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Growing Up Muslim in America

Last month, the Pew Research Center conducted the first ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans, and some of the findings might surprise you. Here are a few key findings from the Pew Web site:

  • Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
  • Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. 51% of American Muslims are very concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism in the world today.
  • 62% of Muslim women believe that life is better for them in the United States than in Muslim countries.
  • But statistics never speak as loudly or clearly as first hand accounts, so we invited Eman Ahmed to speak further about her personal experience growing up as Muslim woman in America.

    A native New Yorker, Eman Ahmed is an attorney specializing in employment discrimination. She received her B.A. from St. John’s University, Suma Cum Laude, and her J.D. from New York Law School, where she also served as an editor at the New York Law School Law Review.

    Eman is an active member of the Network of Arab-American Professionals and is a member of the NYSBA Committee on Women in the Law. She appeared in the 2003 edition of Who’s Who Among American Law Students and currently appears in the Madison Who’s Who. Eman also blogs regularly on Arabisto.com.

    --------------------

    It’s funny how much has changed over the last 20 years. As one of the only Muslim students in a public elementary school in Staten Island that was strictly populated by Christian and Jewish students, I was seen more as a novelty than anything else. While the other students chowed down on cheese fries and hamburgers during lunch, I sat in my Social Studies teacher’s classroom during Ramadan, isolated from their stares and name-calling. To them, I was different and weird because for a month, I couldn’t eat or drink during the day. They had no idea what Islam was, except for the one day we learned about it in while studying the Crusades (which is a very skewed view of the religion as a whole to say the least!)

    Today, Islam is readily taught in schools and Muslim students are abundant in the public school system. They are even trying to make accommodations for Muslim students for testing purposes during the holy days of Eid. Although Islam and its teachings have slowly become a part of the mainstream educational system, there’s still a lot of confusion as to what exactly it entails.

    To the many uninformed, it is an archaic system of beliefs, rooted in tradition and seemingly backward teachings. But to the billions who claim Islam as their religion, it is a beautifully simple way of life – one that emphasizes charity and caring/understanding of the most vulnerable members of society.

    Although Islam is currently more known than it was 20 years ago, the same ignorance as to its teachings still run amuck today, especially over the last six years. Being raised in a society that is unforgiving of the unknown, it’s been quite a struggle to realize my footing among the populace. Although technically a religion, in practice, Islam is more akin to a culture. Trying to maintain a happy median between the sometimes divergent Islamic and American cultures has been a lifelong effort that stemmed from childhood. Finding pride and strength when you are known as the oddity hasn’t been easy in the past. And it isn’t any different today, when you are vilified by the media due to the actions of a few wayward souls.

    Having questions of faith is relatively common to most; having those questions while being chastised by an overwhelmingly ignorant public makes it even that much more difficult. Even though society today can properly pronounce the words “hajj” and “Ramadan”, the same stares and name-calling that befell Muslims 20 years ago remains today. According to the recent report from the Pew Research Center, the majority of Muslims in America say exactly that – being Muslim in America today can be quite a harrowing experience.

    And so I ask why is that? Why are we, as a society, comfortable with understanding and accepting the concept of observing the Sabbath, but see regimented prayer five times a day as ritualistic and antiquated? Why do we accept that Timothy McVeigh doesn’t represent all of Christianity, but refuse to do the same when it comes to Islam? Most importantly, why – after 20 years – is it still difficult to accept Muslims in America?

    by Eman Ahmed


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    Comments

    The comparison is not between suicide bombers and Timothy McVeigh but between suicide bombers and F-16s. The terrorists do not have the aparatus of a nation state but the nation state that kills innocents i.e. non-combatants is morally equivalent to a terrorist. I know you don't like to hear this but comparison must be made. You "critics" out there love to relate your fantasized history of Islam spreading through violence (conversion at the point of the sword) but will not account for the use of violence in spreading democracy. In fact the most disruptive process in the world during the past fifty years has been the spread of democracy. You say Islam spread by the sword I say democracy has spread by the F-16 and its bombs. Muslims need to change their attitudes and practices regarding women and citizenry in Muslim countries but their can and will be no meaningful dialogue with the West until Muslims shead their stubborn denial and the non-Muslim west sheads its unjustified moral pretentiousness.

    The Imam tried very hard to put a kind & favorable face on Islam. However, I remain troubled by a religion that has such a recent history of advocating killing by individuals (e.g., Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwah against Rushdie, suicide bombers, etc.).

    I also noted the major restrictions on personal expression -- everyone wearing similar & drab (to me) clothing. This was in sharp contrast to the very next public TV show I watched, a travelogue where beautiful art, food and drink, and dress were emphasized. To me, the Imam rates a "nice try", but that's all.

    This was a very important interview that we need to have more of (thanks to PBS and Bill Moyers). Having Islam explained to people by politicians and anti-Islam polemics just feeds the misinformation, and is frankly tiresome. Imam Zaid is one of the most prominent mainstream Muslims working in America to improve the understanding of Islam.

    Thank you for this
    interview.
    A few comments:
    When the Imam was discussing roles of religious leadership for women in Islam, he effectively said that Islam should not moderate its views for the relatively recent cultural phenomena of women's current status in the west. A Universal truth versus a temporal one, it seems that was the gist of his argument. But this is to say that all truths were discovered in, and yet transcended, the cultural milieu of of ancient Islam. And that there is no progressive, evolving force of understanding working itself out in human society. And yet he understands that beating a woman is pathological, regardless of the scripture.

    Secondly, I can understand some viewers discomfort with Moyer's setting American culture just a little too much up as an uncompromising force. Our culture is, has been and will be a mish-mash of the people who live here, with some larger issues commonly binding us. We are in debate, a theme of democracy, over what stays and what fades away whether originating from religious tradition or not. We are certainly not all in agreement and may never be, especially as vehicles for dissent and dissemination of alternative views proliferate.

    Over all, the Imam challenged me to think differently. I do not agree with all he said. I hope, over the years, the dialogue between alternative and mainstream views of our culture and world continue this dynamic dance, and lead us all to a greater understanding.

    When it comes to Islam, read Barnaby Rogerson's biography on Muhammad. I didn't know alot about him before---and I actually thought low of him---but after I ended up reading the book twice.

    I'm not a Muslim, but Muhammad is something else. He was a special human being.

    It's strange, because some of the humanists critisize religionas being judgemental that "they are correct, and others are wrong." But the same judgementalism and 'superior philosophy' comes through. Look closely; examine yourselves.

    Let's relax a bit when it comes to the Imam's answres to some questions. It's not easy answering tough questions in front of a camera. I never take these moments as the be all and end all.

    No More Religiosity ... just good deeds...

    There are problems with all the so called sacred texts ... this is a note on the problems with Islam's Koran:

    The world, from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the "House of Islam" and the "House of War," and this latter designation should indicate how many Muslims believe their differences with those who do not share their faith will be ultimately resolved. While there are undoubtedly some "moderate" Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage - as Muslims - is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the "enemies of God."

    The feature of Islam that is most troubling to non-Muslims, and which apologists for Islam do much to obfuscate, is the principle of jihad. Literally, the term can be translated as "struggle" or "striving," but it is generally rendered in English as "Holy War," and this is no accident. While Muslims are quick to observe that there is and inner (or "greater") jihad, which involves waging war against one's own sinfulness, no amount of casuistry can disguise the fact that the central feature of the faith. Armed conflict in "defense of Islam" is a religious obligation for every Muslim man. We are misled if we believe that the phrase "in defense of Islam" suggests that all Muslim fighting must be done in "self-defense." On the contrary, the duty of jihad is an unambiguous call to world conquest. As Bernard Lewis writes, "the presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule." There is jut no denying that Muslims expect victory in this world, as well as in the next.

    The Koran is more than sufficient to establish these themes, the literature of the hadith elaborates:

    "Jihad is your duty under any ruler, be he godly or wicked."

    "A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah's Cause in the forenoon or in the afternoon is better than the world and whatever is in it."

    "Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah's Cause).

    "He who dies without having taken part in a campaign dies in a kind of unbelief."

    "Paradise is in the shadows of swords."

    Isn't it clear that these religious texts were written in a time of barbaric tribes and written by men ... not god ... It's time for a new Enlightenment. These archaic texts are outdated for the modern world. I am quite sure that if there was an anthropomorphic God who was all powerful and loving he would have a much more efficient way to deliver his message than these ambiguous writing that no one can agree on the true meaning ... all claim they have the true meaning according to their opinion.

