May 16, 2012

Islam in America


Zana Lee: I’m Zana Lee. I’m 14. I’m from Camden, New Jersey, and I’m a Muslim.”

Muhtasham Sifaat: I am Muhtasham Sifaat. I was born in Bangladesh and moved to Japan when I was one year old. And I moved the United States in 2001, and I am a Sunni Muslim.

Amany Killawi: My name is Amany Killawi, 19, and I’m from Detroit, Michigan. And I am a practicing Muslim.

Kyle Smith: My name is Kyle Smith. I’m 22 years old, born and raised in South Plainfield, New Jersey. I’ve lived there my whole life and I am a Muslim.

Gary: These are just a few of the 2.6 million Muslims living in the United States. About two thirds are immigrants but that is changing. By the year 2030, it is estimated nearly half of Muslims  in the U.S. will have been born here.

Just like Amany Killawi, a former high school basketball player who holds a state record for most steals in a game. She was born and raised in Detroit, which is 20-minutes from Dearborn, the largest Muslim community in the U.S.

“So, Islam is basically — it really boils down to submission and you’re submitting to one God. You believe in one God and you follow Prophet Mohammed who is just a line of other prophets from Adam to Noah to Moses and Jesus. It’s like a lifestyle, and not so much just something you do every now and then. Honestly, if you go down to the core beliefs, it’s believing in one God and believing that Prophet Muhammad is his messenger.”

Gary: Muhtashan, who was a wrestler on his high school team last year, says his religion has given him a connection.

Muhtashan: I never thought about dedicating myself to something. I’ve always moved around to places, and I lived in Japan for some time. I wanted to have some places to feel where I belonged to, and something I could keep to myself no matter where I went, no matter where I go. So, Islam was there for me.

Gary: Zana lives 15-minutes from Philadelphia, another major U.S. Islamic hub. She attends an Islamic school where she takes classes like Quran studies, and she learns Arabic. She is also on her school’s rowing team.

Zana: Islam, to me, is a way of life. It can change a person from being whatever that person was going through. Islam can shine a light on the darkness that that person was in.

Gary: Kyle, who is president of his university’s Muslim students association, grew up in a Roman Catholic family, but converted to Islam three years ago after searching for meaning in his life. Two of his friends led him to the religion.

Kyle: I had a friend who was a Muslim who had always been a Muslim but wasn’t really practicing and started practicing more. And then a different friend who lived right across the hall from me, he was my best friend at school, who I had, and he was a Muslim also. So, between the two, I began to learn a little about Islam and religion in general.

Gary: Here in the U.S., Muslims are a tiny minority — less than 1% of the population. But worldwide, there are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims.

But what exactly is Islam? Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam beliefs can be traced back to Abraham. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets that include Jesus Christ, with Muhammad being the last around 600AD.

The Quran, which Muslims believe is the word God, was revealed to Muhammad.

“The Quran is a holy book for the Muslims, just like how the Bible is a holy book for the Christians.

Gary: The religion of Islam is centered around five basic principles known as the five pillars.

“Basically any Muslim, you ask them and they pretty much know about the five pillars. The first one is Shahada, certify that God is one. Mohammed is his messenger. Salat, pray five daily prayers. The third one is charity — alms giving. Fourth is fasting the holy month of Ramadan. And the fifth is Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca for anyone who is physically or financially able to do it.”

Gary: Every year, more than 2.5 million Muslims make the journey to Mecca in the country of Saudi Arabia. It is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims worship in mosques, much like Christians worship in churches. And there are certain foods that some Muslims don’t eat. Some only eat halal, which is an Arabic word that means “lawful” or “permitted” under Islamic law. For instance, most Muslims don’t eat pork and don’t drink alcohol.

Muslim women often cover their hair as a sign of modesty with a scarf called a hijab. Some very strict Muslim women may cover their face and entire body.

“I do get funny looks for wearing my scarf. Some of the things that I have to think about is, for example, like when I go shopping, is like trying to find something modest that I feel comfortable wearing and it still goes with my style, especially with American society. It overly sexualizes women in a way, so it’s really tough sometimes to find things that fit with what you believe in — in your beliefs.”

Gary: The Muslim-American community is growing and is expected to more than double to around 5 million by 2030. But many Muslims say they still don’t always feel accepted as Americans.

“Sometimes we get “go back to your country” or whatever, but it’s like I was born and raised here my whole life, what are you talking about? Being Muslim and being American are not identities that are totally contrasted. This is something that my dad taught me. They’re very much complimentary.”

“I would say that there are many American principles like freedom of religion, freedom of expression that Islam says the same thing too. When you look at the two, they don’t conflict with one another.”

Gary: Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.


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