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June 22, 2007

Perspectives from Muslim Women

MARWA ELZANKALY: I actually don't believe at all that covering is oppressive or that it binds you or it restricts you in any way or that it relegates you to a lower position than men.

And if the basis of their perception is because Muslim women cover, I say that's absolutely false, and I say that's a very unfortunate perception, because-- I think that what people tend to do oftentimes is they-- look at the outward and they don't look beyond that. And for me, what my own religion has taught me to do is to look beyond the outward. And oftentimes when you look beyond the outward, you find that things are completely different, completely the opposite of what-- from what you perceived them to be.

The more people can say, you know, "Oh, you have fat ankles," and you know, you have-- you know, have cellulite, you know, things like that. And so it just-- by covering, it really prevents people from doing that to you, and it really affects your state of mind. It really affects how you perceive yourself, how you think about yourself and how you value yourself and what you value yourself based on.

So why should I make an effort to appear beautiful to every Tom, Dick and Harry that's out there? What does that do for me? It might make me feel good about myself. But why should that be the thing that I base my self value on?

And by covering, what it does is it just really takes that whole issue out of the picture, and it becomes no longer becomes the thing that you base your self worth on. And you focus-- it just-- it really takes a huge burden off your shoulder, because you're no longer obsessed with your physical appearance, with your hair and your make-up and, you know, you know, your size and so on and so forth. And you really begin to focus on other things, and you don't allow other people to judge you based on that either.

SADAF KHAN: I think that in, you know, with many Muslim countries and in-- with-- within different cultures women are subjugated to a certain status. And that they are for some certain things are forced upon them in a few countries. But also just-- the media's part in it as well, that they seem to only show one side. I mean, you travel across the United States and you'll see many women like myself that are educated, work, have jobs, are married, and, you know. And we don't feel like second-class citizens at all. But you don't see that on the television or in the newspapers.

What you see is, you know, the women wearing all black in a burkha in Iran or Saudi Arabia. And even those women a lot if you asked them, they'll-- most of them will tell you, "I don't feel like a second-class citizen." But it's just-- I think it's a lot of the media's responsibility to show, you know, all the inside as well as from the outside.

UZMA HUSAINI: Well, it's interesting because I think a lot of people know Muslims and don't realize that they know Muslims. Because there's a lot of Muslims that visibly are not Muslim. You know, there's tons of doctors that are Muslims. And, you know, unless you know that Ahmed is a Muslim name, you're not going to know that your doctor is a Muslim.

And so Muslims blend into society very well. And most Muslim women in America don't cover their hair. That doesn't mean that they're not good Muslims or that they don't believe in Islam. Because the Hijab is actually-- it's not like a major component-


UZMA HUSAINI: --or tenant of the faith. A person can be a very good Muslim, a very spiritual person. I mean, my family-- we didn't-- people in my family-- many of my relatives don't cover their hair. And I didn't do and my mom didn't do it. But, I don't think-- that doesn't in any way mean that they're bad Muslims. It's just one aspect - modesty is one aspect of the faith.

And it just happens to be something that really draws attention to you in this culture. But, there's a lot of women that don't do it. But, they're still contributing to the society and they're still Muslims. And same thing with men. There's men and women that are really out there.


UZMA HUSAINI: And you just don't know that they're Muslim.

MARWA ELZANKALY: And you're right. It didn't used to be that big of a deal. But, I think over the years, it's become a very politicized thing. I think in the west it's become a symbol of oppression and-- but, in the Muslim world and a lot of parts of the Muslim world, it's become a symbol of patriotism and a symbol of fighting against colonial powers.

SADAF KHAN: When you see what's happening in Muslim countries you think, you know, "I don't want people to think that that's Islam." You know, I don't want peo-- but then at the same time, I mean, I don't-- you don't know that the situation that these people are in. I mean, a lot of these people are really in a bad condition — psychologically, sociologicall — when men are oppressed and they're, you know, their land is being taken from them, and they can't work I mean, where does their aggression go towards? You know, so they have to, you know, they-- it goes towards the women and the children. And so a lot of this, for them, you know, it's easy for them to say, "Oh, this is Islam." But I bet if they really thought about it and they understood why they did the things they did, they-- they'd realize it's not.

SADAF KHAN: From my point of view-- I think that so much of it has to do with just culture. And so much of it has to do with a lot of countries-- it's almost their reaction to this post-Colonial world that they're living in. I mean, so much of it had to do around that time historically where they became more strict on their women because, you know, Europe came in. And it's just it has so much to do with this historical phenomenon of post-Colonialism that they are-- they're still working these things out, I think.

When we look on Fox News or on the media we see so much about women-- Muslim women being oppressed in Muslim countries. And they're all-- they're dressed in black. And the men are not treating them well. But we have the same problems here in the United States in our own backyard.

You know, domestic violence is a huge problem here. It's a huge problem in Europe. I lived in Spain for a year. And practically every week in the newspaper there was something about domestic violence and about men-- a husband beating his wife. And it's a huge problem in Spain. And it-- and I'm sure it's the same way in most of Europe. That this is a phenomena that has nothing to do with religion.

SALIAH SHAKIR: Well when I mean an equal par if I want to work I can work. If I want to become any kind of professional I can do that. In terms of religious worship and practice it's equal across the board. So what I am saying is for me personally I don't feel inhibited. What may inhibit me is outside factors but now me in terms of my way of seeing myself I am perfectly content in having the ability- the God given ability to do what ever I feel I can do and achieve. If it's meant for me to do that's what I am saying. And I know some times in our community there is a sense of prorocialism and it does go on. But that is culturally based not based on Islamic ruling. Muslim Women

UZMA HUSAINI: I think what I find really tragic about that whole perception that's kind of out there, widespread, that, you know-- it's-- it-- this idea that a woman would never on her own free will decide with her own autonomy and out of her own self-respect that she wants to cover herself to-- to kind of imagine that that would never happen. That it only comes from men. Only these tyrannical, oppressive men are forcing women to do this, and that's the only way that a woman will ever cover up.

I just think that that in itself, that premise is very tragic to me, and it just complete-- completely undermines just the whole idea of respect for women and respect for freedom, to believe that a woman would never chooses-- choose to do so on her own.

UZMA HUSAINI: And the vast majority of Muslim women that I know, my friends, my peers, myself included, we actually went against our families to do this, you know? My family originally is from India and Pakistan, and people there don't cover, most of them. So at least their hair is what I'm talking about.

it took a lot of will power, but I did it completely on my own, out of my own convictions. And this is a story that many of my peers have that have started to cover. That it really is a choice that people make in spite of the stereotypes that are out there, in spite of their families being concerned what's going to happen to my daughter. She's going to look like a alien, or people are going to think she's oppressed, and, you know, this, that and the other.

SALIAH SHAKIR: It's ordained that both men and women to be modest in the public space. If you look at early colonial America, just talking as convert to Islam. I remember my grandfather never having his head uncovered in public and he would have the hat and always taking it off when coming in or going to church. So we had these traditions in our own society, if you will, so I think that Islam isn't so archaic, in that sense. I think the challenge is because many young Muslims who are originally born and raises in Muslim families and converts, are just returning back to modesty which I think is good for any society especially for us right when there is a lot of exploitations of individuals whoever they may be.

UZMA HUSAINI: So, when I started to study my religion and I found out that, you know, this is a requirement, it's a mandate that the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon Him-- required it to be that way and Mary, the mother of Jesus, dressed that way, and it is something that's throughout the Abrahamic faiths and through many other faiths around the world, and it just made sense to me.

But people have forgotten that it wasn't about oppression. It never has been about oppression. It's actually been the opposite. It's about rev-- liberation. It's about women, you know, taking possession of their own bodies, not want to be commodified, and it's something that's really beautiful.