    The Judeo-Christian-Islamic God is an evil and cruel god ... we don't believe in Moses, Jesus, or Mohamed ... Enlighten Reason has been more humanistic and tolerant to humankind ... And this will tell you why we do not accept any religion's dogma ... no one has a direct link to a God that talks, orders the illiterate to write his message in such ambiguous terms. Here is a cut from Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great ... he is referring to the testament God.
    To simply read the message of this God; it would be harder to find an easier proof that religion is manmade. There, is first, the monarchical growling about respect ad fear, accompanied by a stern reminder of omnipotence and limitless revenge, of the sort with which a Babylonian or Assyria emperor might have ordered the scribes to begin a proclamation. There is then a sharp reminder to keep working and only to relax when the absolutist says so. A few crisp legalistic reminders follow, one of which is commonly misrendered because the original Hebrew actually says “thou shalt do no murder.” But however little one thinks of the Jewish tradition, it is surely insulting to the people of Moses to imagine that theft, and perjury were permissible. (The same unanswerable point can be in a different way about the alleged later preaching’s of Jesus: when he tell the story of the Good Samaritan on that Jericho road he is speaking of a man who acted in a humane and generous manner without, obviously, ever having heard of Christianity, let alone having followed the pitiless teachings of the god of Moses, who never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all.) No society ever discovered has failed to protect itself from self-evident crimes like those supposedly stipulated at Mount Sinai. Finally, instead of the condemnation of evil actions, there is an oddly phrased condemnation of impure thoughts. One can tell that this, too, is a man-made product of alleged time and place, because it throws in “wife” along with the other property, animal, human, and material, of the neighbor. More important, it demands the impossible: a recurrent problem with all religious edicts. One may be forcibly restrained from wicked actions, or barred from committing them, but to forbid people from contemplating them is too much. In particular, it is absurd to hope to banish envy of other people’s possessions or fortunes, if only because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences. (It seems improbable that the American fundamentalists, who desire to see the Ten Commandments emblazoned in every schoolroom courtroom – almost like a graven image – are so hostile to the spirit of capitalism.) If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts, he should have taken more care to invent a different species.

    Then there is the very salient question of what the commandments do not say. Is it too modern to notice that here is nothing about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly “in context” to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended? In verse 2 of the immediately following chapter, god tells Moses to instruct his followers about the conditions under which they may buy or sell slaves (or bore their ears through with an awl) and the rules governing the sale of their daughters. This is succeeded by the insanely detailed regulations governing oxes that gore and are gored, and including the notorious verses forfeiting “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Micromanagement of agricultural disputes breaks off for a moment, with the abrupt verse (22:18) “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” This was, for centuries, the warrant for the Christian torture and burning of women who did not conform. Occasionally, there are injunctions that are moral, and also (at least in the lovely King James version) memorably phrased: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” was taught to Bertrand Russell by his grandmother, and stayed with the old heretic all his life. However, one mutters a few sympathetic words for the forgotten and obliterated Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites, also presumably part of the Lord’s original creation, who are to be pitilessly driven out of their homes to make room for the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel. (This supposed “covenant” is the basis for a nineteenth-century irredentist claim to Palestine that has brought us endless trouble up to the present day.)
    Seventy-four of the elders, including Moses and Aaron, then meet god face-to-face. Several whole chapters are given over to the minutest stipulations, about the lavish, immense ceremonies of sacrifice and propitiation that the Lord expects of his newly adopted people, but this all ends in tears and with collapsing scenery to boot: Moses returns from his private session on the mountaintop to discover that the effect of a close encounter with god has worn off, at least on Aaron, and that the children of Israel have made an idol out of their jewelry and trinkets. At this, he impetuously smashes the two Sinai tablets (which appear therefore to have been man-made and not god-made, and which have to be redone hastily in a later chapter) and orders the following:

    “Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.”
    And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses, and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

    A small number when compared to the Egyptian infants already massacred by god in order for things to have proceeded even this far, but it helps to make the case for “antitheism.” By this I mean the view that we ought to be glad that none of the religious myths has any truth to it, or in it. The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.

    Thank you Mr. Moyers and thank you PBS for an excellent profile of a contemporary American Muslim leader.

    I feel great pride in seeing a convert to Islam achieve a place of spiritual and community leadership among American Muslims. Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb and many others exemplify the egalitarian character of Islam that has thrived through the ages.

    Laiq

    I just wanted to clarify that my resentment of Islam originates from the acts of Khomeini and his followers who killed thousands of other progressive Muslims in Iran after 1979 simply because they did not agree with his policies.

    Salman Rushdie was condemned to death by Ruhollah Khomeini (issued a fatwa) on February 14, 1989, after publishing Satanic Verses that some Muslims found it offensive.

    I try to remind myself of Dr. Muhammad Yunus when I think of Muslems and wish that there were more Muslems like him.

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/


    Muhammad atta not only hijacked a plane and used it to kill thousands of innocent people on September 11, 2001 he also hijacked Islam on that day.

    ------------------------------
    sorry, I post again as I made a typing mistake on the date.-
    ----------------------------

    I just wanted to clarify that my resentment of Islam originates of acts of Khomeini and his followers who killed thousands of other progressive Muslims in Iran simply because they did not agree with his policies.
    Salman Rushdie was condemned to death by Ruhollah Khomeini (issued a fatwa ) on February 14,1989, after publishing Satanic Verses that some Muslims found it offensive.


    I try to remind myself of Dr. Muhammad Yunus when I think of Muslems and wish that there were more Muslems like him.

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/


    Muhammad atta not only hijacked a plane and used it to kill thousands of innocent people on september 11, 2007 he also hijacked Islam on that day.

    thank you


    Thanks PBS for a great interview
    peace

    Sorry I meant to write pertinent and not conducive in paragraph below.

    Also, one of the posters below said that Islam is a religion of submission, it is inherently opposed to creativity and intellectual pursuits, and consequently this is why it missed the 'Enlightenment' and subsequent scientific advancements of Europe. There are many theories as to why the industrial revolution did not take place in the Muslim world before Western Europe, but you will be hard pressed to find a credible one that suggests it was because of the theological constraints of Islam. The various Islamic Civilization/s throughout history, have been very rich and dynamic. If there was no creativity in the Islamic world, than how do you explain the fact that much of the knowledge that set the basis for the industrial revolution came to Europe through the Muslim world (Algebra,geometry, philosophy,geography,medicine etc.? Or how do you explain the presence of monumental wonders such as the Taj Mahal in India or the Alhambra in Spain? Also, there was, and still is, a variety of schools of thought within Islam, and the presence of a plethora of different non-Muslim traditions that have flourished in the Muslim world. Many try to present Islam as some sort of authoritarian, unthinking boy scout religion and civilization that promotes a uniformity of thought and inhibits creativity and freedom. People who hold this view are either ignorant of Islam and the history of Islamic civilizations, or are purposefully misleading others.

    Generally, I think Zaid
    Shakir 's brand of Islam is a positive force in the U.S. I take exception with his comment that he would like everyone to be Moslem, as I take exception to the Christian belief that it would be better if everyone were Christian. As a Jewish person, I am proud to be part of a faith that does not evangelize. Evangelism is the epitome of intolerance.

    Mr. Moyers,
    Thank you for conducting such an informative and objective interview. Imam Zaid Shakir represents the majority muslims views. I want to thank you for amplifying his voice.
    Sincerley,
    Azfar Chak

    While I was grateful for the opportunity for myself and other viewers to view a presentation of valid Islamic views of life in American, presented very scholarly and sincerely by Iman Shakir, it was disappointing and exasperating that still the misunderstanding of Islam is still prevalent, as expressed by your questions and then by many comments from viewers. My first contentions was your questioning Iman Shakir's exploration of other beliefs, like meditation and communism as perhaps negative examples that his searching lend him to the road of Islam when instead he clearly stated his search was for truth, which he found in Islam. American culture is primarily Judo-Christian, where seeking knowledge of life is not supported. Other examples that you and many view failed to acknowledge was in your constant assertion that assimilation in American Christian society is the answer to societal problems not instead, a new way of viewing the problem. You did not even acknowledge that alternative religions and ways of life as just as valid as so-called Christian life. The viewers comments that she lived under repressive regimes, representating themselves as Islamic governemnts should take the time to read and reflect on the Qur'an herself now that she has that previledge now that she lives in America. If she has an ounce of intelligence she will she that many men misrepresent the teachings of the Qur'an just as many misrepresent the teaching of the Bible or the Torah. Even you , at your station and intelligence misrepresnted the verse s of the Qur'an about striking women. Read the entire chapter which is a complete outline of social interaction among peoples. People put off obedience with various excuses and even when they obey in the letter they fail in the spirit, life is movement activity striving fighting against baser things.American society may have come a long way baby, but not far enough when the lyrics of popular music still degrade women and their station in society. (African American Rap music for one)While I trully applaud your journalist approach to include many and all points of view including Islam, it also exposes the true lack of understanding about who and what is the American Muslims. I was born in America, my mother, her mother and so on were all born in American. I have recent as well as past Native American blood in my veins, so I am a real American. I condenm any acts of terrrism no matter who th eperpertrators are, but I find that most are not as tolerate of their condemnation. It is okay that the US detains men without trail in Guantanamo, but an outrage (and indeed it is) if men fighting on their on home soil (Iraq) detain a foreigner in their homeland. What a double standard and frankly I don't find it patriotic at all. Ethnic cleasing abroad is ghastly, where was (is) the outrage when the US Army practiced their ethnic cleansing of native Americans. Mostly, I am grateful that I live in a country like America where I can express my views and outrage, but I offended that my views are condenmed if I don't support those who equally supress life and liberty in the name of God.

