Hasan, a 25-year-old American-born Muslim with Pakistani parents, stridently explains the need for greater understanding of Muslims in America decrying media stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and fundamentalists.

The New Generation

ASMA GULL HASAN, Continuum, $19.95
180p:ISBN 0-8264-1Z93
(Islam/Women’s Studies, Current Affairs)

She is especially clear that as a young Muslim woman, she is free to be a feminist. (“Here I am writing a book on Islam in America,” she declares. “Do I seem oppressed to you?”) She has studied the Qur’en teachings and decided not to don the hijab, the head covering some Muslim women wear, though she expresses respect for women who choose to do so. Brief chapters present factual information about topics the sects of Islam, the Five Pillars and the growth of Islamic schools, as well as Hasan’s strong opinions on subjects ranging from what she sees as the anti-Islam lyrics of the Disney film Aladdin to the increasing Muslim presence in America. Hasan argues that American Islam, which lacks the cultural baggage of Islam in other countries, is actually more religiously pure than anywhere else in the world – “a return to the Qur’an without the influence of pre-Islamic Arab culture.” The book has its flaws; Hasan’s writing too often favors the rhetorical, and some of her comparisons are unskilled (as when she says that the Five Pillars are “almost like the sacraments in Christianity”). But her insistence upon Islam’s fundamental compatibility with American values is well taken, and she provides memorable personal examples throughout. (Dec.)