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Muslims in America Reach Out


TV Report transcript

Muslims in America come from many countries and have diverse backgrounds, but they are united by their desire to practice their religion in peace and to replace the negative image many non-Muslim Americans have about Islam. In this report by Carol Pearson we meet three very different Americans who practice Islam.

Muzzammil Hassan came to America from Pakistan 25 years ago. He became a successful banker in Buffalo, New York, near the famed Niagara Falls.

While he and his wife were happy to be in the United States, they were upset by the negative perceptions of Muslims, and particularly how this perception might affect their children.

That is how they came up with the idea of Bridges TV. Mr. Hassan's wife challenged him to start it.

MUZZAMMIL HASSAN, FOUNDER, BRIDGES TV

"I had no background in television. I didn't know anything about TV. Her comment was, 'you have an M.B.A. (masters degree in business) why don't you write a business plan?'"

And so he did. He quit his job at the bank and for the next two to three years worked almost non-stop in developing an English language television network that offers news and entertainment for Muslims.

Mr. Hassan hopes Bridges TV lives up to its name by uniting American Muslims and by helping non-Muslims overcome the negative images they may have of both Muslims and Islam.

MUZZAMMIL HASSAN, FOUNDER, BRIDGES TV

"There should be a Muslim media so that Muslim children growing up in America grow up with the self confidence and high self esteem about their identity both as Americans and as Muslims."

Other Muslims are also trying to reach out to non-Muslim Americans.

Hadia Mubarak is a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She has grown up in the United States - her father is from Syria, her mother from Jordan. Hadia is the president of the Muslim Student Association for Northern American. She feels obligated to change the perceptions many Americans have about Muslims.

HADIA MUBARAK

"This is sort of my calling. The only exposure they had about Islam was in the media or what they saw in Hollywood: Arab fanatics blowing up planes, hijacking planes."

She says she also feels obligated to dispel the perception that Muslim women are oppressed.

HADIA MUBARAK

"If you meet Muslim women, they are some of the most vocal, strongly opinionated women you will ever meet in your life. "

Hadia wears the hijab, even when she runs track, but she says the decision to wear it was hers and hers alone.

Muhammad Latif Hayden is an American who converted to Islam. He first learned about it through Sheik Muhammad Rahem Bawa Muhayaddeen, a Sufi from Sri Lanka.

MUHAMMAD LATIF HAYDEN

"I took the shahadah (declaration of belief) with Bawa in 1972, and since then I've been a Muslim."

Mr. Hayden wanted to learn Sufism, a mystic type of Islam. After Sheik Bawa Muhaiyaddeen died in 1986, Mr. Hayden dedicated himself to spreading Bawa's teachings.

MUHAMMAD LATIF HAYDEN

"The importance of sharing that information, the importance of making available those teachings to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is essential, especially today."

Muhammad Latif Hayden is now secretary of the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Mosque in Philadelphia. He publicizes the sheik's teachings through books and recordings and the Internet. As he describes it, his work is to show others the way to live in equality and peace in the kingdom of God.

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