    Sorry I meant to write pertinent and not conducive in paragraph below.

    Also, one of the posters below said that Islam is a religion of submission, it is inherently opposed to creativity and intellectual pursuits, and consequently this is why it missed the 'Enlightenment' and subsequent scientific advancements of Europe. There are many theories as to why the industrial revolution did not take place in the Muslim world before Western Europe, but you will be hard pressed to find a credible one that suggests it was because of the theological constraints of Islam. The various Islamic Civilization/s throughout history, have been very rich and dynamic. If there was no creativity in the Islamic world, than how do you explain the fact that much of the knowledge that set the basis for the industrial revolution came to Europe through the Muslim world (Algebra,geometry, philosophy,geography,medicine etc.? Or how do you explain the presence of monumental wonders such as the Taj Mahal in India or the Alhambra in Spain? Also, there was, and still is, a variety of schools of thought within Islam, and the presence of a plethora of different non-Muslim traditions that have flourished in the Muslim world. Many try to present Islam as some sort of authoritarian, unthinking boy scout religion and civilization that promotes a uniformity of thought and inhibits creativity and freedom. People who hold this view are either ignorant of Islam and the history of Islamic civilizations, or are purposefully misleading others.

    Thank you Bill Moyers for a great interview with Imam Zaid Shakir, and giving him an opportunity to express his views. Your questions were very conducive to the issues facing Muslim Americans and its relationship with the larger American society.

    Dear Mr. Moyers

    Thank you very much for your immense foresight in the true role of journalism. It shows that you're sincere to your profession and to the story at hand. Your questions of Imam Zaid Shakir were necessary and relevant to the current state of Muslims living in America and Canada. You asked for clarification where needed and did not shy from some 'controversial' issues.

    The fact that a quote from a sacred text such as the Qur'an on a topic as such was asked to be clarified shows the limitations of media interviews yet points to a greater need for understanding and willingness on part of Imam Zaid to answer you as best as possible.

    Once again thank you for highlighting one of the true leaders of the Muslim community among many.

    In faith,

    Ayaz

    Dear Mr. Moyers

    Thank you very much for your immense foresight in the true role of journalism. It shows that you're sincere to your profession and to the story at hand. Your questions of Imam Zaid Shakir were necessary and relevant to the current state of Muslims living in America and Canada. You asked for clarification where needed and did not shy from some 'controversial' issues. The fact that a quote from a sacred text such as the Qur'an on a topic as such was asked to be clarified shows the limitations of media interviews yet points to a greater need for understanding and willingness on part of Imam Zaid to answer you as best as possible. Once again thank you for highlighting one of the true leaders of the Muslim community among many.

    In faith,

    Ayaz

    you can watch this well covered intelligent moslem woman trying to convince a moslem man that a woman should be allowed to drive a car(women are not allowed to drive a car in saudi Arabia).


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtBTIpP8hM4

    Dear snaa,

    Those inheritance laws were perhaps suited for women of 1400 years ago when they were not independent.

    Today woman work and support their family and do not need their husband to take care of them. A woman does not marry someone to take care of her. She marries someone whom she loves and wants to share her life with him.

    After my late father died, it was the girls who took care of their mother not her son who gave all his inheritance money to his materialistic wife to buy luxury goods.

    Somewhere I read "you are welcome to worship a stone as long as you do not throw it at me”.

    I do not wish to live according to repressive laws of Islam and according to Islamic rules I must be killed for leaving Islam.

    Islamic laws for women are inhumane. Please live in Iran or other Moslem countries for a while and then come back here and share your experience.

    http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&catid=&topic=6

    In addition I have a difficult time comprehending marriage of Muhammad to the little nine years old Aisha.

    http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=746


    Bill Moyers, thank you for interviewing Imam Zaid Shakir. Despite his intelligence and courteous manners, I am not more comfortable with Islam now than I was before seeing Imam Shakir speak. I read a large part of the Q'uran some years ago and was most offended by its paternalistic authoritarianism and deeply disappointed in its constant threats of eternal suffering for unbelievers. Imam Shakir evaded your question regarding the Q'uran's dogmatic insistance on the inequality of women in Islam. Shakir's eyes shifted and he talked about what he called "universal laws" that he thinks will override other cultures. I think by his answer he inferred that Islamic "laws" are what he calls "universal laws." If I understood his answer correctly, then in his view of the universe, women, or anyone who is not a follower of Islam, is not fully equal with Islamic men in most regards. Because of this Islam is not a culture or a faith that I want instituted in my personal life, school, government, or workplace. The major religions (Islam, Jedaism, Hinduism, Christianity, whatever) when joined to government have always used written dogma to enforce false differences most cruelly. At the core all these faiths err by believing in supernatural intervention as a way to coerce compliant behavior. This emphasis on compliance leads to nothing but error in motive, which leads to errors in thought and deed, and terrible problems.
    I hope that those who presently call themselves a member of any of these faiths will eventually learn they can be responsive to human need and love without having to channel it through the filter of any written or preached dogma or supernatural being.
    For what it is worth, I have found the sutras of Buddhism far more humane and useful for developing a responsible and compassionate life than any of the other faiths I have studied or encountered.

    Imam Zaid Shakir is someone who truly represents Muslims in North America. He is intelligent, compassionate, personable, and sincere. Thank you Bill Moyers and PBS for giving viewers an honest and accurate perception.

    For those who are complaining that Imam Zaid did not answer questions completely, please attend his regular talks all over North America and read his literary works. He has always answered questions fully and honestly. The editing on the show was needed to fit in more content in little time. Imam Zaid did not edit his words, the show did, as all television programs must do.

    Bill Moyers is the best and I thank him for another great interview.

    The one thing that bugged me about the Imam was his lack of outright condemnation of five people being beheaded. While he did condemn this in general later, he instead brought up Madeline Albright and the bombing of a sewage treatment plant.

    To me, I would say ANY violence needs to be condemned - period. I wanted to hear the Imam immediately say 'yes, that was a despicable act'. And so are bombings on various countries and societies throughout the world. But instead it was a switching of the subject to another US injustice. (And yes I know those injustices to exist and yes I am saddened that the US govt will never be held accountable for them).

    Jihad is a holy war, but it is only with ones inner-self. This is indeed a noble precept. However, it is our human imperfection that distorts its real meaning. For me, there is no way I can give the Judeo-based religions any credibility when they're so divisive, so convinced they're right and that everyone else is wrong. When I talk to people who have an admiration of those of faith, I only have to remind them of the 19 faithful that brought down the WTC towers or the the faithful that denied the AIDS epidemic for so long or the crusades or any number of faith based acts foisted on humanity.

    I do not believe in violence of any sort; do not believe in any subjugation or lessening of any woman; do not believe in conversion; I do not believe that we should all be of one faith or else. Above all, I believe in humanism and to have compassion and empathy for all human beings and not just some that are 'like me'. No religion I've come across truly values the human - there's always some catch or some rule or some way to oppress.

    Again I am left unimpressed by another 'religious scholar'.

    Well done Mr. Moyers,

    As an American Muslim I applaud your interview with the leading voice of American Islam, Imam Zaid Shakir, who like me is a fellow graduate of Rutgers University, New Jersey!

    However when I read ignorant and downright malicious Islamophobic posts where the voices of fear are right-beneath the surface, I would like to say the beauty of Islam is that it teaches us not to respond in the same angry tone. Few Muslims do it anyway, but THAT IS our nature as humans...so one can see how the normative religious practice is twisted because people are people.

    Just as a silent majority of Americans don't support the bombardment and invasion of Muslim Iraq, a majority of Muslims are loyal, hardworking, taxpaying, peace-loving humanists. It might be a shock for some to learn, I know...but that is truly the shocking part.

    So again thank you for this enlightening intervier Mr. Moyers. And am looking forward to more 'mainstream' Imams being interviewed by you and the mainstream media who choose the extreme fringes, precisely because its sensationalism and exciting.

    Well done.

    I have studied the reasons for inheritance. In islam the son gets twice what the female gets,and if studied, the reason is that a man when married has to support his wife and children his whole family, and if his father dies he supports his mother and sisters etc. So he has more of a responsibility. Whereas a woman keeps everything she inherits and uses it as she wishes and doesnt need to support her family with the money but she may.So the womans money is her own, so she gets 1 share. So when looking at this it is easy to see that a man has much more responsibility supporting people thus getting a higher share, whereas the womeans money is her own. There is wisdom in all the rulings, and they have to be studied.

    A glance at such rulings, will not bring an understanding, and all the rulings of Islam, have a true wisdom behind it and when studied with scholars and studied properly is the true understanding given.

    There is no muslim state on the earth and no country follows the Sunnah(the way of the prophet) and the Quran in full. So no country can be said to be a complete practise of Islam. But the contray most of the goverments are corrupt and not close to Islam but away from it. The golden ages of Islam, was when it was practiced in full, It has produced many scientists, mathematicians and scholars and is one of the worlds fastest growing religions.

    May God guide and protect us all.

    Many thanks for this excellent interview with the imam. I liked especially his manner of presentation - it was clear that he loves his faith, as did the women interviewed as well. A person in love with his faith, it seems to me, is someone that nobody needs to fear, that everyone can learn from. Just as any lover, he glows with an inner radiance; and like a bee happy to be gathering wonderful pollen in a feast of flowers, he is not out to dominate the world or to destroy those with whom he disagrees. There is a lesson here for those who would use their faith as a bludgeon, whatever faith that may happen to be.

    I loved this interview.

    Dear Bill Moyers,
    Thank you for this well-researched, intelligent
    example of journalism: what the citizenry deserves.

    Your interview with Imam Zaid is a fine example of how integrity in journalim and more information and knowledge will contribute to harmony between peoples.

    Of course, there will be many people who express that the answers were not adequate or were evaded, but these individuals should realize that brevity and editing is obviously needed in a 30 minute segment. Before complaining and attacking the Imam, please take the time to read or listen to what else he and other scholars have said on the issues of contention listed here.

    "Hitler wrote and preached his plan for world domination.
    Posted by: Jerry | June 23, 2007 08:36 AM"

    I'm not surprised that you brought up Hitler, your lack of tolerance is the primary catalyst for fascist regimes throughout history.

    Tolerance has been the basis for our Democracy since day one, tolerance for different religious and cultural beliefs that made this country the envy of the world at one time. A minority of radical zealots, proclaiming themselves and their twisted beliefs to be Christian, has changed all that through intolerance against certain minority groups and their relationship to specific ethnic groups in other parts of the world. This action calls forth the politics of division and turns back the clock to a time of racial hatred in this country.
    I would recommend that you read a book that was recently published, “American Fascist” by Chris Hedges. Chris is a long time journalist but his academic training was in Religion with a degree from Harvard’s School of Divinity in the early 1980s. Chris tells a story of an elderly professor who had spent time in Germany during the 1930s and Hitler’s assent to power. He was concerned about the language being used by some of the prominent Right-Wing Fundamentalist in the early 1980s, it sounded exactly like the rhetoric used by the Nazi Party prior to the burning of the Reichstag.

    Dear snaa- a

    I also should add that I do not live in America and fled the islamic repulic of Iran and its inhumane laws based on Islam. So, not everyone commenting here lives in the US.

    You are lucky living in a free society (UK). I will buy your free ticket to live in Iran for a few months and see how women are treated there.
    http://images.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http://hrw.org/images/mena/2006/iran13548_2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/06/15/iran13548.htm&h=227&w=300&sz=40&hl=en&start=31&tbnid=utXX22DGw5fNXM:&tbnh=88&tbnw=116&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dwomen%2Biran%26start%3D18%26ndsp%3D18%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

    Dear snaa- a

    I also should add that I do not live in America and fled the islamic repulic of Iran and its inhumane laws based on Islam. So, not everyone commenting here lives in the US.

    You are lucky living in a free society (UK). I will buy your free ticket to live in Iran for a few months and see how women are treated there.
    http://images.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http://hrw.org/images/mena/2006/iran13548_2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/06/15/iran13548.htm&h=227&w=300&sz=40&hl=en&start=31&tbnid=utXX22DGw5fNXM:&tbnh=88&tbnw=116&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dwomen%2Biran%26start%3D18%26ndsp%3D18%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

    Dear snaa- a,

    Please read the Quran thoroughly and in a language that you understand, not Arabic (unless it is your mother tongue).

    I have have read the quran several times. You might be surprised to know that I even know parts of quran by heart as I learned it as a child. Please look up the following issues and compare the rights of women and men according to quran:

    -inheritance law
    -penalty for loss of life of a woman vs a man (a man's life is worth x 2)
    -punishment for an abusive/disobedient as they put spouse (men can beat their wife and what can a woman do ???)
    -a female witness vs a male witness (2 female witness = one male witness)
    -why a woman should not be a judge, women are not allowed to practice as a judge
    example:
    Ms Shirin Ebadi, the noble peace prize laureate, was denied practice as a judge after the Islamic government took over in Iran.

    my friend you need to read , educate yourself and perhaps travel.

    I respect you choice of practicing Islam. However, I hope that you also respect my choice of leaving Islam and not wanting to live according to such backward repressive laws.


    with best regards


    Being from the U.k im so suprised to read all those comments above, it seems people in America have very little contact with muslims.

    Being a practicing muslim woman, I can say my religion allows me to study at university ,become a pharmacist and help people of all faiths and all colours. My religion teaches me to help people and I gain a satisfaction in being some sort of help for elders those my age, any age who are in problems, no matter what colour they are or what they look like .My religion teaches me to respect my elders and help all those in need.

    Im 20years old and I live in the U.k, and I have been blessed with this religion and way of life. My parents are not necessarily practicing but I have chosen to practice my religion (yes that includes wearing a head scarf!). Islam gives me peace and contentment. I know I don’t have to go out, dress up for men, and that I am not on display for men "to check me out" I am covered and I choose who ever i want to see me. Doesn’t mean we cant dress up and look nice, we do exactly what all girls do, especially when we all meet up, or at parties etc. Just the other day me and my friends went out to eat and a friend of mine from school who is very pretty, beautiful hair and she has a gorgeous smile, was wearing a scarf, for the first time! When we were at college she didn’t used to wear a scarf, and now she made the choice of covering her beauty and not having it on display. She wasn’t forced, but it was her choice to cover her self.

    Islam encourages education in both women and men, a man can teach one person but a woman can teach so many people, so if the mothers educated, she’s the one who generally nurtures and brings up her children and teaches them(in western culture and eastern culture-naturally its the mother who spends more time and has a greater bond with her children in comparison to the father, who also does but not to the same extent.)

    In Islam women and men receive the same same reward in acts of goodness, spiritually there is no difference, but physically a man is more strong then a women, so he is given the role, of supporting the family, now if a woman chooses to work, there’s no harm in that!-but she doesn’t NEED to go out and put food on the table! A woman may work and also look after the children, her role is to look after and nurture, educate her children and its the fathers role to look after his children too.

    Women now in the western world are choosing to stay at home and spend time with there children and stay with there children to see the precious first years of life and would rather spend time with there children then go out and work full time !But Islam gave us that right 1400 years ago.

    Many people dont even know that Muslims believe in Jesus, Moses Abraham, Solomon, Aaron etc to be the prophets of God.And there is mention of Jesus christ in the Quran, Mary the mother of Jesus, Moses and many other things.


    As for beatings, majority of Muslims do not, interpret the Quran and the words of the prophet, to mean such things. And I can say if anyone was known to be doing such things people would think like how any non-muslim would be thinking!

    Those people that do such acts have a lack of knowledge of Islam, and that is what you see, in places such as pakistan, afghanistan etc etc. These people dont have knowledge about there religion.

    I didn’t realize that id wrote so much, but I hope its given people who are not Muslim a little more of a insight into Islam, and see that theres so much more to it and all you are hearing are bad things, don’t judge the Islam by the people but judge the people by Islam. Islam is a beutiful religion and i would encourage people just to learn a little about it, even it it expels, a few of there misconceptions.


