News / USA

How America Looks Through Muslim Eyes

Documentary 'Journey into America' explores freedom, justice and tolerance in US

The documentary, 'Journey into America,' explores life for Muslims in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks.
The documentary, 'Journey into America,' explores life for Muslims in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks.

Multimedia

Audio
Mohamed Elshinnawi

An estimated seven million Muslims live in the United States today.

But for many Americans, Islam is associated with extremists like Osama bin Laden.

To shed light on this religious group and counter mutual distrust, American University Professor Akbar Ahmed and his team of young researchers traveled to more than 75 American cities.

Those journeys are chronicled in a documentary, and an accompanying book, called "Journey into America."

Negative perceptions

"We don't like the Muslims, that is all," says one American woman in the documentary. "They don't believe in our Jesus."

"Their book tells them to kill," says another man.

Statements like that prompted Ahmed and his team to craft a documentary around two themes: what it means to be a Muslim in America and what it means to be American especially after the September 11 attacks.

"Remember before 9/11, they came here and considered this the best place in the world to be a Muslim," says Akbar. "After 9/11, they faced many challenges."

Khadija Rivera, a Muslim who wears a headscarf, was one who faced obstacles.

"They were spitting on me," she says. "Some people told me to remove the veil for safety. I refused because that sounded like a sign of defeat."

Challenging stereotypes

Ahmed says "Journey into America" revealed that many Americans lack information about Islam.

"Many thought that Islam preaches violence through the Koran. Many think that Islam suppresses women and treats women very badly."

A gathering of Muslim women in the documentary includes a pediatrician, financial analyst, pharmacist and real estate agent.
A gathering of Muslim women in the documentary includes a pediatrician, financial analyst, pharmacist and real estate agent.

The documentary attempts to shatter stereotypes about Muslim-American women. In one scene, scarf-wearing women are asked their occupations. They turn out to be a pharmacist, pediatrician, real estate agent and financial analyst with Exxon-Mobil.

Hailey Woldt, a researcher on the documentary, wanted to see how Americans in a small southern town would react to a veiled woman. She put on an abaya -- an Islamic robe -- and went to a crowded restaurant.

"I walked in and everyone in the restaurant looked at me, put their forks down and had their mouth open and for a minute they were silent," she says. "But after that everyone went back doing what they normally do."

Lines of communication

Woldt is convinced American Muslims are fitting in well.

"All they need to do now is simply communicate that Islam is a part of America and that they are bringing something, adding something, to the American culture," Woldt says.

'Journey into America' visits Arlington National Cemetery to examine the graves of Muslim troops who died in service to their country.
'Journey into America' visits Arlington National Cemetery to examine the graves of Muslim troops who died in service to their country.

Such as giving their lives for their country. At Arlington National Cemetery, where U.S. servicemen and women are buried, the team videoed graves of Muslim-Americans.

They also filmed Muslim-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, Muslims at the oldest mosque in America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a Shi'ite congregation in New York City.

Muslim-Americans living the American dream are also featured. People like Munir Chaudry, who came to America in 1971 with $100 in his pocket, and now owns a company that offers jobs at his factory in Chicago.

"Factory workers as well as mechanical department, shipping and receiving, anybody with the right qualifications could move up to the supervisory positions," he says.

American University Professor Akbar Ahmed believes the founding fathers meant to integrate Muslims into American society.
American University Professor Akbar Ahmed believes the founding fathers meant to integrate Muslims into American society.

Ahmed believes integrating Muslims in America is what the founding fathers had in mind.

"A statue at Jefferson's University of Virginia carries a tablet which reads 'Religious Freedom 1786: God, Jehovah, Brahma, Allah,'" he says. "Just think of it, Jefferson owned a Koran and welcomes the believers of Allah (Arabic for God)."

At the Statue of Liberty, the historic gateway to America, the documentary team concludes that the United States must revive its principle of pluralism to integrate American Muslims.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs