muslims homeportraitsthemesinterviewsfaqsdiscussion


portraits of ordinary muslims: united states
video excerptvideo excerpt
yasemin saibDr. Aminah McCloud
videovideo (cable/dsl)video (modem) videovideo (cable/dsl)video (modem)

How Yaseimin Saib's Connection to Islam Took a  Turn after  Sept. 11th
New York City marketing professional Yasemin Saib -- who grew up in Saudi Arabia but came to the U.S. in 1990 -- was finding her own way of being a Muslim in America. But after Sept. 11, she decided Muslims were in denial and "need to face the truth" about those Muslims who invoke religion to justify terrorism. Yasmin helped form a group of young professionals, "Muslims Against Terrorism." The group makes presentations at churches, synagogues, and schools. In this clip, Yasemin's students bluntly list for her many of the stark prejudices held about Muslims.

Note: Video no longer available.

Exploring Tensions within America's Muslim Community
The estimated 5-7 million Muslims in the U.S. include both immigrants and those born in America (three-quarters of whom are African-Americans). The two groups don't always get along.

In this clip, Dr. Aminah McCloud, who coverted to Islam in 1966 and is an expert on Islam and Muslim communities, hosts a discussion with family and friends about the tensions. Pointing out that Muslim immigrants often have faced civil rights violations after Sept. 11, she says all U.S. Muslims should be concerned. But her daughter challenges McCloud, asking why African-Americans -- who have their own civil rights concerns -- should stick their necks out for immigrant Muslims who have never defended them.

Note: Video no longer available.


More about Yasemin Saib
More about Dr. Aminah McCloud
Explore more about relations between Muslim African-Americans and Muslim immigrants in this interview with Muslim scholar Amina Wadud
Facts on U.S. Population/ Religion Breakdown
Related Links and Readings

MORE ABOUT Yasemin SAIB

For the American Muslim immigrant community, the events of Sept. 11 caused them to make personal decisions they had never even considered before.

Yasemin Saib moved to America with her parents in 1990. "Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, being a Muslim wasn't really an option. It wasn't anything you thought about. You were required to live a Muslim life," she explains. "It wasn't until I came to the United States that my spiritual identity came into question for the first time, because I actually had the option of believing or not believing. I actually had the option of choosing to practice or not to practice.

Now a young marketing professional in New York City, Yasemin has found her own way to be a Muslim in the wake of Sept. 11. She helped form a group called "Muslims Against Terrorism," and now volunteers eight to 10 hours per week to make presentations at churches, synagogues, schools and to other groups.

"Muslims Against Terrorism came about the day after Sept. 11," she says. "We were completely in shock, paralyzed by the tragedy, of course. And a group of us young Muslim professionals from varying backgrounds basically e-mailed and called each other and said 'Enough is enough. We need to stop allowing extremists to dictate the public face of Islam.'"

According to Yasemin, the strength of Muslims Against Terrorism is that the group has grounded its presentations in the tenets of Islam. "We most importantly didn't just offer this kind of dialectic just because we are doing PR," she says. "We backed ourselves up with Islamic theology because that is the same language that those extremists are using."

MORE ON DR. AMINAH MCCLOUD

Even before Sept. 11, American Muslims were experiencing tension with non-Muslims. Two years ago, controversy erupted in Palos Heights, Ill. when its rapidly growing Muslim community proposed building a new mosque and community center on the site of an empty church. Public hearings were held, during which some residents who objected to the mosque proposed a recreation center in its place. Other residents spoke up against what they called "open racism."

The Muslims ultimately agreed not to buy the church and accepted a monetary settlement, but still they went to court charging discrimination. A federal judge has ordered the two sides to enter into an interfaith dialogue.

Dr. Aminah McCloud is serving as an advisor to the Muslim community in Palos Heights while the case awaits trial. She converted to Islam in 1966. An expert in Islamic Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, Dr. McCloud built her career studying Muslims. "I think that judge, whoever he or she is, just ought to be given a Nobel Prize," she says. "And even though [the judge] ordered it, the people in this community had to think enough of their community to take up the challenge. And they have."

There are an estimated 5-7 million Muslims in the United States. In America, the Muslim population includes immigrants and those born here -- three-quarters of whom are African-Americans. Muslims are not just experiencing tension with non-Muslims; often the two groups within the Muslim population don't get along.

Dr. McCloud discussed this situation at her house, with her family and two friends -- one of whom was of Pakistani descent and had lost his job at a Muslim relief organization when the federal government froze its assets after Sept. 11.

"My parents came here, they worked," he said. "And then all of the sudden today I'm told that without any reason, that you work for a so-called organization and you can't do this anymore. And I still can't come to terms with it."

Dr. McCloud believes that the civil rights of innocent immigrants are being violated and that all American Muslims should be concerned. However, her own daughter sees it differently. She said, "I don't think that African-Americans who've always had problems with civil rights should be sticking their neck out for a group of people asking for trouble and a group of people who have done nothing for us. Period."

According to Dr. McCloud, African-American conversion to Islam sometimes results from dissatisfaction with Christianity. "In 2002, Christianity is still about race," she says. "It's still the blond-haired white Jesus with blue eyes. They're saying 'No, I'm not worshipping white men.'"

Other times, African-Americans convert to Islam because they're feel dissatisfied. "For some others who were not inside of a structured religious community, it is 'I want to be inside of a structured religious community,'" Dr. McCloud explains.

UNITED STATES AT A GLANCE

Religion

  • 56 percent of the population is Protestant.
  • 28 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
  • 2 percent of the population is Jewish.
  • 4 percent of the population is categorized as "other."
  • 10 percent of the population does not follow a religion.

NOTE: There are no statistics for the percentage of the U.S. population who are Muslim. Estimates of the numbers of American Muslims range from 5 to 7 million. The U.S. State Department notes that Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the U.S. and by the year 2010 the U.S. Muslim population is expected to surpass the U.S. Jewish population.

Population

  • As of July 2001, the population is estimated at approximately 278,000,000.
  • Approximately 21 percent is age 0-14.
  • Approximately 66 percent is age 15-64.
  • Approximately 13 percent is age 65 and older.
  • The population growth rate is 0.9 percent.

READINGS AND LINKS

· The Muslim Population Riddle

What's the size of the Muslim community in the U.S? This article from Salon.com examines the reasons why it's so difficult to answer that question.

· American Muslim Poll

Project MAPS (Muslims in American Public Square,) in conjunction with Zogby International, recently conducted the first-ever systematic poll of American Muslims. It covers demographics, voting habits, political opinions, participation in mainstream American life, religious practice, foreign policy issues and the impact of Sept. 11 and its aftermath.

· American Muslim Council

The American Muslim Council was created in 1990 to increase American Muslims' involvement in the American political and public policy areas. Its Web site is a good resource with links to national Muslim organizations, Muslim socio-political organizations, Muslim media and Muslim business resources.

· The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States

According to "The 2002 Civil Rights Report" released by the Council on American Islamic Relations, reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the United States have risen three-fold since 2001. Without taking into effect the post-Sept. 11 backlash, the remaining data shows a 43 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents over the previous year. The report also notes that 60,000 American Muslims have been "negatively impacted by U.S. government policies" since the Sept. 11 attacks.


home · portraits of ordinary muslims · introduction · major themes · interviews · faqs
readings & links · discussion · teacher's guide
producer chat · tapes & transcripts · press · credits · privacy
FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbsi

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation


SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS