written by Ira M. Lapidus (Professor Emeritus of history, University of California Berkeley) it is not so dense that the  casual reader would find it daunting. In its more than a thousand pages the author covers Islamic societies across the Middle East, Pakistan, Central Asia, North and Sub-Saharan Africa from the emergence of Islam in the early 7th century to the modern day. The reader will find a well curated list of maps, figures, illustrations and tables that complement the text.


Machkour, S. (2017). 9 Comic super heroes who are very muslim. Retrieved from

This “listicle” provides a brief introduction to nine Muslim superheroes that are featured in both print and online comics. Comic Titans Marvel and DC Comics, have developed storylines staring Muslim superheroes that include and introduce readers to various cultural and historical background of Islamic culture, both stateside and abroad. The introduction of Muslim superheroes in to the comic canon establishes positive and creative representations of heroic ‘non white’ characters through as well as illustrating the diversity of Muslim cultures through the graphic fantasy genre.


Menocal, M.R. (2012). The ornament of the world: How Muslims, Jews and Christians created a culture of tolerance in medieval Spain. New York: Back Bay Books.

Today it is easy to get lost in the negative headlines about about war and intolerance in the name of Islam. Yet there was a time when Christians, Muslims, and Jews once lived and worked together in a tolerant society that produced great minds such as Maimonides (Musa Ibn Maymun), Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina). María Rosa Menocal (R. Seldon Rose Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University before her untimely death in 2012) paints an inviting portrait of medieval society in Islamic Spain, known as Al Andalus. It was during this period, normally characterized as the dark ages in Europe, that a flourishing civilization emerged in the Iberian peninsula. Here the rule was often that of tolerance and art, literature, and science flourished in a state of “convivencia” or coexistence. This is a remarkable book where the reader can explore this complex and often forgotten civilization that nurtured a rich, vibrant culture on the eve of the Renaissance.


Nimer, Mohamed. (2002). The North American Muslim resource guide : Muslim community life in the United States and Canada. New York: Routledge

This resource provides basic information about Islamic life in the United States. The introduction includes population statistics and analysis and immigration information that tracks the settlement of Islamic people in the America. At least one third of this guide is a directory. It provides contact information for mosques, community organizations, schools, women's groups, media, and student groups throughout the country. Important to note however that the publication is a bit dated - but remains a strong matter-of-fact resource that introduces and/or extends the variety of Islamic services, organizations, and activities available in communities throughout the US.


Siddiqui, H. (2008). Being Muslim (Groundwork Guides). Groundwood Books.

Since 9/11, Islam has become a very charged topic in Western culture.  This book was written for both Muslims and non-Muslims to create a cross-cultural bridge to understanding and acceptance.  Though this book tackles a number of complex topics surrounding terrorism, religion, and politics, it is done without complex jargon and is easy to read and mainly draws on   the author's experiences and travels in Muslim countries.  Being Muslim examines the impact of terrorism and extremism on Muslims as well as the daily lives of those belonging to the faith.  Likewise, Siddiqui also examines Western media's portrayal of Islam and Muslims and the effects it has had on Western culture.  Siddiqui  discusses popular misconceptions and stereotypes in order to set them straight and expresses his ideals on how the future can be one of mutual understanding and respect between Muslims and non-Muslims.  Glossaries, charts, maps, and other resources are included within the book in order to provide readers with the most comprehensive experience.

It should be noted that the collaborators of this guide do not occupy the identities outlined here.  We have gathered sources in regards to the issues and identities discussed in this guide to the best of our ability in order to foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding.  We understand the limits and unconscious bias that our own privileges and perspectives may afford.


Welcome to the Curious Teenager's Guide to Islam! We hope you learn a lot!

Islamic Cultural Heritage Resources

Introductory Sources