The Acts of Faith discussion guide is now available on the UUA website. To access it click here.
"I am an American Muslim from India. My adolescence was a series of rejections, one after another, of the various dimensions of my heritage, in the belief that America, India, and Islam could not coexist within the same being. If I wanted to be one, I could not be the others. My struggle to understand the traditions I belong to as mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive is the story of a generation of young people standing at the crossroads of inheritance and discovery, trying to look both ways at once. There is a strong connection between finding a sense of inner coherence and developing a commitment to pluralism. And that has everything to do with who meets you at the crossroads."
So writes Eboo Patel at the beginning of his remarkable account of coming of age and coming to understand what led him toward religious pluralism rather than hatred.
Growing up outside Chicago, subject to a constant barrage of racist bullying, and unsure of what it meant to be Muslim, Patel had a gut-wrenching feeling of being excluded from mainstream society. In high school he rejected everything about his Indian and Muslim heritage and excelled in academics in an attempt to be like the white Americans around him. In college, this illusion came undone as Patel discovered the liberatory power of identity politics—and a deep rage at the inequities and hypocrisies of America.
He soon learned that anger is not an identity. As the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Atlanta Olympics bombing, and 9/11 occurred, Patel saw how religious extremists recruited young people with similar raw emotions and manipulated them into becoming hate-filled murderers. He, on the other hand, was encountering a set of people and ideas that illuminated a different understanding: an America striving to achieve its core value of openness to all; an Islam seeking to return to its primary teachings of mercy and reconciliation; an India with diversity woven into its original fabric. Patel's most important discovery was not about his relationship with his past but about his concrete responsibility to make the best part of that past—the possibility of pluralism—a reality in the contemporary world.
Acts of Faith is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people, and to the notion that we find the fulfillment of our identities in the work we do in the world.
"A beautifully written story of discovery and hope."
—President Bill Clinton
"[A] visionary book, part coming-of-age memoir and part call-to-action . . . A shining vision of the possibilities of interfaith cooperation and pluralistic discourse."
—Adam Mansbach, The Boston Globe
"The best recent American statement about living one's faith in a pluralistic society."
—Robin Lovin, Christian Century
"Remarkable . . . A well-written, compelling testimony to how one man is trying to ensure that different religions can live side by side in peace."
—Paul Raushenbush, Beliefnet.com
"A thoughtful argument for why anyone who believes in tolerance and peace cannot afford to ignore the spiritual and emotional needs of the young."
—Kathryn Masterson, Chicago Tribune
"[Patel] describes his own life story as an India-born Muslim raised in America. The autobiography shows how an angry youth can be transformed into a leader for peace."
—Charles Huckabee, The Chronicle of Higher Education
"[Acts of Faith] is a rare and beautiful intertwining of a person, a conscience, and a big idea all coming of age at the same time . . . [for] anyone interested in activism, religious journeys, pluralism, and globalization."
—Courtney Martin, Feministing.com
"One of the best first-person stories of youth activism, interfaith cooperation, and how to be both authentically American and Muslim." —Library Journal (starred review)
"A thoughtful explanation of how Islam functions politically and socially in the world today . . . with personal stories and anecdotes eloquently reflecting the diversity of opinions within Islam."
—Jana Reiss, Publishers Weekly Religion Update
"Eboo Patel has crafted an elegantly written and brilliantly argued manifesto-a call to arms, really-about the importance not of interfaith dialogue but of interfaith cooperation. Acts of Faith is more than a book; it is an awakening of the mind. It should be required reading for all Americans."
—Reza Aslan, author of No god but God
"Religious pluralism is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Acts of Faith is the inspiring story of Eboo Patel's own life journey and his vision in creating an interfaith youth movement. He shows how educating a new generation to reject religious intolerance and work for the common good is the only way the world can avoid growing fanaticism and violence. This hopeful book shows the power that is waiting to be engaged for a better future. I highly commend it."
—Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics
"A remarkable book by a young Muslim and a Rhodes Scholar with a vast spiritual vision: a future in which young people join hands in service across the lines of religion. Refreshing, honest, and hopeful, it will speak to the soul of a generation yearning for a new way ahead. Give it to every young person in your life-and to yourself."
—Diana Eck, author of Encountering God and A New Religious America
"Eboo Patel is an exciting new voice of a new America: diverse but not divisive, hopeful but not utopian. He speaks for all of us from a rising generation of bright, brown, and bold Americans who have much to offer a country embarking on a new millennium and in need of new blood."
—Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, executive director of the Zaytuna Institute