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Islam in America: A Panel Discussion

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Event Name: Islam in America: A Panel Discussion
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/19/2019
Transcript Version: 1


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why would you say that does so I'm this

is dr. Yang's a theory of expertise and

I'm not an expert by any means of Islam

in America but my own experiences they

have led me to come to arrive at certain

conclusions among which are there's just

a massive diversification of Muslims in

the United States and there's certainly

no monolithic teaching or any really

type of Orthodoxy or one group that

could could represent in any way all of

these different strains of a song in

this country and that partially has to

do with the fact that Islam is not a

church in the sense that you do not have

a Catholic tradition or an Orthodox

tradition you know at the broadest

levels people divide the Muslims into

Sunni Shia but then within the city and

within the Shia there are many many ways

of expressing their tradition so I think

that in the United States you're seeing

definitely certain aspects of Islam

emerging one of them which is probably

the most obvious for many of us is the

immigrant phenomenon because since the

United States has opened up the doors of

immigration particularly to the Arab

world and to the indo-pak area near here

asian countries that you're getting a

lot of immigrants that have come in and

initially many of them

professional people though there is part

particularly you'll see a lot of

physicians and a lot of engineers that

have come in from the Arab world Egypt

and Jordan Iraq and many of them began

to work at quite high levels if you go

into Silicon Valley Frances where I'm at

you would be amazed and how many Muslims

are working in these corporations that

are developing a lot of the technology

now and many of them working at very

high levels you'd be amazed at the

amount of professors also in

universities that are teaching in

engineering physics at some of our top

universities so you have that element

which is a very extremely westernized by

and large brood westernize in the sense

of their education not necessary in the

sense of their their the religious

background many of them will be devout

Muslims but they will still be very much

grounded in a Western scientific ethos

in particular and oftentimes alienated

from their own spiritual tradition and

then you have another immigrant group

which is more of a merchant and labor

group so you'll find in New York City

many many taxi drivers many people

washing cars gas station attendants

people in your convenience stores will

be from different places Yemenis

somalians Ethiopians also from India

from Bangladesh from a few Johnny's many

many particularly at now after the war

many of them have come here as refugees

and what's happening is is as with every

immigrant group they're having a lot of

traumatic experiences in entering into

the melting pot which is less of a

melting pot than it was traditionally

right because now there is a celebration

of diversity at one level in this

country so people are encouraged

to maintain their traditions their

encouraged to celebrate their diversity

at one level but what you're seeing

often is that their children who are

raised in this country are raised

basically Americans in the sense that

they're in schools being exposed to

American culture American ways of life

they're going to the cinema they're

listening to the music they're getting

into a lot of the adolescent adolescent

experimentation and this causes a real

serious conflict within a lot of the

immigrant families also another problem

is marriage because many immigrant

families want their children to marry

within their ethnic grouping and you're

having people falling in love and

sometimes it will be non Muslim with a

Muslim which is particularly exacerbated

when it's a Muslim girl and a non-muslim

man has fallen in love this is becoming

quite a common phenomenon in this

country so you have that that happening

and then you have also the indigenous

American situation and you will with

with the indigenous Americans I think

you'll find also a lot of different

groupings the the generation that Hakeem

and i are from is probably a it's a lot

different that we became also over 20

years ago and the people that are

becoming Muslim now are actually very

different in what they're looking for

and what their orientations are then

then ours were for instance so I think

that within the within the indigenous

community you have a very large segment

of african-american but this is also

breaking down because there are now a

new generation of children in this

country that aren't necessarily black

they're not necessarily white they're

not necessarily Hispanic you have a lot

of children of the children of the of

the 70s the 60s and the 70s and so

you're getting a lot of a mixture

no it's not as black and white in this

country as it used to be there really is

a diverse and you're all seeing it

because you're in these schools so

you're seeing this new phenomenon and

and and so there's a lot of people

coming coming out of that background

that are coming into Islam the tiger

woods phenomenon right I mean where do

you place him right because he he's not

african-american he's not asian american

he's not white American so it's this new

phenomenon so you have that aspect but

and within the african-american

community I think you have and dr.

