thumbnail of Chicago Tonight; A Muslim Mosaic
Hide -
<v Announcer>This program is made possible in part by American National Bank, the Bank for Business. <v Man in commercial>Buttons were invented around 1300 in Europe. And before that, they used string. A lot of people don't know that. And I tell my kids, oh, yeah, they're just buttons, but they pay for your food, your clothes, your house, education, everything is from these. People work here and they support their kids, buy appliances from buttons. They hold a lot more than clothes together. I like to think. <v Announcer 2>It's your life's work, does your bank understand that? <v Mary Ali>Oh, yes, many people are afraid of Islam, they're afraid of Muslims. <v Mohamed Usnan Baki>Good American is good Muslim and good Muslim is good American. You can't separate those two.
<v Announcer 3>This is Chicago tonight, broadcast Monday, April 15th, 1996. <v John Callaway>Good evening. I'm John Callaway and welcome to Chicago tonight. When you think of Muslims, do you think of terrorism? Do you think of hostages held in a World Trade Center bombing? Do you think of Muslims as, quote, those people in the Middle East? Do you think of a fiery speech by Minister Louis Farrakhan or a professional basketball player who won't stand for the national anthem? If so, you probably aren't alone. And if so, your view is profoundly narrow. More and more, the world of Islam is right in your own backyard, right down the street, perhaps across from your desk at work or school. And it is not the world of terrorism. Questions of Faith is the name of our Chicago Matters series, Looking at Religion this month. And on this special one hour Chicago Tonight program this evening, we will examine the world of Islam as it exists in the Chicago area, beginning with this report from Chicago tonight correspondent Phil Ponce.
<v Phil Ponce>A group of first graders greets a visitor with a welcome in Arabic at a Muslim school in Villa Park. Hundreds of Muslims gathered for the Friday congregational prayer on Chicago's northwest side. At a Muslim school in Morton Grove, students observe the holiday of Ramadan, during which time these young professional Muslims deliver food to Cabrini Green. In the loop, a racially diverse group of Muslims gathers for a noon prayer. <v Mary Ali>I look around at the Muslims, look anywhere in the world. Any place you go, you're going to find a Muslim, a local Muslim. <v Phil Ponce>Muslims are people who have accepted Islam as their faith. In addition to Americans who have converted to the faith, Muslims have also immigrated here from more than 40 countries around the globe. Immigration picked up in the 60s when many Muslims came to pursue graduate degrees, mainly in the sciences. And the demographics of Chicago's Muslim mosaic are constantly changing. Today, an estimated 300000 Muslims in the Chicago area gather to pray in 60 Islamic centers. According to one recent survey, about 40 percent are African-American. Twenty five percent from the Middle East, 20 percent from South Asia, mainly India and Pakistan, four percent are from Turkey, 11 percent from Eastern Europe and other countries. The five so-called pillars of Islam are believing in one God and that his messenger is the Prophet Muhammad, who lived fourteen hundred years ago. Praying five times a day, fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan, charity to the poor and making a hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca during one's lifetime if finances and health permit. Muslims say theirs is a religion that's often burdened by misconceptions. For example, a survey done by the National Conference of Christians and Jews two years ago showed that forty five percent of Americans believe that Islam supports or condones terrorism.
<v Mohamed Usnan Baki>This fanaticism is not part of Islam. Terrorism is not part of Islam. Extremism is not part of Islam. <v Minister Louis Farrakhan>Never, never, never, again! Never- <v Phil Ponce>Another point many mainstream Muslims make is that Louis Farrakhan's racially separatist Nation of Islam is not what they consider true Islam. <v Mary Ali>Realizing that many practices that he teaches do not conform with what what I would say an Orthodox Muslim would believe, I would say he's not really practicing Islam. So I would call him, call it rather Farrakhanism, the followers of Farrakhan rather than Islam. <v Phil Ponce>At this South Side mosque. The emphasis is how Islam can bring people together. <v Sheik Al-Faruqi>There's no nationalism. There is no racism. The only race is the human race. I don't believe in Afro-centricity. I don't believe in Pakistani-ism, Arab-tism, Iraqi-ism, Bosni-ism, any other ism other than Islam. I don't know if the impulse from the 70s and 80s was to build mosques. The impulse in the 90s has been to build schools. There are seven full time schools in the Chicago area, including the Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park. They combined state education requirements with religious training, such as memorizing parts of Islam's holy text, the Koran.
<v Ibrahim Mohsin>I just keep on reading it 20 times and then I got the hang of it. I tried it once without looking down. I got the hang of it. <v Phil Ponce>This school has two hundred and three students preschool through eighth grade and like the school in Morton Grove, it peace community opposition when it first tried to open its doors. <v Sufia Azmat>They need oh, what should I call it, morals. They need to know how to get along with people. And just the fact that there is something greater than ourselves. And I don't think they would learn that in a public school. <v Phil Ponce>Even so, attending a Muslim school can make some students feel different or separate. <v Famia Ghaffar>Yes, because I wear like my scarf outside and everything and everyone stares at me and it feels really strange. <v Phil Ponce>But in many respects, this is just like any other school. Listen, for example, to this second graders course list. <v Omar Hezrug>Science, social studies, math, reading. <v Phil Ponce>And what are the courses that you like the most? <v Omar Hezrug>Recess. <v Inamul Haq>In the morning when they read Koran at the same time, they stand up and they say the the Pledge of Allegiance. So it's to me, it's kind of their new identity, that they have identity of a Muslim religion which their parents brought with them from their countries. And at the same time, it's their new identity of being an American.