    With Peace
    Snaa

    the link for the recently scheduled stoning in Iran.

    Iranian plans to stone alleged adulterers halted:

    http://www.eux.tv/article.aspx?articleId=10215

    sorry the year was 1979.

    I was born in Iran in a very modest and open minded yet righteous family. I learned Arabic at the age of 5 just to be able to read Qoran (Moslem's holey book). I fasted every ramazan (the month of fasting in Islam) along with my family every year and did my daily prayers regularly. Until, Khomeini returned to Iran and stole the Iranian revolution in 1978 and soon afterwards thousands of innocent young progressive Iranians were arrested and many executed.

    After reading Quran's translation, I decided to leave Islam and no longer abide by its rules.

    There are children being hung and killed under Islamic law in Iran after 1979 (girls are considerer an adault at the age of 9 and boys at age of 15).

    There women being stoned to death after being accused of adultery.

    just a couple of days ago with a lot of international effort two people were rescued from this inhumane act of stoning:

    http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article934418.ece

    we can not live according to the rules written 1400 years ago.

    thank you

    Beware! It doesn't take the entire population of a country or a religion to bring terror to this world. A small percentage of radicals combined with a silent majority can cause havoc. Islamic extremists like Nazi extremists promote death to those that are not one of them. We can't afford to wait for the silent majority to wake up this time.

    Hitler wrote and preached his plan for world domination. People didn't believe he could pull it off till it was too late. The Qur'an also preaches world domination. The choices given are: become a Muslim, pay higher taxes or be killed. Let's not make the same mistake!

    greetings,

    These are the kind of interviews we never see on CNN. I live in Europe and unfortunately, the CNN international edition is available here and programs such as larry king.

    I am really grateful that your interviews are available on line.

    with best regards

    Imam Shakir's answer, when asked whether a particular verse in the Qur'an endorses wife-beating, was the worst example of "evasion through carefully chosen illogic" that I've seen, since... well, since the last time I saw Karl Rove speak.

    The logic of the Imam's response was something very much like this: "That verse does not endorse wife-beating, because any man who is mean enough to beat his wife will just go ahead and beat her, regardless of whether his religion endorses wife-beating."

    Does everyone here see the flaw in his logic?

    The question isn't how do people who want to be something get effected by it, the question is how does someone who doesn't want it is treated. What if the Shakir's had a daughter who didn't want to be a Muslim? At 18 she goes to college because she wants to be a doctor and meets a nice Catholic boy who also wants her to be a doctor. She decides to marry him and convert. She completely abandons Islam. Or she finds a bible in a hotel room on a family trip, reads it and it just makes more sense than anything she's ever read and wants to live as a christian. Or she justs wants to go to parties, date lot's of people and get in her share of drink, dance and romance before setteling down with whomever she chooses. How do they treat this daughter?

    God Is Not Great
    How Religion Poisons Everything
    Christopher Hitchens

    Revelation: The Nightmare of the “Old” Testament

    Another way in which religion betrays itself, and attempts to escape mere reliance on faith and instead offer “evidence” in the sense normally understood, is by the argument from revelation. On certain very special occasions, it is asserted, the divine will was made known by direct contact with randomly selected human beings, who were supposedly vouchsafed unalterable laws that could then be passed on to those less favored.
    There are some very obvious objections to be made to this. In the first place, several such disclosures have been claimed to occur, at different times and places, to hugely discrepant prophets or mediums. In some cases – most notably the Christian – one revelation is apparently not sufficient, and needs to be reinforced by successive apparitions, with the promise of a further but ultimate one to come. In other cases, the opposite difficulty occurs and the divine instruction is delivered, only once, and for the final time, to an obscure personage whose lightest word then becomes law. Since all of these revelations, many of them hopelessly inconsistent, cannot by definition be simultaneously true, it must follow that some of them are false and illusory. It could also follow that only one of them is authentic, but in the first place this seems dubious and in the second place it appears to necessitate religious war in order to decide whose revelation is the true one. A further difficulty is the apparent tendency of the Almighty to reveal himself only to unlettered and quasi-historical individuals, in regions of Middle Eastern wasteland that were long the home of idol worship and superstition, and in many instances already littered with existing prophecies.

    The syncretic tendencies of monotheism, and the common ancestry of the tales, mean in effect that a rebuttal to one is a rebuttal to all. Horribly and hatefully though they may have fought with one another, the three monotheisms claim to share a descent at least from the Pentateuch of Moses, and the Koran certifies Jews as “people of the book,” Jesus as a prophet, and a virgin as his mother. (Interestingly, the Koran does not blame the Jews for the murder of Jesus, as one book of the Christian New Testament does, but this is only because it makes the bizarre claim that someone else was crucified by the Jews in his place.)

    The foundation story of all three faiths concerns the purported meeting between Moses and god, at the summit of Mount Sinai. This in turn led to the handing down of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. The tale is told in the second book of Moses, known as the book of Exodus, in chapters 20 – 40. Most attention has been concentrated on chapter 20 itself, where the actual commandments are given. It should not perhaps be necessary to summarize and expose these, but the effort is actually worthwhile.

    In the first place (I am using the King James or “Authorized” Version: one among many rival texts laboriously translated by mortals either from Hebrew or Greek or Latin), the so-called commandments do not appear as a neat list of ten orders and prohibitions. The first three are all variations of the same one, in which god insists on his own primacy and exclusivity, forbids the making of graven images, and prohibits the taking of his own name in vain. This prolonged throat-clearing is accompanied buy some very serious admonition, including a dire warning that the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children “even unto the third and fourth generations.” This negates the moral and reasonable idea that children are innocent of their parents’ offenses. The fourth commandment insists on the observance of a holy Sabbath day, and forbids all believers – and their slaves and domestic servants – to perform any work in the course of it. It is added that, as was said in the book of Genesis, god made all the world in six days and rested on the seventh (leaving room for speculation as to what he did on the eighth day). The dictation then becomes more terse. “Honor thy father and thy mother” (this not for its own sake but in order “that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee”). Only then come the four famous “shalt nots,” which flatly prohibit killing, adultery, theft, and false witness. Finally, there is a ban on covetousness, forbidding the desire for thy neighbor’s” house, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass, wife, and other chattel.

    It would be harder to find an easier proof that religion is manmade. There, is first, the monarchical growling about respect ad fear, accompanied by a stern reminder of omnipotence and limitless revenge, of the sort with which a Babylonian or Assyria emperor might have ordered the scribes to begin a proclamation. There is then a sharp reminder to keep working and only to relax when the absolutist says so. A few crisp legalistic reminders follow, one of which is commonly misrendered because the original Hebrew actually says “thou shalt do no murder.” But however little one thinks of the Jewish tradition, it is surely insulting to the people of Moses to imagine that theft, and perjury were permissible. (The same unanswerable point can be in a different way about the alleged later preaching’s of Jesus: when he tell the story of the Good Samaritan on that Jericho road he is speaking of a man who acted in a humane and generous manner without, obviously, ever having heard of Christianity, let alone having followed the pitiless teachings of the god of Moses, who never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all.) No society ever discovered has failed to protect itself from self-evident crimes like those supposedly stipulated at Mount Sinai. Finally, instead of the condemnation of evil actions, there is an oddly phrased condemnation of impure thoughts. One can tell that this, too, is a man-made product of alleged time and place, because it throws in “wife” along with the other property, animal, human, and material, of the neighbor. More important, it demands the impossible: a recurrent problem with all religious edicts. One may be forcibly restrained from wicked actions, or barred from committing them, but to forbid people from contemplating them is too much. In particular, it is absurd to hope to banish envy of other people’s possessions or fortunes, if only because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences. (It seems improbable that the American fundamentalists, who desire to see the Ten Commandments emblazoned in every schoolroom courtroom – almost like a graven image – are so hostile to the spirit of capitalism.) If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts, he should have taken more care to invent a different species.

    Uhh huh, thirty bucks for the book and evasion. Nice.

    In response, to the comment regarding the question on women's rights in Islam; the Quranic quote used by Mr. Moyers was loosely translated and taken out of context.

    Due to obvious time constraints in a 30 minute segment, that issue could not be discussed adequately. Imam Zaid Shakir would have spent an hour clarifying this if that time was so alloted.

    In my laypersons understanding, the Arabic word translated as 'beat' is not correct.
    Women are given equal, albeit different standing and the rights afforded them in Islam are remarkably contemporary in their rationale and range.

    Very briefly, Muslim women can seek to be educated in any area and choose to work, they have a right to spend their income where they please, a woman has a right to domestic help if it is attainable, mothers are considered to play the most important roles in the educational growth of their children and therefore are strongly encouraged to be educated, etc.
    Cultural and financial constraints and patterns should not be confused with Islamic guidelines.

    Further information on these issues and others can be found at websites such as newislamicdirections.com

    Mr. Moyers,
    Thanks for asking some tough questions about Muslim Americans.
    Even though I tell myself not to judge Muslims I see in my small Midwestern community by the actions of the radicals in other parts of the world, I do.
    Muslim religion has been tainted in my thoughts just as my perception of Catholic priests have been tainted, both by the actions of the very few. In reason I know most people, regardless of religion are pretty much the same as the rest of us. In reality some red flags go up when I see a priest, a Muslim or a group of bilkers.

    Your interview this evening with Imam Zaid Shakir was deeply informative and intelligent: what the citizenry deserves. Thank you for returning to journalism and providing this well-researched piece. It is a refreshing break from the barrage of confusing whiplash and unthinking sensationalism that has become the norm for today's media.
    We look forward to viewing your program.

    Mr. Moyers,

    Thanks for an insightful, informative interview with Imam Shakir. Thank you PBS for airing it. Public Television membership has its rewards...

    Mr. Moyers,

    Thanks for an insightful, informative interview with Imam Shakir. Thank you PBS for airing it. Public Television membership has its rewards...

    I am so heartened and relived to see you talking with Zaid Shakir on your show and for aggressively questioning him so that the Imam was able answer those questions on so many people's minds. If only we can get more mainstream Muslims on television to displace the small but far too visible extremists.

    We are biologically programmed to be in-group/out-group people. Add very real fear of what seems like a violent, irrational Other to that natural instinct, and it can be terribly difficult to move beyond that fear in our attempt to create a liberal society. Liberalism -- a belief system in which every individual has equal, innate value -- takes work. Hard, painful work. This segment of your program, Mr. Moyers, is one small effort in the arduous work Liberalism requires.

    The segment on Imam Shakir was superb. It reinforced my belief that Muslims in the United States, for the most part, are very peaceful truth-seekers, who can live at peace with other human beings with other belief structures. I was very impressed with Shakir's sincerity, honesty, and his ability to express himself with such uncommon clarity.

    In my eyes, Imam Shakir serves as an extraordinary spokesman for peaceful Muslims living in the United States.

    First, Mr. Moyers, you are a welcome guest in our home, more so for having been away for a while.
    Each of the world's three montheistic traditions has their version of a "Golden Rule." For the Jews it is "Don't do to another what you wouldn't want done to you." For the Christians, "Do unto others..." the same idea stated in the positive. Moslems say,"Treat your guest (or those you encounter) better than you treat yourself."
    Differing from many, I welcome Jehovah's Witnesses, magazine salesmen, Girl Scouts, pretty much any young person who knocks on my door, not because I've a need for what they have on offer, but because the longer they're in my home, the longer they're off the streets and in a welcoming place. Likewise, the more time anybody spends in Temple, Church or Mosque the better, for the same reasons.
    Yet, if everyone studied not a single word of Torah, the Bible or the Koran, and never visited a house of prayer, but remained true to one or another version of the Golden Rule, that alone would suffice to lay a foundation for greatly improving the human condition, would it not? This point underlies the visceral sentiments evident in the engaged and engaging discussion you had with the Imam tonight, two sincere men of faith, each with a will to do good, seeking understanding. And that makes for fine, fine television, sir. Thank you and PBS.
    Oh yes, a word about the oppression of women. Is it more oppressive to demand that they uncover or cover? Does an excess of modesty trump an excess of immodesty? As a modern, I'd say the issue can be one of free will for those able to provide informed consent. The problem each culture confronts, Moslem and Western, is not with the concept of to cover or not to cover, but with the manner in which each implements the verb "to demand." Hmmm... Come to think of it that idea has much broader applications, doesn't it?

    Decades ago, there was an article in Scientific American asking and answering the question of why--when Islam was heir to the wealth and learning of the ancient world, when it had all the advantages of natural and human resources, Islamic science and technology did not progress beyond a certain point. The early Islamic rulers had conquered rich and thriving lands, where the tradition of scholarship and technological innovation were unbroken.

    What, then, limited progress in those lands? Why were Europeans--who had been isolated from their cultural roots by Islamic conquests, overrun by repeated barbarian invasions from the east and north, and cramped into far more difficult climatic conditions for agriculture--why were they the ones to struggle up from extreme poverty and ignorance and take off intellectually and scientifically?

    No one, four hundred years after Muslim invasions of neighboring lands began, would have picked the Europeans to surpass Islamic empires in technology, science, general knowledge.

    Yet it happened. And it happened because of the nature of Islam. Note: this is not to ignore the variety of "styles" of Islam in different regions over many centuries. But at root, as its name says, it is a religion of submission. And that leads inevitably to political and economic and theological forces that inhibit creativity, intellectual growth, and personal freedom. Everyone may be equal before God, but they are not equal before Sharia law: women are not equal to men in court (a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's) non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims in the law (as more than one American working in countries under Sharia law found out.) When "submission" is the highest value, there is no reason to search for more or different truths--truth has already been laid down and the individual's duty is submission. Children's submission to parents, women's submission to men, men's submission to rulers, everyone's submission to Allah.

    This attitude is not unique to Islam, of course. But it is integral to Islam, and it is not integral to, for instance, Christianity or to individuals who claim no religion at all. It is certainly not integral to democracy--and in fact, absolute submission is inimical to democracy. And submission is inimical to scientific and technological progress, which demand the ability and willingness to question existing knowledge, to follow logic and observed fact wherever they may go.

    In some times and places, Islamic leaders have not demanded absolute submission--but the possibility is always there, a chilling influence on freedom of thought, as the Inquisition once was. This was not inevitable, and need not be inevitable in the future--but changing it would require (as did the Reformation and the Englightenment, with respect to Christianity and humanism) facing the reality of Islam and not its mythology.

    Yes, Thank you Bill for a very fine interview. Commenters have already expressed much of the comments that my household was making.

    Shakir is obviously a very intellegent person; which begs the question, as with anyone of good intellect, of WHY they by into a religion hook, line and sinker with such passion!

    Bill, after your wonderful interviews with Joseph Cambell and your own extensive knowledge, it would be wonderful for you to interview Shakir with Sam Harris (The End of Faith), who makes many good points that question the validity of faith and how 'beneficial' any religious adherance to mankind. I find it very sad that so many in educated societies still find they must 'practice' some religious dogma to feel personally at peace with themselves.

    At least discussions that you bring to us help to enlighten and perhaps at least understand our fellow humans.

    "62% of Muslim women believe that life is better for them in the United States than in Muslim countries."
    That is because we inherited the Wisdom from the Enlightenment ... Thomas Pane and Jefferson, Ben Franklin and other that they got religion out of government ... the Middle East has not had the Enlightenment yet, and their religion still dictates the law from a archaic book full of ambiguities like all the religious books of the world ... it them becomes a dangerous dogma that imposes its superstitious beliefs onto the other and has been most cruel in doing so.


    Thank-you Bill 4 a great interview w/Imam Shakir.

    Quit rightly, Islam effectively disowns the idea that it is a new faith, let alone a cancellation of the earlier ones, and it uses the prophecies of the Old Testament and the Gospes of the New like a perpetual crutch or fund, to be leaned on or drawn upon. In return for this derivative modesty, all it asks is to be accepted as the absolute and final revelation.
    As might be expected, it contains many internal contradictions. It is often cited as saying that "there is no compulsion in religion," and as making reassuring noises about those of other faiths being peoples "of the book" or "followers of an earlier revelation." The idea of being "tolerated" by a Muslim is as repulsive to me as the other condescensions whereby Catholic and Protestant Christians agree to "tolerate" one another, or extend "toleration" to Jews. The Christian world was so awful in this respect, and for so long, that many Jews perferred to live under Ottoman rule and submit to special taxes and other such distinctions. However, the actual Koranic reference to Islam's benign tolerance is qualified, because some of these same "peoples" and "followers" may be "such of them as are bent on evil-doing" And it takes only a short acquaintance with the Koran and the hadith to discover other imperatives, such as the following:
    "Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdome, would like to come back to the world and be killed again." Or:
    "God will not forgive those who serve other gods beside Him; but he will forgive whom He will for other sins. He that serves other gods besides God is guilty of heinous sin."

    I chose the first of these two violent excerpts (from a whole thesaurus of unsavory possible ones) because it so perfectly negates what Socrates is reported to have said in Plato' "Apology." And I chose the second because it is such a patent and abject borrowing from the "Ten Commandments."

    This is the same language, and the same region, from which much of Judaism and Christianity emerged: there can be no doubt that unfettered research would result in the dispelling of much obscurantism. But, at the very point when Islam ought to be joining its predeccessors in subjecting itself to rereadings, there is a "soft" consensus among almost all the religious that, because of the supposed duty to assert its claims at their own face value. Once again, faith is helping to choke free inquiry and the emancipating consequences that it might bring.

    I love watching Bill Moyers on Friday night! He covers a good spectrum of topics and does so thoroughly.
    I appretiate having this Imam speak about Islam. Islam's jist is do good to people, pray to God, give charity, and know that there is a final judgement at the end of this world. Just like all the major religions. Most Muslim countries are third world countries that are just a mess. Its hard to know when they will improve. Most Muslims in America are good contributing members of society and not public charges. They just want to live a peaceful life, they are able to have that here.
    Concerning the comment of Islam not respecting women... it is traditional hang ups in third world countries where there is no education or resources that lead to inequalities. Islam as a religion actually gave women more rights then even the Bible. The Imams response is right, it is individuals not religion that harm women. Also the reason why a women cannot lead prayer is because in Islam a women gets a break from praying when she has her period.
    Who will lead the prayer if the Imam has her period?
    Also Bill Moyers, when you said "the religion was written by man for man" I disagree, Muslims believe the Quran was written by God for Man. If you fail to follow what God has written then...
    what is religion?
    ....does the evolution of religion (as far as changing your religous practices, thinking) empower the religion or delute the text of the religion over time?

    Thank you Bill Moyers for the segment on Imam Zaid Shakir. Also, thank you for interviewing Muslim women in America too. Thank you for interviewing a mainstream Muslim. Very responsible journalism, I hope you receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

    The observation that struck me most about the Imam Shakir interview was his statement that we must "seek the truth". This too me is not only scientific but religious. Personally, I was raised a Christian fundamentalist, the odd right wing kind. I probably would be still a member of this strange group of individuals if it wasn't for science. Through science I discovered evolution...much later on I discovered cosmology and via this fascinating physical science I read about how quarks became protons, how nuclear particles interacted with electrons to form atoms, how vast collection of atoms formed stars, how stars via fusion created new atoms (new elements), how these new elements where spewed out of dying stars to form supernovae (yes I have a point to this sequence), these new elements formed planets, and finally how through mysterious chemical processses life came to be. This, very abridiged, sequence appeared to have a purpose - that of increasing complexity. If it wasn't as Imam Shakir's said - this inquiry into truth - I probabaly would be very lost. I think that is why Imam Shakir loves America here - we are free to pursue our own personal journey into what is true for us. This is something that we must pursue for ourselves - Imam Shair found Islam, I found science, some one else may find buddhism. We can only find truth for ouselves if we are brave enough to start the inquiry.

    Wow! What a great program tonight. Bill, you and Ken, rendered us a valuable service-making us, Americans, more aware of how corrupt and seditious our political system is.

    I definitely appreciated the eminent intelligence of Iman Shakir, the points and delineations he makes and his sense of humor. Unfortunately, it seems from all the news we hear about Islamic countries it appears that wife beating and oppression of women is much more the norm than a minority (and such heinous acts as burning women alive).

    It would be good if all the just imans and Muslims of the world who condemned these horrors enacted on women in the name of Islam and the horrors of "jihad" in the name of Islam would come together in a world congress to straighten out this apostacy. It would take a lot of physical and moral courage. Not easy.

    Finally, Bill you were really active in questioning Iman Shakir. When you are active in the interview and don't let anyone get away with half truths, fallacies, etc. the conversation is high level and stimulating. Good work!

    Memo to kris: not sure you were listening closely. Shakir pointed out that countries, cultures and societies differ in their conservatism, cultural standards and interpretation of religion. Perhaps it is countries that interpret the religion to allow only the practice of Islam that offend, not necessarily the religion itself. I'm a American agnostic...but I value and support the principle of freedom of religion for all, an American charactieristic we still can be proud of.

    Excellent program. My first experience of Zaid Shakir was mesmerizing. Because I wasn't confronted by vitriol or terrorized by threats, I listened, and I learned. Pray that Zaid really is the majority voice of Islam in America and we will all be the richer for it. Bravo again Bill Moyers. Thank you PBS for bringing him back.

    No one could have explained better my own opinions as a muslim than Imam Zaid.
    I see peace and honesty in him.
    Generaly people try to use Islam to solve their own problems, no one has the time to deeply think about the source of all these problems.
    The truth is out there, every intellectual should be able to analyse it. But people are rather busy blaming.
    No Body wants to take the responsibility for his own doing, there should always be someone or something to blame.
    This is very sad about humanity.

    Shakir said that he found that he could practice his religion in America therefore democracy does not conflict with Muslim yet Muslim DOES conflict with democracy since it is against the law to practice any other religion in a Muslim country! Convert or die! America (founded on Christian principles)allows them to practice what they believe but they do not allow others to practice their beliefs unless they are Muslim.

    It isn't about justification. Blowing up the World Trade Center or a cafe in London are never justified.

    But, we do plenty of things that create justified anger against us and that boils up into suicide bombings and flying aircraft into buildings.

    To avoid argument on this: Just because your anger is justified does NOT justify killing people.

    Until we understand our role in fueling the anger against us, we will never solve the problem of others wanting to blow us up and harm us.

    Our invasion of Iraq is another story.

    If the United States were invaded, our government overthrown, and our country occupied, I would do everything I could to kill the occupiers and any American collaborators. I would consider any American who gave aid or comfort to the occupiers to be traitors deserving of death at the hands of American patriots resisting the occupation of our country.

    As for Iraq, I totally agree with Mr. Shakir. In fact, if I were an Iraqi, I would be trying to kill the invaders and occupiers - as well as the Iraqi collaborators. I say this despite the fact that my cousin was killed in Iraq last year.

    In fact, I will go a step further. If Iraqis were to get into the U. S. and start blowing up our government and military facilities - even if there were many civilian casualties, they would be totally with their rights to do so. We invaded their country and have killed thousands of innocent Iraqis. We were the invaders and Iraqis have every right to respond in kind.

    To claim the right to resist the invasion and occupation of the U. S. but to claim that Iraqis have no right to kill as many of the occupying troops in their country is the rankest hypocrisy and guarantees that we will be fighting "terrorists" for hundreds of years.

    I was so impressed with Iman Shakir and the young women who spoke (and very proud as well). I am considered a "left-wing" christian and feel that Islam and Christianity have so much to learn from each other and yet we refuse to listen to one another. I identified with those women because I too dress modestly and my faith is first in my life and I am considered an oddity for those beliefs. America was established in some part for those with spiritual conviction. However, colonialism and capitalism has taught us that it is easier to marginalize than to include.

    Thank you PBS for the interview with Imam Zaid Shakir. Muslims are frequently demonized in the media as a group and this interview gave a much more balanced perspective. Imam Zaid's words are much more in tune with the majority of Muslims both in the US and abroad.

    During your interview, Imam Shakir said he embraced Islam because he found the other world religions lacking in one area or another. What did he say was lacking in Christianity that led him to Islam?

    Your interview with Iman Zaid Shakir was both insightful and encouraging. As a Muslim American, it's great to see a prominent members of the community represented in mainstream media. Thank you.

    I would have to say that the Imam sounded to me like he had the right ideas. Fanatasim whether by a terrorist or a respected (by some) televangelist still produces terror. Terror is also produced by governments who have no respect for the human life in other countries.

    His comments on Madeline Albright were right on the mark but could just as easily have been about Clinton, Bush the elder, Bush Jr, Cheney or most of the members of Congress. Let's face it our foreign policy has brought us to where we are. The old adage in the Bible, "Ye shall reap what ye sew," holds so true. We can count on it the chickens are going to come home to roost.

    As a convert to Islam, I want to thank you for finally covering the mainstream Islamic perspective...FINALLY.

    Its refreshing to say the least.

    Often times, the mainstream Muslim voices are suppressed and overlooked by the MSM for the more sensational and "newsworthy" stories...therefore I applaud Mr. Moyers journalistic aptitude and courage in showing a leading American Muslim scholar, and not the "self-rigteous" pundits on FoxNews.

    Dear Bill,
    Normally I support you in almost everything but when you say that there is no equivalent to the Islamist crazies in the Christian religion you are wrong.