I got a newsletter in the mail recently celebrating the 75th anniversary of Hayward, and there were these pictures of down Hayward. And the women were dressed very, very similar to Muslim women, and they were covered. And so, this was something that is very much a part of Western culture as well or that it used to be. And now we've kind of lost that value.

SADAF KHAN: Women feel very liberated. They can wear what they want. And, you know, and, you know, fashion is such a huge part of so many people's lives. And so in - from that-- from looking at that aspect, from that aspect looking at a Muslim woman that has to cover, yeah, it does look like, you know, maybe we-- we're treated with less respect or we're second-class citizens compared to the men. But when you understand why Muslim women cover, I mean, it's not only in Islam that Muslim women have to cover.

I mean, - in almost every tradition, in all the Abrahamic faiths, traditionally women covered. Because it was recognized that, you know, women are beautiful. And-- and that, you know, they should protect their beauty. That other people shouldn't look at them just as objects of beauty.

And that they should be looked at for their intelligence and for the things that they can do and their trades and what-not. So in-- from that aspect, I mean, it-- we're almost at an advantage. Because when I walk into a room hopefully, you know, people aren't staring at my body. They're not thinking, "Oh, how beautiful that woman is. Look at her hair." That-- they're thinking, "Okay, here's a woman." Now-- now they can take me for who I am.

They can take me for my intelligence and my education. And-- and so I think that Muslim women are at an advantage. And I hope that-- I think every Muslim's women hope is that-- Americans or Westerners will look at us that way. That they'll look at us just as, you know, a normal human being that chooses to adhere to their religion

MARWA ELZANKALY: So, I just wanted to say that we don't believe that beauty is a bad thing or that it's a negative thing or that, you know, women, their beauty is evil or anything like that. It's a good thing. It's an amazing thing that God created. The-- the beauty that God gave women. But at the same time, we don't believe that we should allow people to exploit that beauty. And that that beauty is best preserved for the one person that really deserves to be a part of it. That you allow to be a part of it, and that you choose to allow to be a part of it after that person proves to you that he is worthy to be a part of it.

MARWA ELZANKALY: Well, my faith is very important to me, and I'll be 100 percent honest with you. You know, I pray a lot. I-- I-- I talk to God a lot. And I and that's definitely been my #1-- thing that I do that helps me.

MARWA ELZANKALY: All right. Does my faith hinder me in any way? I would have to say no, absolutely not. In fact, quite the opposite. It helps me a lot. It helps me tremendously. I am-- I'm a lawyer. I'm a practicing Muslim. I'm a partner at my law firm. I do mostly litigation, and I said that-- I said earlier that I had a really hard time-- or rather I apologize, I said earlier that I did not used to cover, and that I started covering approximately about two and a half years ago.

And I have to say one of the things that I was concerned about before I started covering was how it would affect me in my life and whether it would hinder me, especially in my career, whether I'd be able to continue working in the same place that I was working in especially since I do litigation. I go to court all the time. I-- you know, we try cases and so on and so forth.

And so I was very concerned about-- how that would come across before a judge or before a jury or-- or what have you or before clients. You know, we often represent big corporate clients, and they're very focused on appearances. And so that really concerned me.

But after I decided that this is right and I truly understood it and I truly understood why we did it-- and I just had absolute conviction about it, I couldn't stop myself from doing it. And I just I think that the best way to live life is to just, you know, do what you think is right and forget about what other people think and not really base your life decisions on-- what other people think of you or how other people might react to you, because-- in the end, the way Islam is it's about your relationship with God and it's about pleasing God. And it's not about pleasing other people.

And in the end, I truly believe that God takes care of everything. And so-- And so I did it, and it was absolutely amazing, because-- it didn't hurt me at all. And-- in fact, it actually had quit the opposite effective. It actually made me-- work harder and-- I was amazed at the response that I got from the people at my firm. They actually treated me exceptionally well, and they were very supportive of me. And they were really proud that I would do something that was important to me and important to my faith, in spite of what other people might think.

And, you know, since then, I-- I've, you know, brought in my own clients. I have been-- you know, I just recently at the end of the year I was asked to become a partner at my firm.

And it's been-- it's been a really good-- very positive experience,

MARWA ELZANKALY: I was telling this one attorney that I know that my sister-- her-- she took her kids and her husband and they moved back to Egypt. And they decided that they wanted to raise their kids there.

And-- and she says to me, "Oh, that's too bad that her daughters aren't going to get an education." And I said, "What makes you think that her daughters are not going to get an education?" And she said, "Well, isn't that how it works in the Muslim world? Women don't educated?"

And I was really horrified. I was absolutely horrified because that's absolutely not true. Egypt is full of universities. The entire Muslim world is filled with universities and there are tons of Muslim women that are very well educated in various-- very difficult areas.

And-- who work, you know, who help-- you know, financially with their families and-- and-- there are a lot of Muslim women that are very wealthy. And there are a lot of Muslim women that are very independent. But, at the same time, there are a lot of Muslim women who choose to focus on their families. And who-- who wanna stay home and who wanna take care of their children, and who, you know- and who are content with that. And so, the thing about the Muslims is that a woman should not feel like she's any less because her focus is in her life is her family, because she's not out there working and so on and so forth.

MARWA ELZANKALY: A woman has every right to choose to do that.

SALIAH SHAKIR: I'm a convert to Islam, my family they are Christian. I was raised as a Christian woman to have values, principles, to have a certain sort of manner around men. I have all brothers so I had to always maintain a certain type of personality, if you will, anyway in terms of having good behavior, if you will. Now in terms of why the West has this picture, this gloom picture of Muslim women, a lot has to do with the media and a lot has to do with us. Because Muslim women need to be more vocal in the public space and hopefully that will happen. Now that Islam is growing in the United states, if you will - of course as we know in the Muslim world, I need not discuss this issue. But here - when I say The West, I'm talking about The United States, Canada, per se, Europe, as well as Australia - there is a growing community of conversion amongst women.

Of course their dress and lifestyles may vary because that's who we are - we are of our cultural reality. And I'm somewhat privileges to talk because I have the ability to be in America and I am in America and I understand the psychology. To become a Muslim is a challenge in that: I wear the scarf - I happen to wear the scarf in a more traditional way - this is my choice to that. I'm not forced to do it or anything of that nature. And the reason I wear the head scarf which might be a little bit of a unique thing, but now-a-days it's not, because, again, media, we have more conversion and women involved in the work space if you will, and in the public eye. This is not as foreign. I think the depiction again is just ignorance and there needs to be more dialogue, like we're doing right now.

SADAF KHAN: Imam Zaid just recently gave a-- gave a talk here at Zaytuna-

SADAF KHAN: The Muslim survival guide. And he spoke to women, to men, and to children. And, you know, he-- one thing he did make mention to is the differences between men and women. And that for us to say that men and women are equal is-- it's not just-- the men or the women. That-- I think a better word to say is equitable.

That, you know, we should have the same rights. We should-- but our responsibilities are equal, but they're different. And that, you know, women, they may be better at things, and they may, you know are-- they're more-- they are more intuitive maybe or things like that. And men have other really strong traits. And we should work-- we should work with them, not against them.

American Muslim

UZMA HUSAINI: I actually had something happen very recently with-- my neighbor whose known me for years. And she's really nice. We actually get along very, very well. But somebody had sent out an e-mail of-- remember those images of these-- just really-- kind of crazy extremist Muslims in England that had these just horrible signs about, you know, we're going to take over England. And we're going to, you know, wipe everybody out. It was ridiculous. It really was.

And they had-- and you could tell the signs were all written by the same person. It was all the same handwriting. But there was-- and it happened a few years ago, when I think the bombing in Iraq was very, very heavy. So there was this e-mail sent out with those very disturbing pictures of those signs. And so she forwarded that to me and she said; You know, is this true?

And I'd actually just-- coincidently, just received that e-mail from somebody else-- a few weeks ago. And I'd asked the same question; Is this for real? These Muslims in England. And I was told; Unfortunately, yes it is. It's a very, very small group of people. It was one rally. And they were really upset about some incident that occurred.

And, you know, it was just-- it's not at all-- I mean I knew that it's not representative of-- so I-- wrote back to my neighbor and I said; Unfortunately, it's-- true. And I just explained. And I said; It's not at all representative of Muslims. It's not what we believe. And what their-- you know it's totally crazy and wrong. And you know I just explained the whole thing. And you know what the Prophet taught.

And-- so she wrote back to me, just this really kind of angry e-mail. She was angry with me. And she said; It bothers me when-- the-- fact that you dress the way that extremists dress, is bothersome to me. And she just really kind of linked me to those people, because of the way that I dress. You know.

And she was like; What are you doing to stop those kind of people. What are you doing about it? You know and the e-mail was just so angry that I didn't feel like replying to her at that moment would actually help. So I-- didn't reply to her at that moment. I talked to her a little bit about it later in an e-mail.

But I mean my response to that is, what can she do about, you know, the White Supremacist groups in America. You've got extremist groups everywhere. When- people have that kind of warped mentality, you can't sit them down and say; Look, you know, let me explain to you why you shouldn't go lynching black people, or you know why you shouldn't blow up the Oklahoma city building and all that. There are certain people that are, you know, the Hitler mentality, where you can't really get through to them. So I'm doing the best that I can to build bridges. I'm-- teaching a class on Islam and-- so forth. But you know there's-- a limit to what I can do.

And I think, you know, like what Marwa is saying, is the media images are just so-- intense, that it does build tension. And one thing I think that Americans can kind of get an idea perhaps is, is if you imagine that and if you imagine another country that doesn't know anything about America or Christianity. Just blank, you know. And all they ever see on TV are White Supremacist groups. Hate groups. KKK. Things like that. What are they going to think about America? Or about Americans. About Christianity.

They're going to have a pretty bad image. And I think that's very, very much like what's going on in the American media about the Muslim world. 'Cause I've traveled. I've been to Syria, I've been to Morocco, I've been to Turkey. I've been to Pakistan. I've been to a lot of different countries.

And Muslim countries are-- they relatively are very nice place to be. They're very safe. People are very friendly. I've never had a problem. They're very open and accepting. And it's just-- it's completely unfair to just demonize an entire group of people. And right now it's the Muslims, and before that it was the Russians. And it's been various groups of people. You know the Japanese. Americans were putting them in interment camps.

So, unfortunately, we've got a history of this in America. And what I'm hopeful about is that you know thankfully it seems like we do realize it after some time. Like, you know, we acknowledge what we did to the Native Americans wasn't right. We acknowledge what we did to the African-Americans and what is often still happening since so many you know-- black men are in prisons.

A lot of this is being acknowledged. We've acknowledged what-- that the Japanese internment camp was a mistake. So I'm hoping that we'll get to the point, the same point with Islam and Muslims, and realize that Muslim Americans are just as American as any other American.

And-- we're not demons. We're not evil. We're people too. And-- Muslim Americans have a lot to offer. They're-- and they're very much an integral part of this country and-- our society, and the fabric of the American society. So I'm hopeful that one day we will get to that point.

MARWA ELZANKALY: And I think that, within American society there are a lot of people who are very open to that message. And who really-- and helps you understand that, who want to spread that message to other people within their own society. Because I think they recognize the importance of not demonizing an entire population of people.

And so-- and I think that's a very positive thing about America is that there are those people who are very open to education, and to being educated about other peoples. And I-- I've been invited by-- different people to speak at different functions, and-- to-- participate in interfaith events, and-- diversity events, and-- so on and so forth.

And-- and so I think that-- but that's a very positive segment of society. So I don't want to paint it as you know the entire society demonizes us. There's definitely that segment. But there are other people who really feel like that is unfair.

UZMA HUSAINI: Absolutely.

MARWA ELZANKALY: And who have learned from history and who don't want history to repeat itself.

UZMA HUSAINI: Oh, absolutely. I think being an American, being a Muslim go hand-in-hand, just like being a person of any faith and being an American. That's what this country was founded on. The freedom of religion. And I think that's why a lot of Muslims came here. That's why my family came here. And that's why a lot of families came here.

Is t's just a very beautiful place to live. It's a very open society. In fact I was raised in England, and-- I was-- we were in a little village where we were the only minorities. And you know when I was a kid, people would say; You blackie go home, and things like that. So we were actually told, you know, California, America is this -- it's not like that.

And that was one big reason why we moved here. Was because American is supposed to be a very accepting society. And I think on the whole it is, in a lot of ways. And I mean the Founding Fathers, really, I think they worked very, very hard to make sure that there would be freedom of religion. That people would be able to practice what they believed. I mean, that was the whole reason why the country was founded.

So, I don't feel in any way, that being Muslim is somehow un-American. And I think the people that think that, I think that's an un-American way of thinking. To think that being a Muslim is un-American. I just don't think that if you really understand what America is, and what America was founded upon, but to say you know a person is not American because of their religion or because of their complexion, or those kind of factors. That just doesn't make sense to me at all.

MARWA ELZANKALY: And I think in living your day-to-day life, there are definitely things that are-- that are different. Things that are-- in our-- in our practices. You know for example, you know we don't drink. I'm not going to go out clubbing. We don't date, and-- so on and so forth. But it doesn't mean that you can't live as an American in this country.

SALIAH SHAKIR: We are striving to maintain identity and we would like to be accepted for who we are based on an individual basis. I mean you have good and bad in all people regardless of who they may be. And yes situations may arise that cause types of controversies or whatever but everyone should be judged individually and not as a group.

We have issues and things that are permeating in our society now that call for Muslims to take a proactive role. But in doing that we need support to make that happen. So if your neighbor was your neighbor before 9/11 it's still your neighbor today. So if there was peace and harmonious relationship amongst one another then that should be maintained. It shouldn't change because of the media. It's the old American cliché don't judge a book by its cover. So ask if you are not sure about something. Go find out for yourself. Don't take a person's opinion. That is one thing.

Number two I think we should work as a human family. In America we are privileged people. We are unique. We have representation of every ethnic race in the world right here in our back yard. Many of us are interracially married like my family we are. And interethnically married so we are unique people and we should be proud of that. And as our society grows and changes and evolves there are going to be you know a lot of changes that will take place and we should be able to accept those changes. And all your ancestors be they indigenous or Islam or if they came from other countries had to struggle here. That is not going to change.

You know from the time we are born until the time we leave this earth it is a struggle. But what we should try to work for is peace and harmonious co-existence. I think that is very important I think for the survival of our country. Because we are "the superpower of the world" and what happens here is going to dictate everywhere else. We have all the privileges and the benefits to help others so we should maintain that tradition.

MARWA ELZANKALY: And I think the other thing that is very, very important, that I've really learned in life is that you have to give people a break, and you have to understand that people are only reacting to what they're seeing all around them.


MARWA ELZANKALY: And I think that if I was in their shoes, I might react exactly the same way, and I might feel exactly the same way. I might be terrified of me. And I think that's okay. And-- and so you have to be forgiving of that, and you have to really try and not take it personally, not let your ego get in the way, and work with those people and know that eventually-- you know, people are smart, and-- they get over things. And they're human beings. And when they recognize that you have that humanity in common, they usually get over it.