<v Phil Ponce>For Chicago Tonight, I'm Phil Ponce. <v John Callaway>And now joining us to provide a mosaic of Muslim views and experiences in the Chicago area are Ayesha Mustafaa, editor of the Muslim Journal, a weekly newspaper with Mustafaa is a student of Imam W. Deen Muhammad. Moin Moon Kahn, media spokesperson for the Council of Islamic Organizations. Munir Muhammad archivist for the Nation of Islam and co-founder of the Coalition for the Remembrance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and Laleh Bakhtiar, director of publications at Kazi Publications, the oldest Muslim publishing company in America. And Miss Bakhtiar is author of numerous books and essays on Islam, including Sufi Expressions of the Mystic Quest and Sufi Women of America: Angels in the Making. Welcome all to Chicago tonight. Mr. Khan, let me begin with you and then everybody else can just kind of jump in. Phil Ponce in his opening report, reminded us that a survey in 1994 found that forty five percent of the Americans surveyed felt that Islam is a religion that condoned terrorism. And of course, we see so much about terrorism in the news and associated with Islam. Why do you think that is? What's going on there?
<v Moin Moon Kahn>I believe in to answer your question, I would ask the rhetorical question that what's going on in other communities? You see Hispanics every day, you see Hispanics and you have a different and negative image about them. You see Asians and you see Blacks, Blacks have been living in this country for two centuries, and still you have a very bad the media news media are giving a bad picture. It looks like the people who are in charge of giving out information somehow, either they are not giving out information or those people, those leaders who are in a position to give out that information, they are not giving out information. And also the people, they are not reading, although in this country we are so blessed to have information highway, but we don't go to read up, neither to the church and farther to the heaven. We are the people who have decided to be ignorant and ignorance, ignorance is is optional. So we have to go out and find out to find out about Islam. A person has not to go out to find out about the country. They have to look to their neighbors. They have to just walk, as you indicated in your introduction, just a desk away, a phone away, a block away. And you have a Muslim over there. And Muslims, they are not only from one country, as you somebody mentioned that they are from Australia to Zanzibar.
<v John Callaway>One point three billion on the globe. <v Moin Moon Kahn>One point three billion. And in this country, we are more than six million people. In Illinois, we are more than four hundred thousand Muslims, American Muslims, as American as John Callaway, as American as apple pie. Muslims are here who have contributed to this this land. I'm talking about Sears Tower, which can be the more monumental it was designed by a Muslim architect, architect Rahman Khan. His name was mentioned just before yesterday in the Chicago Tribune. <v John Callaway>It's all over the place now because of all the attention on the world's tallest building. <v Moin Moon Kahn>So we have just decided to ignore the fact. And that's why we have that type of- <v John Callaway>Just some other thoughts about why these what are your thoughts on why these misconceptions are so deep and so widespread? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Well, I feel that the media has played a major role in this, in the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists. And I don't feel it's the media's fault. I'm on the board of advisory board of the Religion Center for Religion and the News Media, Northwestern University. And there we found, well, actually very large and found that the problem is that journalists are not trained in religion. And so they now are training journalists in religion and religious scholars in journalism. So I feel that the media has played a major role in rush to judgment that the minute something goes wrong, they blame a Muslim on it. But we don't hear anything about other religions, other people's religious backgrounds like Timothy McVeigh. It's never said he's a Christian.
<v John Callaway>In other words, if we started labeling all of the various other bad events with the religion of the person, you might then say, well, OK, we're all in this thing together. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Or we don't hear Christian Serb's or Christian Croatians, we just hear Muslim, Muslim Bosnians. So there's it's kind of a pointing us out. And I think there is a great fear of Islam and in America, and that's basically a fear of the unknown. So I hope with programs like this to be able to and people meeting with their neighbors, meeting with their friends who are Muslims to bring about understanding that Muslims are not terrorists. <v Munir Muhammad>And it's primarily this is a Christian country and controlled by Christian people from the media perspective. And whenever you hear about Muslims, especially in the Middle East, they are always referred to as terrorists. Now, when it comes to the so-called Black Muslim, you label it just as the introduction with Minister Farrakhan. And someone would say that he's not teaching Islam, even though the holy Koran is very clear about every people would be given a ?inaudible?. <v John Callaway>Now, we'll have we'll have some discussion of that this evening as we get into the variations on a theme, as it were.
<v Munir Muhammad>But I just want to say this. This is an opportune time, I think, for people to recognize the fact that Muslims are present. And even in nineteen sixty one, there was a program done, no whites allowed. And the same thing that Mike Wallace did in nineteen fifty nine with the hate that hate produced, you know, you give those stereotypes just with the title of your program. And so it kind of is laying dormant in one's mind when they hear it, you know, it registers and then the people repeat what they've heard or what they've seen in the media. <v John Callaway>Miss Bhaktiar, what's your take on this? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I'm Ayesha. I think the main thing is to get over the fear of the unknown. And for the most part, the American public does not know the Muslim person. They know about politics. They know about reactionaries. They know about world events, but they have not come in contact to know the Muslim person as their neighbor, as their coworker, as the individual who's trying to raise a family and do better children and to be an asset in their community.
<v John Callaway>And Miss Mustafaa, is the fact that there are now four hundred thousand Muslims in Illinois. Is that going to be useful? In other words, as this population grows, will the corrective device be in it? In other words, will people without even without programs like this, will people simply start to say, wait a minute, my neighbor, my wonderful neighbor is a Muslim and this is a different reality than what I'm seeing in the headlines? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>It will be a natural progression. We've seen it happening over the past 20 years and we expect that it will continue to happen. We have Muslims who hold major positions in the United States. The mayor, the former mayor of Detroit, his deputy mayor, was Muslim, African-American Muslim for many, many years. We have Muslims in the military. We have Muslims who participate in government throughout the United States. And I think as those people are recognized in their faith for the day, they highlighted themselves and that we are kind of dismantled the fears that the public has.