Yang's much more verse than I am in this

but my own experiences you do have

different groups you have within the

african-american community people that

are coming out of black nationalist type

movements that are very politicized in

their outlook and approach and then you

have people also that have come out of

the Nation of Islam children of the

people of the nation of islam and you'll

see many many names even in the popular

culture like Tupac Shakur right who's

who has you know he was had Muslims in

his background he's Gaza Muslim name

you'll see many of these popular artists

now coming up with a Muslim name now

some of that is just a cultural

phenomenon of taking Islamic names but

there are many of them whose fathers

were in Muslims in the nation of islam

or had come into the what is it in

Muhammad's group things like that so you

have that grouping and then you have

many african-americans who are more

within the mainstream Sunni tradition

and so you have a lot of groups that are

really trying to discover trying to get

beyond the kind of the black nationalist

approach and really trying to see what

what is this what is this teaching about

and kind of rediscovering

Islam for themselves and that's a very

promising development I think in the

country and then within the white

American community Caucasian American

you'll also get diverse groupings but

oftentimes the white Americans tend to

be more attracted to Sufism and come in

often times through Sufism many many

white Americans have come in to Islam

through the books of Idris Shah many of

them have come through kind of groups

like dr. yang was talking about the Sufi

what he called the popcorn Sufi groups

that get into Islam through that and

then start reading and and you know

somebody will get interested in roomie

and they'll hear these sayings I'm

neither my heart is the is a temple for

the Hindu and the synagogue for a Jew

and the church for the priest and a and

a mosque for the Muslim and and think

that in the sense Sufism is this kind of

Universalist teaching but then as they

get more rooted in the tradition they

start discovering that roomy was a

practicing Muslim his whole life that he

prayed five times a day they and so they

begin to see that oh there is a place

for this thing called Sharia or sacred

law so for many many white Americans the

law is a kind of almost alien thing and

in a sense Americans I think a lot of

Americans do have a somewhat of an

aversion towards a law-based tradition

especially when you're coming out of a

tradition that may you know in some ways

as a love based or in some ways is it

certainly focuses much less on the law

and more on the spirit and so you have

that element within the community but by

and large what you find is you move out

into the landscape of American Islam is

that it's an incredibly diverse

landscape and it's actually hard to

pinpoint any strong streams you have

organizations that have attempted to

create some kind of

National Coalition like ISNA which is

the Islamic Society of North America

their conference which is yearly held

yearly brings now at about 25,000 people

will show up to that many of them are

still immigrant first that their their

immigrant with first-generation children

that are coming but again that is

beginning to change also so really I

think all of us as observers are seeing

rapid and and very very striking changes

within the tapestry of Islam in the West

the presence of Islam when I first

became Muslim in the mass 70s I'm by 77

I think Islam was just you know Muslim

there was just not and you'd be amazed

at how little understanding people had

at all and then BOOM 1979 Iranian

Revolution and suddenly Islamist is

really in the news and in the media and

but as the immigrants began to come to

this country in large numbers and the

Black Muslim presence became felt it's

more and more now Islam is really I mean

you're just seeing Muslims all over the

place there are mosques in all of the

cities of this country several you'll

find mosques in places that you would

never expect them like a vacuum new

mexico right and there's really it's odd

because you really you'll find you know

these back waters where you would never

expect to see and there will be you know

somewhere like El Centro California

there's a group of doctors their Muslim

doctors and Muslim merchants who have

come together and they pray and do this

thing in a very small community in in

Southern California so there's

definitely the presence is here and it's

it by by all of the outward signs it

would only seem that it's going to

increase and continue you are starting

to get a lot more can

versions my own experience that in the

last probably five years you're seeing a

lot more people converting to Islam than

before in our own area we're seeing more

like on a weekly basis and that was not

the case when I first became Muslim it

was quite unusual many many women have

come into Islam in the culture as well

and not through marriage you know

surprisingly enough and I think real pea

will say the same thing about England

it's a it's a phenomenon in England

