Barrett, Paul M. 1961(?)- (Paul Barrett)

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Barrett, Paul M. 1961(?)- (Paul Barrett)


Born c. 1961; married Julie Ruth Cohen (a television producer), August 21, 1999. Education: Harvard University, A.B., J.D.


Writer, reporter, editor. Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, reporter and editor; Business Week, investigative editor.


(With others) A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court, edited by Rodney A. Smolla, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1995.

(With Lisa Paddock) Facts about the Supreme Court of the United States, H.W. Wilson (New York, NY), 1996.

The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.

American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.


Journalist Paul M. Barrett is the author of a number of books, including The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America. It is the story of Larry Mungin, Barrett's roommate at Harvard Law School, a black man who ascended from the projects to a career in law who, Barrett writes, became a victim of racism in spite of his success. Mungin claimed in a lawsuit that the firm for which he worked provided no guidance, that other members did not keep appointments with him, and that he was given meaningless work to perform. Although Mungin won a jury verdict of several million dollars, the case was reversed on appeal.

American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion is Barrett's study of Muslims in the United States, in part drawn on his reporting for the Wall Street Journal after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He profiles seven people, both immigrants and native born. They include Asra Nomani, a former colleague who has spoken out on Muslim women's issues; Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Egyptian-born Islamic scholar and law professor at the University of California; Osama Siblani, a secular Lebanese Shiite and publisher of the Arab American News, the largest Arab-oriented paper in the United States; and Siraj Wahhaj, who transitioned from radical Islam to the more mainstream Sunni Islam. Sami Omar al-Hussayen is a Saudi computer scientist and graduate student at the University of Utah who was accused of favoring terrorism for his work on an extremist Web site, and another profile is of an Indian immigrant who became moderate after a period in which he belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood at the University of Tennessee.

Barrett interviewed hundreds of others who included African-American imams, feminists, Sufi mystics, militants, and progressives in order to present an accurate picture of this group of Americans. What he found is that most American Muslims are better educated and well off when compared to their counterparts in France and Britain. Most Muslims are happy to be living in the States and follow the laws. While many adhere to the strictest form of their religion, others are tempted to become more mainstream because of the appeal of things American—the enjoyment of all forms of music for example. Finally some Muslims do retreat into extreme fundamentalist groups that sometimes advocate violence, particularly against Jews.

America reviewer David Pinault wrote: "Barrett's conclusion: it is up to Muslims—especially in the United States, where divergent forms of the faith can compete more freely than anywhere else in the world—to speak up and prevent militant forms of Islam from dominating the community of believers. Engaging and clearly written, American Islam offers a valuable snapshot of the dynamism and controversies that characterize Muslim communities in the United States today."

Washington Post Book World contributor Reza Aslan wrote that "American Islam provides a welcome antidote to the widespread Islamophobia that has infected so many Americans over the last five years. Indeed, at a time when global perceptions of the United States are hideously unfavorable, the book makes a compelling argument that the greatest tool in America's arsenal in the ‘war on terror’ may be its own thriving and thoroughly assimilated Muslim community."



America, February 12, 2007, David Pinault, review of American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, p. 20.

Booklist, December 1, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America, p. 626.

Business Week, January 15, 2007, Stephen J. Adler, review of American Islam, p. 17; January 15, 2007, excerpt from American Islam, p. 51.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006, review of American Islam, p. 1051.

Library Journal, November 1, 1998, Steven Anderson, review of The Good Black, p. 112; December 1, 2006, John Jaeger, review of American Islam, p. 130.

New York Times, January 3, 2007, Neil Macfarquhar, review of American Islam, p. E9.

Newsweek, March 5, 2007, Lisa Miller, review of American Islam, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, October 30, 2006, review of American Islam, p. 56.

Tikkun, March-April, 2007, review of American Islam, p. 21.

Time, January 18, 1999, Jack E. White, review of The Good Black, p. 86.

Washington Post Book World, February 18, 2007, Reza Aslan, review of American Islam, p. 7.


Arab News Online, (February 8, 2007), interview.

Commentary Online, (May 8, 2007), Paul Marshall, review of American Islam.

Washington Post Book World Online, (February 20, 2007), online chat.

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Barrett, Paul M. 1961(?)- (Paul Barrett)

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