<v John Callaway>I'm just, sorry, go on. <v Moin Moon Kahn>This year at the end of Ramadan, President Clinton invited the Muslim leaders to the White House. Before that, two times first time was Warith Deen Mohammed was invited to the invocation at the Congress. And then we are talking about a thousands ?inaudible?. Then you have six million people scattered all over the United States. Ten thousand American Muslims are in the US armed services, 10000 Muslims are there. Then you have CEOs, then you have business entrepreneurs, if you go out to any big, big companies, you will have vice president. You have engineers. Out of four hundred thousand Muslims who live here, 49.4% Are engineers. If you go to any big companies from Sergeant Langley to any company and you will find Muslim engineers who will working out, doing everything, whatever is needed. <v Munir Muhammad>And many of those Muslims are elevated when they condemn another Muslim. And it's not proper for Muslims to condemn another Muslim. But in mentioning some of those people that you mentioned, the stereotype of the so-called Black Muslim is the reason that I'm here. And that's always been a stereotype. And it would continue-.
<v John Callaway>And what is that stereotype? <v Munir Muhammad>The stereotype is that we don't believe in Islam, you know, as the so-called Orthodox Muslims believe in Islam. And this is where those as brother has just stated that Wallace D. Mohammed was able to pray into the Senate and only at the expense of when sister mentioned politics, he got involved with Senator Dixon. And also he was about to condemn Iraq, along with other officials throughout the Islamic world. So Saddam Hussein is a Muslim and just like Colonel Gadhafi is a Muslim, but they're considered radical Muslims. But everyone has their own version of Islam, it seems to me. And so I'm saying of every people is given a warning and that people can't exercise. There's like Muslims are being penalized right now because if they are a follower of any affiliation with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, they don't have the right to worship. And there's no condemnation of that. And they're the same person who prayed in the Senate, did not condemn America for their past sins and the things that they have perpetrated against us as a people. So I take issue with that in elevating one and in automatically denouncing another. And this is what I see taking place on a constant basis. You know, we always.
<v John Callaway>But is the nation of Islam itself a problem and a stereotype in that those of us in the news media have spent so much more time talking about Minister Farrakhan on 60 Minutes last night, et cetera, that there are those, I would assume, from other so-called orthodox branches of Islam that might feel that this is a profound problem of stereotyping and the media. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Let me let me interrupt here. Islam is not a religion of South Side and north side. Islam was never is not a religion for Arabs or Africans. Islam is a religion of goodwill. Islam is its main attribute. One of the main attributes is diversity. <v John Callaway>Universal? <v Moin Moon Kahn>Universal. It is not sectarian. It is equally egalitarian. And that's very important when we hear that people are projecting Islam just for a certain group or when they are trying to give contrasting views that Islam is against whites or Islam is against certain certain religions. It is not Islam. Muslims and Christians and Jews are cousins in spirit and in blood.
<v John Callaway>But when you when you talk about certain people, who are you talking about? The Nation of Islam and the Farrakhan rhetoric in particular is a problem? <v Moin Moon Kahn>I don't like to respond to any rhetoric. I just like to define what Islam is and what Islam's messages. And if it does not conform to that message of goodwill and universality, it is not Islam. That's the fundamental point. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>In all fairness, what elevated W. Deen Mohammed was his 20 years of working to improve the image of Muslims in the United States. <v John Callaway>Now he is? For those viewers who don't know. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>He is the son of Elijah Mohammed who came into the leadership role of the former Nation of Islam after his father's death. <v Munir Muhammad>It's not the former Nation of Islam. <v John Callaway>And he represents represents a profound difference from minister Farrakhan? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>He represents a movement towards mainstream Islam, which is one out of every five people around the world. His elevation was not by condemning any individual because his elevation in the American public has been his willingness to go out and to work with Americans and to form alliances with Americans who have the same concerns for their communities and for the public as we do as Muslim African-Americans. I don't think anyone feels that any religion has within this context, those individuals who can perform acts that are considered acts that against society and do not come out and speak out against them, we would be less than than our community. And we couldn't condemn acts of wrong that were committed by Muslims.
<v John Callaway>[crosstalk] And I agree with that. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>Make the condemnation when we see it first. <v John Callaway>When you say when you say that, are you talking about Minister Farrakhan? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I'm not talking about anyone in particular. I'm talking about people who are seen to be wrong in their behavior and mannerisms and their treatment of other people. <v John Callaway>Well, do you think Minister Farrakhan is wrong in his characterization of some people some time? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I don't have an opinion of whether Minister Farrakhan is wrong or right in terms of how he relates to other people. That's his tactic. That's his way of operating. However, our tactic is not in the same vein. <v John Callaway>But is it is it fair to say that with all reservations that you might have about Minister Farrakhan that you can say, yes, he's a part of the Islamic world? He may not be our particular brand, but if you had a conversation about Christians, you might not be for Tammy Faye Baker, Mr. Calloway or whatever. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>I would say that it's very clear in Islamic teachings that if someone declares they're a Muslim, it's up to God to decide if that person is really a Muslim or not. It's not up to each one of us to say this person is or is not. But we look at the practices of the person and we say, well, would I choose to go to that mosque to practice there? And then you might come into conflict and say, well, they've excluded me. They don't allow me to go in. So therefore, I don't feel part of that group.
<v John Callaway>And are you excluded, for example, from the Nation of Islam? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>I've never tried to go to the mosque, but they say you can only go if you're Black and I'm not. <v John Callaway>So that's what is the truth? <v Munir Muhammad>But you know that that has never been the truth. See, I think the stereotypes that have been given. John, you're very much aware of the Nation of Islam. And I'm saying to you that the Honorable Elijah Mohammed to us gave us Islam here in America. Those who saw us over here did not come to our aid, has not assisted us. And I was there and I've been present to see the elevation of Wallace D. Mohammed and I have tapes and videos to prove what I'm saying to you. He was only elevated at the expense of destroying his father, which he attempted to do. He gave away an empire, which are the documents the federal government stated that they would be very happy with him as early as January 7th. Nineteen sixty nine. I also have a videotape that he even explained, he made mockery of Minister Farrakhan to what he perceived, that he was speaking only to an Arab audience, which the whole world has it available. And I'll be glad to make it available to you. Let me just say that which we differ about the religion God himself would judge. That should be clear.
<v John Callaway>Okay we're in agreement on that then, on this matter. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Two things. I would like to - <v John Callaway>We believe the same principles as you do. <v Moin Moon Kahn>As Ponce introduced said in his introduction that the finality of prophethood is one of the most important cornerstones of the Islamic faith, like Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet. And that should be accepted. Just yesterday, day before yesterday, last night I heard that Louis Farrakhan said that-. <v Munir Muhammad>Louis Farrakhan. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Mr. Lewis, Reverend Louis Farrakhan said that Elijah Muhammad was his messiah. <v Munir Muhammad>You heard that then? <v Moin Moon Kahn>He said something like that. And that is very conflicted. But the point is that I would like to bring this discussion to Islam, to Muslims. <v John Callaway>I was going to say. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Who are from this area and why don't we talk about their contributions? Otherwise, we will be talking- <v John Callaway>And we can do that right now. One of the things, however, that this this last five minutes of conversation demonstrated, as in most religions, there are differences. There are real differences. And you have some here. Now, I want to come back. I want to get to the local issues, but I want to come back just to the terrorism thing, because it is what I think so many people come to this conversation with this stereotype. What do you say to the person who says, from all I can tell, there are nationalist religious leaders around the world who are sincerely at odds with much of Western politics, the legacy of colonialism, the world of materialism, et cetera. And they rail against this, that the white man or the Western culture is evil, the devil, et cetera. And you see hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and you see hostages, et cetera. And they say, look, I acknowledge what you're talking about today, that it's not that simple. But isn't that also a real force in the world? And what am I to make of that? Is that just nationalism or is there a part of Islam that it truly is against Western values, and maybe you're even in this country, as some other religions are not comfortable with all the materialism and all of that.
<v Moin Moon Kahn>Well, the answer to this question is that whatever you are seeing, our camera goes there and our camera is focused on those parts of the world. We will never hear anything about Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world, and where you have Hindus and Muslims and Christians. And that is a country which symbolizes secularism. Our camera, our people, our news media, people never go there. <v John Callaway>Except in The Wall Street Journal, which reports extensively on how successful the business is and how problematic the democracy problems are. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Then we have Malaysia. The same next door, another country, which is a member of ASEAN and which is growing like leaps and bounds. And then when we are talking about all those negative, negative stereotypes that if we look at our trade imbalance and find out who are those countries which are buying our American products, and you will find it is Saudi Arabia, which is buying and purchasing in billions. If we remove those Arab countries and Muslim countries from the list of trade imbalances, our trade imbalance will go down. And President Clinton will have a hard time to report that we are in ?inaudible?
<v John Callaway>Oh, this is a nice context. But I come back to the ayatollahs, to Saddam Hussein, et cetera. Are we simply to dismiss those as nationalists having not anything to do with Islam? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Then it would be the way the Western world is looking at them and in some cases, the way the people themselves are behaving. But Islam stands for unity in the the the testament to Islam is that there is no God but God. God is one in the same way that God is when humanity is one, and Muslims have lost their unity through these divisive things like nationalism and other colonialism, and other words, and political systems that are not part of Islam, but Islam itself itself stands for unity. And for instance, there's the group that's holding an Islamic unity conference, the American Muslim Assistance, because this is the way to combat this divisiveness. This is the way to get around. All of these labels that are placed on Muslims is for Muslims to come together. I would invite everyone here to come to this unity conference and yourself, too, if you'd be interested, and to talk about the issues Muslims among Muslims themselves.
<v John Callaway>This is an August second through fourth of this year. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>This year in the summer in Los Angeles. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>Our contention is that just as Muslims misunderstood and some Muslim countries in some parts of the world so are Americans misunderstood to a large degree, we know our history. We know the history of the United States, but we also have to have the common decency to recognize change. And you have to recognize when people have moved towards a better relationship with ourselves internally as well as with the world. We know no country on the face of the earth that doesn't have a history that we would like to forget. Even African countries. When we look at the Constitution of the United States is that very constitution that gave me the right to convert to Islam. It's that very constitution that I would take to court with anyone who tried to take that right away from me. So therefore, while we have a lot of things that we are concerned about, we know our history and our struggle as an African people in this in these United States. Yet we have an investment here and we have a responsibility to look out for that investment, which goes beyond religion. But at the same time, it is sets the parameters of how far we will go to entrench ourselves in anger and hostility and separatism away from the mainstream, the United States and how far we will go to work towards the common good goal.
<v John Callaway>I'm sorry. <v Munir Muhammad>I have to say this. You know, everything that I have seen, those are nice words about inclusion. But I mean, we're suffering as a people. I'm talking about specifically as Black people here in America, more so than we've ever suffered. I don't see any gains. Everything has been cut off. I mean, whether it's welfare or whatever, our people are dependent people and we're constantly suffering. Let me say this about terrorism. You remember when President Clinton went to the Middle East just recently and about the Islamic conference, I mean, the antiterrorism. And he came to Israel, but he didn't put a wreath on the grave of the Muslims that were killed in that mosque. You know, that's one of the stereotypes. But he put a wreath on the Israeli people that were killed. So I'm saying to you, there are double standards. And as long as there are double standards, I can't pretend that everything is all right, not me. So I'm saying I just can't understand how people can forgive others, but we can't forgive us, you know, as a people. Now, I'm speaking specifically about our own people. <v John Callaway>I want to bring back I want to bring back an issue that Phil Ponce mentioned in his opening report, because it'll bring it back home and we promise to spend some time although I think we had to spend some time on the global aspects of this. And and he he said that if mosques were the thing in the 1980s, that schools for Muslims are the thing in the 1990s and some might say, well, what is your experience with Muslim children in public schools in this country? And is that experience leading you to feel the need to develop your own religious schools?