you're really getting a lot of women

becoming Muslim so it's it's very

interesting you know I mean within my

own family my sister became Muslim I'm

Muslim my wife is Muslim and our two

kids so we've been arguing with the

family lightheartedly that we should

start celebrating the eat instead of

Christmas because we outnumber the

Christians now so you you know you're

seeing these type of things and I think

it's very exciting and it's very

interesting and it's also there are

there are aspects of it that are

frightening because there's still a lot

of real deep ignorance within our

culture and there's a lot of fear

related to Islam still and any time I

know that all the Muslims that I know

any time a bomb goes off somewhere

everybody starts you know hopefully

there's no Muslim names identify I

really it's it's definitely a concern in

the Muslim community because suddenly

the phone calls you know the hate calls

to the mosque the women start getting

accosted you know people are beaten up

you know we had a moss it was burnt down

in yuba city in California you know this

stuff really affects just a newspaper

some newspaper article and we we all

feel it so we're living in a very

precarious type of environment and I

think all the Muslims in this country

really feel that that that there's just

it's very very precarious and you know

Oklahoma City was an example you had

people on the

Radio immediately you know these talk

already just saying well there were

three Middle Eastern looking people

identified near the scene and boom you

know one of the Iraqi we lost her baby

she aborted her baby because our houses

the rocks were being thrown at them and

in the neighborhood there's just

recently another interesting phenomenon

is care which is the Council on

american-islamic relations and this is a

group that's actually started doing

something just about hate crimes against

Muslims started monitoring them and

having people report them it's trying to

get some statistics on just what's going

on working with the law enforcement

agencies in this country trying to go

and and talk to these people and also

dealing with a lot of harassment that

takes place in the workplace there are

many women in this country who one day

they decide to start wearing the hijab

for instance which happens you know girl

be 22 23 years old and then she's just

decides you know I want to start

practicing my well she goes to her work

with her hey Gavin and suddenly you know

the manager says you can't wear that

here and there there been a lot of cases

now and and basically so far I think as

far as i know the muslims have won all

of the cases involving this that it is a

religious right for a woman to wear the

veil and it's interesting to the french

government i don't know if people are

aware this the french government

outlawed wearing the scarf in their

public schools they did not outlaw like

wearing crosses that you know people

could show a display of their Christian

faith but they outlawed wearing the

scarf and a lot of Muslims just said

well you know what why is it they have

nuns teaching in some of the public

schools that where they wear the habit

and things like that so these type of

contradictions were pointed out but it

was very interesting so I think we're

going to see just a lot more examples of

this type of

of stuff now there are you know there's

Muslims working in Washington in you

know our congressman has a very devout

Muslim on his staff now congressman tom

campbell and so you're getting muslims

in the political process you're getting

muslim starting to get into you know

newspaper there's a lot of muslims that

are majoring in journalism in this

country wanting to go into these areas

so i think we're going to just see a lot

of interesting things in the future well

it's not too much learning to say no i

could add some things to it both Hopsin

Sullivan accession for you as teachers I

think it's probably important that maybe

we you know we might put more emphasis

on this it's important for you to get a

sense of what we've just been talking

about from a practical point of view

terms of the Muslims you meet in the

world understanding where they're coming

from so to speak and so you know I think

what we just said is pretty important in

terms of when you take away from here as

teachers I think having been a teacher

myself I mean it's pretty part we have

an obligation to to what to get to the

true picture

to truth across to our students right

and so all of these stereotypes they're

pretty well embedded and in terms of

recognizing the truth we have to be able

to enable those students to rise above

the stereotypes and to see Islam and

Muslims for what they really are and

what it really is and that's not an easy

thing to do and it's complicated by the

different kinds of Muslims that we meet

and so one of those that's important to

recognize this not only do we have this

amazing diversity in process because

it's an extraordinary process in this

honda's saying there's emerging new

elements that are emerging particularly

among this young generation the children

of the immigrants and that is going to