Jonah Blank


Critics’ Comments on Mullahs on the Mainframe 

“This is a model piece of scholarship, the kind of work you want to give to younger scholars so as to awaken them to the wonders and the variety of the world.  Ethnography, political history, economic history, intermingle, and creatively so, in this unique book—a tribute to a gifted and observant author.  Here is one brilliant venture by a young, superbly trained American social scientist who delves into the world of Indian Muslims, and renders that world with artistry, precision, and detail.”  

                  —Fouad Ajami, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.


  “No other book that I know of has such a wealth of detail on the belief systems and praxis of an Islamic religious community.  Blank’s many-level approach makes this one of the most interesting works I have read: his description of customs, lifestyles, and ideas is based on both unprecedented study of written material and his own painstaking, assiduous field research.  His text also, very properly, aims to dispel some of the stereotypes that disfigure Western preconceptions of Islam.  This unconventional book is a major contribution to scholarship.”

                  —Ainslie T. Embree, Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University.


"Students of religion, particularly of the Islamic tradition, are indebted to Blank for the skillful manner in which he has opened windows on this heretofore little-understood community."

Ali S. Asani, Professor of Religious Studies, Harvard University (reviewed in History of Religions)


“White-robed, bearded Muslim men tracking financial portfolios on their laptops: Bombay's Bohra community has combined fidelity to their religious commandments with a hearty embrace of secular learning and technology....Blank's book should be read for his portrait of a group trying to carve out a place for their practices while maintaining peaceful relations with religious activists and secularists alike, a delicate tight-rope act that he chronicles well."

                  —The Washington Post (Prof. John R. Bowen, Washington University of St. Louis)


“As anthropologist Jonah Blank tells us in his worthwhile and intriguing study, [the Bohras] adhere to strict Islamic practices 'as faithfully as any pietist could wish...[yet] exhibit greater gender equality than most communities of the [Indian] subcontinent, and have become Internet pioneers united members of their far-flung denomination into a worldwide cyber-congregation.'” 

                  —The Chicago Tribune


  “Jonah Blank has produced a scrupulously researched and impressively detailed account of the Daudi Bohras, a fascinating and relatively unknown religious community.  In doing so, Blank does much more than simply reveal the lives of his subjects.  He also undermines the inaccurate (and often unkind) stereotypes of Islam...His research is methodologically sound, employing direct observation, multiple interviews, case studies, and survey research (both his own and that of other scholars).  He is modest in his claims and backs up what he does assert with empirical evidence.  In short, Blank maintains an air of detachment appropriate for a scholar as well as a top-notch journalist.” 

                  —Magill's Literary Annual


  “An insightful sociological study [full of] myth-shattering facts,...Mullahs on the Mainframe is likely to remain a major reference work on this important mechantile community for a long time to come.  Through painstaking research, Jonah Blank has produced an exhaustive study which shows how Islam could be put to work without contradiction with modernity in modern nation-states.”

                 — Islamic World


“A welcome addition...Jonah Blank has done a service to future scholars.”

                  —H-Net Reviews