The "Vodka and Whipped Cream" Section

So, while browsing in the local Barnes and Noble, I noticed something rather peculiar: the section where books related to Islam shares its label and shelf with books relating to Mormonism. “Islamic scripture/Latter-Day Saints” constitutes its own category, as if these elements had anything to with one another. Mind you that the Latter-Day Saints collection is much larger than the Islamic scripture one; I could count several variations of the Qur’an, and no collections of hadith, all on one shelf. The variety of Mormon writings took up about a third of that shelf and four more. As a friend put it, this combination “sounds like vodka and whip cream”. It could be an issue of space, or something else. This is a pattern I have seen at multiple Barnes and Nobles across New England.

The regular Islam section was about two shelves labeled “Islam/Sufis”; as if Sufis were not Islamic. Sufism is of course the bedrock of most popular expressions of Islam, and the agent by which most of North Africa, Central Asia and Southeast Asia were Islamized. It is as Islamic as When I asked the pony-tailed manager why Islam and Sufi were treated as if they were separate concepts. His response was that “Many people do not feel that Sufism is really Islam, you know, because it is so liberal and it speaks to everyone.” Certainly, Wahhabists feel this way. Many Muslims, though, feel that Wahhabis are not quite Muslims either. Something tells me that this classification is less about internal Muslim squabbling about who is and who isn’t as much as it is about whether or not American readers want to think of Sufism as part of Islam. Does it make customers uncomfortable to know that Rumi and Hafiz were Muslims?

3 thoughts on “The "Vodka and Whipped Cream" Section

  1. There are elements of Aristotle’s thinking in the works of some Sufi writers and poets, but Sufism without one God, and the five pillars of Islam is not Sufism. Sufism grew out of Islamic teachings which at times melded with local traditions. But I am not aware any defining element of Sufism that comes from Aristotle. All of the titans of Sufi culture were devout Muslims, and to be a Sufi is to be one form of many types of devout Muslims.

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