<v Moin Moon Kahn>I would like to interrupt here that saying that there is a very famous African saying that it takes an entire village to raise a child. And now in immigrant communities, whether they are Christians, they are Muslims. They have come from any parts of the world. These centers, these are not simply religious centers. And these centers provide family counseling, these centers raise the entire community. So when you go to these centers, you see all kinds of curriculums, all kinds of teachings are going on. They are training people for future. <v John Callaway>These are these are these centers are in effect, mosques and schools? <v Moin Moon Kahn>Mosques and schools. Several several centers are mosques and schools. And they are not teaching just to religion in itself. I mean, the rituals, they are teaching spirituality. They are teaching how to get along. They are teaching science and math. <v John Callaway>But do Muslim children in secular schools, in public schools in this area, do they have problems? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>This is, I think, something that Christian fundamentalists are facing. Jewish population is facing. The lack of values in the Western public school is something that is making parents be very concerned about their children. And they would prefer to send them to a religious school simply to be able to get those values that that are missing in the public school.
<v John Callaway>And be more specific. What what do you what are the real rubs, as it were? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Well, for instance, there are many Muslim girls who go to school like dress like myself and my sister Ayesha, and they are made fun of in the school. They're not able to sit in the classroom. The children pull off their scarves. There's no kind of respect that someone comes from a different religious tradition. And also speaking about discrimination, it's very difficult for Muslim women to get jobs if they were if they practice the modest dress in the Western society, many, many cases in court and again, using the constitution that this is their right. They have the right to dress the way they it's you know, it's an appropriate dress and not to be discriminated against. So the schools for the young girls in the public high school, they face great difficulty if they want to practice their religion the way they believe they should, it should be practiced. <v John Callaway>It also sounds like an opportunity for education. If the right leadership in the school were there, the very moment that somebody took off that scarf might be a wonderful chance.
<v Moin Moon Kahn>And there is, in fact, as I told in the beginning, that they are not simply organize these schools just to train them in religion. In fact, if you go to so many schools, I don't like to target and say one school or one group of schools. Sometimes their education level is not up to the mark or most of the time children in those schools are adult or whatever, like adults, and they are more interested in dating or they are doing all kinds of things. Over there in the schools, they are more interested in education, in going up and going to Ivy League. So that's the concentration. And people see a lot of people who are not Muslims, but they feel the commitment to education. Muslims have really put a greater emphasis on education. A lot of Muslim women are going to schools. And one point I would like to bring here, what sister pointed out about the scarf and everything. When I see these beautiful women here, they just remind me, Mother Teresa, when Mother Teresa covers her head and it is a sign of it is perceived as a sign of modesty and decency, how come when Muslim women, the same way they would like to cover it, it becomes a sign of uncivility or, you know, something else?
<v John Callaway>What is your answer to that question? <v Moin Moon Kahn>I see. Definitely I hear I feel really what I would like to concur with Mr. Muhammad here, that here there is a kind of duplicity. There is a kind of, you know,. <v Munir Muhammad>Hypocritical. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Hypocritical approach and Muslims are unfairly targeted for that. This is a right to choose on the part of women if they like to choose. My wife goes to work. She is an accountant and she doesn't wear a hijab. But my mom wears hijab. This is a right to choose. If a woman wants to do that, that should be done. <v Munir Muhammad>You ask a question about Western values. Why does it conflict with Islam as taught by the Holy Koran and without religion and other religions? And it certainly does, because Islam is a way of life and certain ways, just as we're talking about the modest dress. But if a person is made to feel ashamed and as you say, young children, if you don't have a way of cultivating that relationship at home, when they go out to the greater public and watch the way other people are addressing the other young classmates who are laughing at them and making a mockery of them for not eating certain foods and that type of thing. So you're going to have a conflict there.
<v John Callaway>What would you say to the person who says why on earth then? We're not talking about Muslims who were born in this country, but, for example, on the immigrant population, why would they come to a country like this that is so secular, you know what you're getting into and you get the United States, this huge secular capitalistic society, which seems so much at odds with with a lot of religion. <v Moin Moon Kahn>[crosstalk] Secularism does not mean secularism does not mean teenage pregnancy. Secularism does not mean under emphasis on education. Secularism means respect, mutual respect for all religions and fairness. That's that's means secularism. <v John Callaway>And I should say there are plenty of people who are not religious at all, who are very concerned about this secular society. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>America stands for, these these same values. I mean, the founding fathers were all of the same view. It's that it's been taken away by the materialism and the emphasis on consumerism and all of this. So the Muslim feels that they can counteract that. They feel challenged by it. <v John Callaway>So in other words, in each nation on Earth, there may be the political or economic problem. In some countries it might be you've got a dictator and you don't have much democracy, but you have that person using Islam perhaps as the major rhetorical device for unity. Whereas in this country you have many problems which the founding fathers would be appalled by.
<v Munir Muhammad>But you know, the panel ?inaudible? alluded to the fact that immigrant and I want to say this about immigrant Muslims, many, not all. But I noticed when they come into our community and he was talking about the respect for women, but the same respect is not generated to our women from many of the Arab merchants who come in who are Muslims. And they practice and you can see them with the scarves, but they sell pork and alcohol to their own people and the holy Koran is clearly against it. So those are things that we have to address among ourselves as Muslims right here. Since we respect our own women. <v John Callaway>But but you wouldn't represent your all of your people is being holier than thou either, correct? <v Munir Muhammad>Of course not. <v John Callaway>So you're saying within the various aspects of the Muslim communities here in Chicago, you have your own. <v Munir Muhammad>Since this law. The book is the law. You know and I'm saying? And it talks clearly about intoxicants and games of chance. Those things are prohibited by Muslims. So I'm saying that's not condemnation. <v John Callaway>I had a follow up question. On the business of the issue of women in schools, is there an issue in Islam of this most of the segregation of women from men at all, do they need to be separated out?