    There are indeed strains of Christianity who are every bit as nuts as the Islamists, and if they cam to power, even more murderous. Many of the crimes Islamists like the Taliban only give beating for, they have called for hideous death.

    If you look at the writings of the Dominionists, and for that matter of the writings of the Washington Times father Moon, they all call for the death penalty for an array of thought crimes, and common behaviors, (not by beheading perhaps, but stoning is not even that kind) and if they came to power would make even the dystopias of Orwell and even Brunner seem a preferable outcome.

    By not going after these folk you are committing the same sin as the moderate Muslim. Islamism is a minor problem in America, but Dominionism is a major threat, and just as Islamism is best attacked from within the Islamic faith, so Dominionism needs to be attacked within the Christian faith they proclaim, and such cover not allowed them.

    I deeply appreciate Mr. Moyer's probing questions to Iman Shakir concerning women. The Iman's flickering eyes and lame explainations told the real story. The followers of all "good" books, including the Bible, must rip out those passages which demean and humiliate women before reasonable people can have a dialogue of true understanding. Women have nothing to prove. We are as holy, as kind, as smart, as are males. Let us breathe equality into our churches!
    Mr. Moyers, you are very much appreciated.
    Brenda Zamary

    WE ARE NOT ACCEPTED IN A MUSLIM WORLD.
    SINCE THOMAS JEFFERSONS FIRST DISCUSSION TO THE PRESENT DAY.
    WITH MUCH HISTORY IN OUR ARCHIVES. WITH THE INNER DEALINGS OF THE ARAB GROUPS WITH HITLER AND DURING WW2 WE CONTINUE TO PUT OUR FINGERS IN OUR EARS AND HOPE WE CAN AVOID THE TRUTH WE SEE WITH OUR EYES IN THE CONCEPTS AND ACTIONS OF THIS GROUP OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE THAT SINCE THERE INCEPTION HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING CONCEPTS OF 5000 PLUS YEARS AGO THAT HAVE CRIPPLED SOCIETY. OH YES THEY GAVE TO SOCIETY BUT THEY JUST DEVELOPED THINGS THAT WERE DEVELOPED BY OTHERS BEFORE.

    THEY SEE THE OPENING IN THE WALL TO FLOOD VARIOUS SOCIETIES TO SPREAD THE BELIEFS THAT THEY BELIEVE AND HAVE BEEN ALIENATING GROUPS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS.(SEE THE BYZANTINE CHURCHS WHERE CHRISTIAN CHURCHS TODAY IN TURKEY ARE WIPED CLEAN AND REMAIN A MOSQUE)(CHRISTIANS STILL LIVE IN TURKEY).
    YES ALL GROUPS HAVE DONE WRONG . HUMANS HAVE NOT BEEN GOOD FOR EACH OTHER BUT THEY STRIVE TO PRODUCE A SOCIETY THAT ONE CAN DEVELOP AND MAKE GOOD.

    BUT ISLAM HAS FAILED AS A POSITIVE FORCE FOR SOCIETY. IT ONLY HAS DEVELOPED CAPTURING THE SO-CALLED FEARS OF HUMANS THAT WE NEED SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN. TO FACE OUR FEARS OF WHY ARE WE HERE AND HOW TO FACE OUR FEARS ON HOW TO EXIST. NO ONE ELSE KNOWS BUT THEM.
    THEY ARE THE ONES. SO YOU MUST FOLLOW THEM. NO CHOICE.
    GIVE THEM THE RULE AND WE WILL BE CUTTING HANDS OFF ,HANGING,KILLING WOMAN,KILLING FOR SINS AGAINST SOCIETY.
    THE MINORITIES IN PRISON WILLNOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE DEATH PENALITY. EITHER BECOME A MUSLIM OR THEY WILL CUT OFF YOUR HEAD.
    WHERE IS STALIN OR HITLER?


    In response to: "I'd love to hear some interviewers corner some Imams on EXACTLY what the meaning of "dhimmi" is and EXACTLY how they are treated."

    Answer: A "dhimmi" means "protected person" or "covenanted person" and refers to a non-Muslim living in a land under Islamic rule. For comprehensive introductory level discussions on the treatment of non-Muslims from an Islamic scholarly perspective (what you are requesting from an "Imam"), I would recommend that you read Mohammed Hashim Kamali's "Freedom, Equality and Justice in Islam" (pp. 78-92) (published by Islamic Texts Society) (Kamali is one of the most highly respected international scholars of Islamic law) or Maher Hathout's "In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam" (pp. 201-223) (published by Muslim Public Affairs Council) (Hathout is a widely respected Islamic scholar in this country). To summarize Hathout, the Quran (Islam's primary source) insists on the equality of all human beings before God, which necessitates equality under the law, although he recognizes that "the course of Islamic history frequently has departed from the nature of Quranic injunctions on the treatment of non-Muslims." (p. 202) Both scholars also quote numerous sayings of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, that if a covenanted person ("dhimmi") is treated unfairly, he will advocate for that wronged covenanted person against the Muslim wrong-doer on the Day of Judgment - a tremendous threat against ufair treatment of "dhimmis".

    The Prophet's sayings on this topic are perhaps best represented in his famous letter to the St. Catherine monastery:

    "This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
    Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
    No compulsion is to be on them.
    Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
    No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet.
    Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
    No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them.
    If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
    Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
    No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day."

    However, even if one wishes to judge Islam by the overall quality of the historical rule that it has produced, it has been recognized by objective non-Muslim historians as being far more tolerant than what was produced under governments purporting to rule as Christian religious authorities.

    For example the 19th century Christian missionary, Thomas Arnold writes:

    "We have never heard about any attempt to compel non-Muslim parties to adopt Islam or about any organised persecution aiming at exterminating Christianity. If the Caliphs had chosen one of these plans, they would have wiped out Christianity as easily as what happened to Islam during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain; by the same method which Louis XIV followed to make Protestantism a creed whose followers were to be sentenced to death; or with the same ease of keeping the Jews away from Britain for a period of three hundred fifty years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of Christiandom throughout which no one would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of Mohammedan [sic] governments towards them.” [Thomas Arnold, The Call to Islam.]

    A more contemporary scholar, John Esposito, professor at Georgetown University and a Christian specialist on Islam writes:

    “Historically, while the earthly expansion and conquests spread Islamic rule, Muslims did not try to impose their religion on others or force them to convert. …No such tolerance existed in Christendom, where Jews, Muslims and other Christians (those who did not accept the authority of the pope) were subjected to forced conversion, persecution, or expulsion.” [John L. Esposito, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, (2002, p. 71)]

    With all due respect, Mr. Moyers, Imam Shakir's last name is pronounced "SHAA-kir," not "Sha-KIR."

    I'd love to hear some interviewers corner some Imams on EXACTLY what the meaning of "dhimmi" is and EXACTLY how they are treated.

    "...so if the muslims want to be taken seriously and not shunned..they need to first clean up their own backyard."

    Respectfully, that's a bit like saying if African-Americans want to be taken seriously then they need to clean up the hood or somehow holding them responsible for the instability in Africa.

    The difference is that African-Americans have (more or less) been enfranchised, while Muslims have not. What I mean by 'enfranchised' is that a group is generally not held accountable for the criminal elements within it. Voices which criticize the African-American community because of inner-city violence or cite some sort of crime statistics against them (or perhaps endorse racial profiling among law enforcement) are generally considered extremist and is common among groups like the KKK or neo-Nazis.

    However, it seems fairly routine among mainstream voices here in the West to hold Islam and Muslims in comtempt because of the actions of their fringe radical element. After all, well over a quarter of the world's population is Muslim. The measure of radicals is quite small compared to that figure.

    Likewise, let us remember the heat Mel Gibson drew in his drunken tirade against Jews. It was in the national news for weeks, and he was called on to apologize over and over again. Yet Muslims are slandered daily on talk radio and newspaper editorials, almost always without incident.

    I think that as Americans we have mostly learned to accept people regardless of their race (mostly but not entirely), but we have a long way to go when it comes to a man's religion.

    Timothy McVeigh in notorious specifically because he is so isolated and unique, whereas suicide bombers regularly blow up innocent people in the name of religion and when the U.S. was so roundly condemned by sunnies for unintentionally killing their muslims brothers the shiites, they see no irony in killing even more of the shiites..with intent, even though the Quran condemns the murder of other muslims, the justification of the interpretation is enough to warrant the murders? look at Sudan, Indonesia, etc. Young muslims regularly murder..so if the muslims want to be taken seriously and not shunned..they need to first clean up their own backyard.

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