The Guardian: Young Americans Embrace the Qur’an to Understand the Resilience of Muslim Palestinians
Story Code : 1097596
Through instant messaging platforms like Discord and social media platforms like TikTok, these young Americans are forming book clubs and sharing their experiences of delving into the Qur’an. Rice, a 34-year-old living in Chicago, organized a “World Religion Book Club” where people from all walks of life can join her in studying the Qur’an. As she read further, Rice discovered that the text aligned with her own core beliefs, showcasing anti-consumerism, opposition to oppression, and promoting feminism. In a matter of weeks, Rice officially embraced Islam and purchased hijabs to wear.
TikTok has also become a platform for individuals to display their engagement with the Qur’an. Videos under the hashtag “quranbookclub” show users holding up their newly purchased texts and reading verses for the first time. Young people, regardless of gender, are seeking to better understand a religion that has been portrayed negatively by the media. The interest in the Qur’an on TikTok intersects with the #BookTok space, a subcommunity where mostly female users gather to discuss books.
Rice is not alone in wanting to experience the Qur’an. On TikTok, young people are reading the text to better understand a religion that’s long been vilified by western media, and to show solidarity with the many Muslims in Gaza. Videos under the hashtag “quranbookclub” – which has a modest 1.9 million views on the app – show users holding up their newly purchased texts and reading verses for the first time. Others are finding free versions online, or listening to someone sing the verses while they drive to work. Not all the people reading the Qur’an on TikTok are women, but interest overlaps with the #BookTok space, a subcommunity where mostly female users gather to discuss books.
Zareena Grewal is an associate professor at Yale who is working on a book about Islamic scripture and religious tolerance in American culture. She said that this TikTok interest wasn’t entirely unprecedented.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Qur’an became a bestseller, although many Americans purchased it to validate their preconceived notions about Islam as a violent religion. However, what sets this current trend apart is that individuals are turning to the Qur’an to understand the resilience, faith, and moral strength displayed by Muslim Palestinians, rather than to confirm negative biases.
For Nefertari Moonn, a 35-year-old from Tampa, Florida, it was the desire to understand the force that compels people to call upon Allah in the face of death that led her to pick up her husband’s Qur’an. Previously defining herself as spiritual but not religious, Moonn found herself deeply touched by the passages she read. This emotional attachment prompted her to take the shahada and join the Muslim faith.
Misha Euceph, a Pakistani American writer and podcast host, has been studying progressive interpretations of the Qur’an and hosting her own Qur’an Book Club on Instagram since 2020. She affirms that certain themes in the Qur’an resonate with the values of young left-leaning Americans, including the encouragement to be environmentalists and the rejection of a consumerist mindset. In the Qur’an, both men and women are regarded as equals in the sight of God, a message that has particularly resonated with Rice and others who have embarked on this Qur’an journey.
Ultimately, this surge in interest reflects a growing desire for knowledge, understanding, and empathy among young Americans towards a religion that has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. As these individuals delve deeper into the Qur’an, they find solace, peace, and a reaffirmation of their own core values.