<v Ayesha Mustafaa>Well, I think you're going to have different opinions on that based on primarily the areas that people come from in comparison to what we see in America. And a level of modesty is appreciated. And that's what we advocate, modesty. And when it comes to a classroom where there may not be the facilities to have separate classes for girls and boys, yet we would expect that there would be some modesty in exchange. But then that is a general study that when the sexes are separated, that the girls learn better as well as the boys concentrate better. <v John Callaway>But what would you say to the non Islamic woman who's watching, who says, with all due respect to modesty and with all due respect to the tenets of your faith, we are just we women are just finally coming out of centuries of a kind of colonialism of our own. And when we look at the women in the Muslim world, we say, I'm sorry, you're behind. We we need to move forward. What would you say? I'm sorry. Let me address that to you.
<v Laleh Bakhtiar>The excesses of the the the point of view that the Western world presents, that the ideal is material wealth. The ideal is becoming president of such and such a company to have as many women drivers, construction workers as men. I mean, this kind of a sense of equality in in in every way is what the Western world is looking at. That's not what the Muslim woman is looking at her. Her point of view, a world view and her emphasis is on something entirely different. <v John Callaway>And that is? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>And that's more serving society, having a family, if at all possible. That would be first on her agenda, raising children so that society is preserved for the next generation. This is where her emphasis would be in terms of her home life. But certainly because of America and being single parents, you very often have to work. So working would also be a very good if you would choose a job or some place where you would feel that people weren't against you or weren't discriminating against you.
<v John Callaway>Mustafaa, you see this as a real one of the real issues? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>It's an issue. But also we have a concern that we haven't seen yet, an ideal Muslim society. And in the role that women are playing in that society, when we look for an ideal society, we really have to go back to the Prophet Muhammad. Fourteen hundred and sixteen years ago, and the role that women played in his his community, that they were scholars in the religion, they taught men in the faith, there were rulers who came to the prophet's wife to learn the faith after his his death. There were women who participated in the military. They didn't take the front lines unless it was necessary, unless the man by them fell in battle and then they took up arms. They were women who were business women. The wife of the prophet was a business woman who asked his hand in marriage. And we don't see that that upfront role that women played in the society of Mohammed. <v John Callaway>I'm hearing. I'm sorry. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>In the Muslim world.
<v John Callaway>I'm hearing is in a considerably different interpretation of the role of Islamic women from what Ms. Bakhtiar said. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>No everything she said I would agree with. <v John Callaway>You agree with? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Yes, I would agree. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>It's not negating what she says. We do not negate the role of women and their primarily role as being mothers and and maintainers of their homes. That's not negated. <v Moin Moon Kahn>OK, I must bring this perspective. There are four women prime ministers in the world. They are Muslims and they are women. Turkish prime minister in Europe, in Asia, Pakistan. You have in Bangladesh, where we are looking at these are the people who are shaping million lives of millions. <v John Callaway>And yet if you took Western feminists into those countries and they started to report on the real lives of real women, they would tell you that there is a horrible disparity between the leadership. <v Moin Moon Kahn>They forget that this is the country where we have been doing everything. And we wrote in our Constitution that all men are equal and it's still women are not able to put even a Vice president president a presidential candidate to become our vice president [crosstalk] What I'm talking about here, that this is a good this is a journey of growth. This is a journey of experiment. And and if you go out those students who are studying those women, Muslim women who are studying at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, there are going those doctors who go you go to I know a lot of doctors. I can just name a couple of them right now. They are working. They are women and they are working at various hospitals. They are engineers. They are doctors. The people are taking those assignments. They are coming out. So singling out Muslim women that they have taken a backseat in this country. You see on this panel who are representing Islam, these are the two women who are representing Islam. She is the editor of is a Muslim journal which goes out to I don't know how many thousand Muslims here. We have a publication one want and there is one more publications. It's head one of the main executive directors is a lady ?inaudible? that she put together a curriculum, which is which is now going to be like to be adopted all over the world, you can say, in non Islamic countries. So and if you go to any Islamic center about these schools, you will be surprised to know that these Islamic centers are administered mainly by Muslim women. They are taking care of children. They are taking up taking up their kids. So women are not in the background.
<v John Callaway>Ms. Bakhtiar. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>And there's just there's the what I what I wanted to point out was that for the Muslim woman who practices the modest dress, she wants to be known for her mind. And this is what brother Moin talking about for her for her abilities other than as a sexual object. And this is in complete contrast to the Western world. <v Munir Muhammad>And I think what is the greatest gift that you can give birth to a child? I mean, Western society seems that when Muslims talk about being the maintainers of their families or the producer of a family and that that's frowned upon. But in this Western society, the women have been treated pretty badly. The object of sex jokes and and the destruction of this civilization has been primarily based on the way women have been treated and which has not been very good. <v Moin Moon Kahn>It is very important to look at what they have in their head instead of what they have on their head. <v Munir Muhammad>But you can't do it in the mirror. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Once we start looking at and just focusing ourself on the head. We cannot lose to conclude that ?inaudible?
<v John Callaway>We have only said that we would bring this home to Chicago and we've spent a great deal more time over the years on the Nation of Islam than we have on other organizations. But Minister Farrakhan's rhetoric and his interviews with Mike Wallace and all of that aside, take us into the ordinary lives of your followers and tell us how you're doing today. How many followers do you have? How are you doing on things like employment and in those major issues? <v Munir Muhammad>Well, I certainly couldn't speak on the number of followers because there are so many people that are involved in Islam. I don't have an accurate count of it. But I think that the Muslims are doing quite well in doing something for their farms in the nation of Islam. In fact, I have to go back to the fact that we had all of this of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and duplicated in less than 20 years has been pretty good. And as you know, the Muslim country right now is planning to help us and and as they've always done. But we're trying to-. <v John Callaway>You're talking about Libya?
