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The Muslim Americans

A look at one of America’s fastest growing religions

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THE MUSLIM AMERICANS explores the diversity of Muslims in America today, focusing on communities’ experience after 9/11, and contrasting life for Muslims here in the United States compared to Muslims in Britain and Europe.

The film — produced in conjunction with THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, looks at the ongoing conversation American Muslims are having about life in the United States, including assimilation, discrimination, Muslim youth, religion and politics. 

 

Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1935. - Courtesy: Linn County History Center

Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1935.

 

Overview of Muslims in America

Ray Suarez reports

Why haven’t Muslims in America been radicalized like some European Muslims? What is different in the United States? Muslims have a long history in the United States, dating back to the founding of the republic. Some of the first Muslims in America arrived as slaves, while others came from the Ottoman Empire to work as farmhands and peddlers. The oldest existing mosque in America, built in 1934, sits improbably on a quiet residential street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Today, the United States is home to one of the most diverse Muslim communities in the world, with a total population estimated between three and six million people. Ray Suarez reports on the challenges for Muslim Americans, both before and after 9/11.  

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Issues of Discrimination

Fred de Sam Lazaro reports

Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro examines the discrimination that many American-Muslims feel is now a fact of life.  Muslim charities are scrutinized, their houses of worship infiltrated and traveling can be a humiliating undertaking. This segment explores the fear, frustration and anxiety that American-Muslims experience in their everyday lives.

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On Faith and Religion

Spencer Michels reports

Thomas Jefferson’s Koran in the Library of Congress - Photo courtesy: Michaela McNichol/Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson’s Koran in the Library of Congress

Since 9-11, attendance at mosques around the county has risen as American Muslims have chosen to practice their faith more openly and challenge the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that justifies violence in the name of the religion.  New American Muslim spiritual leaders are stepping forward to teach an Islam that is tolerant, peaceful and in synch with American values and culture.   Among the most prominent is a California-based convert to Islam, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.  His Zaytuna Institute is seeking to train a new generation of Islamic students and scholars who can forge an Islamic religious identity that is both uniquely American and also faithful to the traditional teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. 

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The Next Generation

Judy Woodruff reports

The challenges facing young Muslims today revolve around embracing who they are and how they fit into the larger fabric of America. Many are more observant than their parents, yet they are searching for a Muslim identity that allows them to integrate American culture while being true to Islam.

Historically a social gathering point for university students, Muslim Student Associations are faced with the dual challenges of integrating the differing immigrant and indigenous Muslim cultures while taking on the task of serving as ambassadors of their faith…reaching out to non-Muslims to forge a greater understanding of Islam.

And one young Muslim is using hip-hop and pop culture to inspire young people to join his effort to build alliances across religious and ethnic boundaries to address the social problems facing Chicago’s disenfranchised inner-city residents.

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Maryland’s first elected Muslim official, Saqib Ali, is sworn in.- Photo courtesy: Michaela McNichol/Library of Congress

Maryland’s first elected Muslim official, Saqib Ali, is sworn in.

American Muslims in Politics

Robert MacNeil reports

Before September 11th, the American Muslim community showed little appetite for large-scale political participation. A large number of Muslims were relatively recent immigrants to the United States, focused on settling down, raising their children and earning a living. Many came from dictatorships – countries where the democratic process was either completely unknown, or largely irrelevant, so they didn't trust the system. 

September 11th accelerated the community’s learning curve dramatically. Now, Muslims are realizing they must stand up for their rights, as minorities before them have done, and voice their concerns about issues involving civil liberties, immigration law, and the Patriot Act.   9/11 galvanized Muslim Americans and forced them to become active participants in the political system, through advocacy and by running for office.

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