UZMA HUSAINI: And you have to smile a lot.


UZMA HUSAINI: That's something that I've really learned. After 9/11, I was invited to give a talk at a church. I was very nervous, because I'd never spoken in a church before. And this was in southern California. It was in a, you know, very well to do area, and-- you know, everybody was you know, they're all pretty Caucasian. There wasn't a lot of diversity. And it was like right after 9/11. So people were very anxious. I was very anxious, and people in the church were very anxious.

So, I remember I got up, and I gave just a very short talk, like maybe five or ten minutes. And I just explained just the basic beliefs of Muslims. That, you know, Muslims believe in God and Muslims believe in angels and Muslims believe in the prophets. We believe that the Prophet Mohammed taught the same things that Jesus taught and Moses taught, and we believe in the revelations and the day of judgment. You know, just the basic tenants of the faith.

And everybody was-- I mean, I remember looking-- I think there were like 500 people. There was pin drop silence. And everybody was just-- they just really sincerely wanted to hear what I had to say, because they were worried.

UZMA HUSAINI: Okay, they just really sincerely wanted to hear what I had to say, because they were worried. 9/11 had just happened. And it was the Muslim terrorists and what are these Muslim terrorists believe. You know? So, I just went up there, and I explained my faith. And you know, I said what happened at 9/11 is not Islam, and it has nothing to do with Islam. It has nothing to do with any religion. You can't go out and take innocent lives like that, and I just explained what the Muslim teachings are and--

Anyway, so after the talk-- I went down and some people came and started to talk to me. And there was this old lady. She came to me. She was really sweet. And she comes to me, and she says, "Oh, honey, thank you so much for that talk. It was so nice to see you smile. I didn't know you people smiled."

And I was just kind of dumbfounded when she said that, you know? But then I-- I-- and I didn't say anything in reply. I was just kind of shocked that somebody would come up and say, "You people-- I didn't know you people smiled." And I never thought of myself as a "you people" or you know other-- other type of-- from another-- planet or something.

So, but then I-- you know, I really thought about it afterwards. Why would somebody say something like that? She obviously wasn't like being malicious or mean about it. She was actually just being very, very honest. Just I think she thought she was giving me a compliment.

And I just realized that of course she's going to think that, because you don't see Muslims smiling on TV. You see suicide bombers, you know, the terrorists and thing-- al-Qaeda. When do you see Muslim families raising their children? You know? Muslim kids going to school? And a husband and wife having a conversation, worrying about their you just don't see Muslims as normal people that smile.

SADAF KHAN: I think that historically, I mean, the very founding of this nation was on religious tolerance. And to say that a Muslim could not be as good as an American as a Christian or a or a Jew is absolutely false. And that, you know, just-- just looking at myself, looking at Imam Zaid, or, you interviewed Montel-- we're all very much Americans.

And, you know, we vote. We wake up in the morning and get ready for work just like every other American. And we're concerned about healthcare in America. And we're concerned about the same things that most other Americans are concerned about. And I don't think that we do it in a less way than any other American does.

SADAF KHAN: The really unique thing about Zaytuna was that it was pretty much a completely American Muslim operation. That most of the people that were here were either converts or they were born in the United States or they've been here for a very long time and considered themselves Americans. And really wanted to have an institute that recognized Islam as an American religion.

And that, you know, they realized that very early on that Muslims needed their own institutions. American Muslims needed their own institutions. And that as scholars like Imam Zaid, their message was very unique. And that they needed a place to teach. So-- and also Zaytuna is a great place where, you know, Bay Area Muslims can come.

And, as you see, you know, it's a beautiful place. They can bring their children. They can come for weekend classes. We have, you know, different events going on. So it's just a really nice place where people feel tranquility and can come from their work week, their busy work weeks, and come and feel calm. And, you know, have like a laid-back-- get together. And learn about Islam. And-- and just feel normal in a place where many times we don't.

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