<v Munir Muhammad>Well Libya is one. But you have to also remember Minister Farrakhan was in Mecca with that delegation that was not reported as well. So I think that the Muslims are doing quite well, you know, but people don't focus on our financial success because they look at the negative things that are surrounding us. But if you go to the final call newspaper, you go and you see all of the brothers and sisters that are employed from the not just the newspaper, but the restaurants, the trucks that we have. <v John Callaway>How Is the restaurant doing? We heard that it had some problems. <v Munir Muhammad>Well the restaurant is being, I guess, reorganized, if you will, but the restaurant is still open. But you have to get Muslims to come and support it as well, which is. <v John Callaway>So there's an opportunity for you talking about and talking about this. <v Munir Muhammad>These Muslims who are right on the panel, I'm sure they're going to be coming, but I am sure. <v John Callaway>Would you acknowledge that maybe some of your brothers and sisters in in other parts of the tradition or the faith are so put off by some of the rhetoric of Minister Farrakhan that while they may want to identify with the human beings in the Nation of Islam, that the leadership prevents them from doing so. Can you acknowledge that it is a problem?
<v Munir Muhammad>I wish I could acknowledge it, but so many of our people say in private, they won't say it publicly because they have so much fear. But privately, if you would hear the conversations that I hear, they all seem to love Minister Farrakhan. But now you know, what can I say? They won't come out publicly and say it, but they are waiting on him to see if he's going to be successful. And then if he's successful, then they'll say, I was with you. Remember, we did a program right before the Million Man March. Yes. And everyone was against that. And as soon as it was over, everyone praised Minister Farrakhan for a few moments and then they went back to the same old rhetoric. You know, that he's a hater. He's this. He's that. But how can a man bring over a million men together like that? In fact, he right now is still the most sought after person that we know. Everyone wants to talk him. <v Moin Moon Kahn>Most important thing in any religion. It is not exclusively for Islam, but all religions. Services to God rendered services rendered to God, and not just in terms of how many times a person goes to prison or to religious center. The most important thing is that they are measured in respect, shown to people of other faith in charity, done to downtrodden neighborhoods and in working together to improve the relationship with other groups and also to to to create understanding. It's not a time of doctrinal triumph. It is a time of reconciliation and atonement. And to understand each other, it is not like.
<v John Callaway>I'm sorry. Just to follow up, then, what would you suggest as a concrete measure for reconciliation with Minister Farrakhan and those of you who have problems with him? <v Moin Moon Kahn>Then my my main concentration here is that with all religious groups, I'm not talking about my ?inaudible? Is not for Mr. Farrakhan. My excuse is all the religious groups. We have to work together. We have to develop a respect for each other and find out the commonalities. Where are the solutions, solutions to fight hunger, solution to fight ignorance and injustice? Our enemy is not like Jews or Christians. And this and white and Black. Our enemy is ignorance. Our enemy is injustice. Our enemy is hunger. Our enemy is unfairness. We have to fight together. We have to develop that mechanism. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>The second most important thing, religion is that you don't destroy religion. You do a great disservice when you mislabel and in any philosophy, any context. And that we keep the religion and its pure context is very important.
<v John Callaway>Give me an example of mislabeling. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>For example, to label mislabel God and to say to God comes in the context of a man ?inaudible? <v Munir Muhammad>That's what the Koran says. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I have never had that in the Koran. <v Munir Muhammad>I would be happy to show you. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I think it's wrong for Black or white to mislabel their religion in the state of God, you know, one person based on their skin color. <v John Callaway>Would you aagree that one person's mislabeling is another person's interpretation. In other words, they're going to be honest differences. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I think, though, you have a majority who can define what their religion stands for and the majority of Muslims would condemn anyone who said God manifested himself in flesh ?inaudible? But I think that you have your panel of religious people who can define what Christianity is, and no one would accept that David ?inaudible? Is interpretation of Christianity is true Christianity. Jim Jones interpretation of Christianity when he took 500 people to Jonestown. <v Munir Muhammad>Some of the Muslims do. <v Ayesha Mustafaa>True Christianity, the militia man's concept of democracy is true democracy. I think you can mislabel and distort a concept to the extent that you are doing a great disservice to everyone as well as to that religion.
<v Laleh Bakhtiar>And what I would like to say is that to invite Minister Louis Farrakhan and the other people here to Unity, to join together and to come together as Muslims and to discuss all of these issues among ourselves and through conferences and other things so that we can bring about the unity that is there and exists there. And rather than labeling each other or trying to discriminate among ourselves from each other, come together because that way will be much stronger. <v John Callaway>I'm talking about labeling. You're a Sufi, are you not? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Yeah, well, you never become a Sufi, but you're on the on the path <v John Callaway>On the the path of Sufi. And what does that mean? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>It means commitment to interchange. So you you're a Muslim who practices the five pillars of Islam exactly as the film had shown. But it's someone who in a sense works overtime because in addition to the five pillars, they practice what's called zikr law, which means remembrance of God, liturgy, and they recite the names of God in a way so that they are able to cleanse themselves of the impurities or the moral imbalances of things like jealousy and greed or love of this world. These are things that, you know, you can't take a pill to get rid of. You have to work at it. You have to discipline yourself.
<v John Callaway>And so it is a kind of an almost deeper, more rigorous form of Islam where you're? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>It's like Zen is to Buddhism. Zen is an inner dimension of-. <v John Callaway>How did you come to this? <v Laleh Bakhtiar>Well, my first teacher, I was I grew up in America as a Christian. And my first teacher, his name was Sayed Hossein Nasser, and he's going to be going to be on the show tomorrow night. The that you're broadcasting on Wisdom of Faith with Mr. Smith, the Bill Moyers program. He was my teacher and he was a Sufi in the sense of commitment to interchange, not I don't like to use the word Sufi because it's a loaded word. And so I prefer to call it commitment to interchange. So I learned and then also I'm a psychologist, so it fit in with my own profession to work on the self, to try to try to heal. Things that you're hearing here would be something that Sufis would try to work on everybody together. <v John Callaway>They just made a difference in your life, you feel?
