About the Book
Journalist Omar Mouallem travels to thirteen remarkable mosques and discovers the surprising history of their communities. But what he finds also challenges his own long-held personal beliefs, and even his sense of identity.
• Selected as a Most Anticipated Book of Fall by The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and CBC Books
• A Chatelaine, Quill & Quire, and Canadian Living fall best books selection
• BookPage Top 10 Book for October 2021
• Indigo’s Best Books of 2021: Top 100 Adult Books and #1 Social Sciences Book of 2021
Omar Mouallem grew up in a Muslim household, but always questioned the role of Islam in his life. As an adult, he used his voice to criticize what he saw as the harms of organized religion. But none of that changed the way others saw him. Now, as a father, he fears the challenges his children will no doubt face as Western nations become increasingly nativist and hostile toward their heritage.
In Praying to the West, Mouallem explores the unknown history of Islam across the Americas, traveling to thirteen unique mosques in search of an answer to how this religion has survived and thrived so far from the place of its origin. From California to Quebec, and from Brazil to Canada’s icy north, he meets the members of fascinating communities, all of whom provide different perspectives on what it means to be Muslim. Along this journey he comes to understand that Islam has played a fascinating role in how the Americas were shaped—from industrialization to the changing winds of politics. And he also discovers that there may be a place for Islam in his own life, particularly as a father, even if he will never be a true believer.
Original, insightful, and beautifully told, Praying to the West reveals a secret history of home and the struggle for belonging taking place in towns and cities across the Americas, and points to a better, more inclusive future for everyone.
Praise & Reviews
Omar Mouallem: Writer, filmmaker, speaker, educator, and small-business owner
Omar Mouallem is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He’s reported on Muslim and Middle Eastern issues for The Guardian, The Ringer, and WIRED, coauthored the national bestseller Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter’s Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray, and directed two documentaries. His new film, The Last Baron, about the unlikely connection between the Lebanese civil war and hamburgers, premiers in CBC Gem on Sept. 17/21.
Omar is a frequent TV and radio guest, having appeared on Al Jazeera, WNYC, and CBC, and he has hosted several podcasts, including six episodes of CANADALAND’s flagship show.
In addition to public speaking, Omar is a part-time educator. He mentors graduate students in King’s University creative nonfiction program, teaches the business of freelance writing at the University of Alberta, and operates Pandemic University Pop-up School of Writing, a virtual school he founded in support of writers affected by the COVID-19 fallout. To date “PanU” courses and webinars have been attended by more than 2,500 people from 40 countries, and the community has collectively raised over $10,000 for literary causes.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta with his wife and two kids.
Photos, field notes, book blog, and related essays
Photography and connect with the author
Field notes, interviews, and updates
Globe and Mail Op-ed
Where were you on 9/11? For Muslims who were just coming of age at the time, the question is existential
Literary Review of Canada op-ed
Backstory of Praying to the West
Excerpt: American Moslems
The curious revival of a little known Islamic sect
How the First Arab American Movie Star Foretold a Century of Muslim Misrepresentation
Early excerpt of the book’s Los Angeles chapter
Homeland for the Holidays
2018 National Magazine Award winner for Personal Journalism, this short travelogue inspired Praying to the West
The Gratitude Gap
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After the election of the Trudeau Liberals, Canada swiftly rebranded itself as a tolerant, open-armed society. But as alt-right sentiments seep across the border, how welcoming is the country?