<v Laleh Bakhtiar>Absolutely. It's made a tremendous difference in my life because I I'm constantly trying to remember God in Islam. The greatest sin in Islam is forgetfulness of God. It's not the fall from heaven and it's not disobedience. It's so forth. It's forgetfulness of God. <v John Callaway>That's the five prayers. That's right. <v Laleh Bakhtiar>That's right. Plus the Ramadan, the first and then plus remembrance of God, liturgy or zikr in which we try to constantly remember God and to get over the sin of forgetfulness. <v John Callaway>How did you come ?inaudible?? <v Moin Moon Kahn>Well, I was born in a Muslim family. <v John Callaway>And you grew up- <v Moin Moon Kahn>I grew up, but I learned about Islam, I learned about its compassion, its message of goodwill and also Islam. Then I came here to this country. I met people from all over the world, somebody then somebody talks about America and talks about something distasteful thing about America. I'm a person. You see, I have the tie here, and that's emblems that embodies the America I see here. The best perspective. We don't have any Muslim society. But if I have to choose any country in the world as a Muslim, I think I will go for this country because I see because I see we don't have that type of corruption which which every country has. We have freedom of expression. We have freedom of religion. We can construct, we can construct our own Islamic centers. And also the United States is a superpower. We are citizens of superpower. So this is a country if we can transform this country and convince people that Islam is a religion of goodwill and people start accepting us and respecting us, we can change the core of the other country.
<v John Callaway>How did you come to your faith? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I'm a convert from a Christian family. I'm the only muslim in my family. 20 years ago, I converted to the religion of Islam. <v John Callaway>How did that happen? <v Ayesha Mustafaa>I think most people arrived at that conversion, perhaps by soulsearching as well as a certain level of dissatisfaction of what surrounds them. And they've become dissatisfied with other theologies or other philosophies, and they're in pursuit of finding something that will fill that void. My arrival was at the door of Islam, and all Muslims say that no one converted another person to the religion, but is God's doing. And on that journey, many people find a way to go through the path. And we recognize the Christian path and the Jewish path and other religious paths, even the Buddhist path. <v John Callaway>I mean, you're not just saying that you deeply recognize that that- <v Ayesha Mustafaa>?inaudible? and the books that they bought for their people and Islam is that is the path that we feel God chose and those who follow in the way of Prophet Muhammad.
<v Munir Muhammad>Muhammad, you've been on the program several times, but I've never ask you how did you come personally to the Nation of Islam? By listening to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad twenty four years ago, who gave me a knowledge of myself and a knowledge of God and the knowledge of the devil. He made Islam relevant to me as the Holy Koran said that one would do. And I believe in all the principles of Islam, the five principles of Islam. And I don't want anyone to think in terms of a narrow view, but I have to look for myself to you see. <v John Callaway>And where were you, twenty four years ago, in other words, what was your what was your life when you came to that moment? <v Munir Muhammad>As everyone else did in a Christian country, in a Christian environment? I went to the church, but I didn't stay very long. But when I heard Islam is taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, it answers those questions that have been long laying dormant. In my mind, I didn't know where we came from. We have been reduced to animals in this country. So the Honorable Elijah Muhammad elevated that consciousness. And then if you want to know, we don't believe that God, just with a man just by osmosis. So get this book, The Birth of a safe. We'll do it over the credits. In the meantime, our many thanks to Ayesha Mustafaa, Laleh Bakhtiar, Moin Moon Kahn, and Munir Muhammad for being with us this evening. Our many thanks to the Chicago Community Trust for their support of the special series of Chicago Matters broadcast produced in conjunction with ABC Radio and the Chicago Public Library and tune in to WBC as it explores Chicago's rich religious and spiritual life. Listen weekdays at seven fifty a.m. and four fifty PM for Chicago Matters Questions of Faith on ABC Radio 91.5 FM. I'm John Callaway. Thank you and good night.
Chicago Tonight
A Muslim Mosaic
Producing Organization
WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
Window to the World Communications, Inc.
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-526-c24qj78z9g).
Episode Description
This is the April 15, 1996 episode of "Chicago Matters: A Muslim Mosaic." "Host John Callaway examines Chicago's Muslim community, now the second largest religion in the city, in this hour-long special edition of Chicago's popular public affairs program."--supplemental material.
Series Description
"Each year WTTW devotes its Chicago Matters Series to a subject of concern to the community. This year, the series presented an in-depth look at religion. Joined by WBEZ Radio and The Chicago Public Library, the series addressed QUESTIONS OF FAITH through documentaries, weekly radio programs and public discussions. "No matter what religion we are ascribed, there are certain life events that often compel us to turn to religion in search of meaning, comfort and community. THE HEART OF RELIGION examines the role religion plays in our personal and spiritual life through three 'rites of passage,' birth, marriage and death. "CHICAGO'S SACRED TREASURES takes viewers on a visual tour through the city and suburbs to illustrate how religious communities express their faith through the arts. Through music, dance, sculpture, calligraphy, painting, stained glass and even needlework the program conveys the idea that in all religions there are those who are inspired to express their devotion through some sore of creative expression. "A special edition of CHICAGO TONIGHT, WTTW's nightly public affairs series, introduces viewers to Chicago's fastest-growing and second-largest religion--Islam. Host John Callaway moderates this discussion about beliefs, practices, and stereotypes with four area Muslims, including a leader of the offshoot Nation of Islam. "The CHICAGO MATTERS MINUTES served as public service announcements as well as promotion for the series. As a community service to our viewers, the CHICAGO MATTERS SERIES utilized various mediums to promote religious understanding and tolerance among the different faiths through dialogue. "RECOMMENDED VIEWING: THE HEART OF RELIGION and CHICAGO's SACRED TREASURES"--1996 Peabody Awards entry form.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
This content is owned by Window to the World Communications, Inc. (WTTW). For more information, visit or
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Window to the World Communications, Inc.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-1c20ced8992 (Filename)
Format: Betacam: SP
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Chicago Tonight; A Muslim Mosaic,” 1996-04-15, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Chicago Tonight; A Muslim Mosaic.” 1996-04-15. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Chicago Tonight; A Muslim Mosaic. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from