Islam’s Rise In America – Islamic Leader Explains

Nov 26, 2021 296.8K Views 4.7K Comments

Though only 1.1% of the USA population follows Islam, the religion is on the rise. Join me as we hear what two Shia Muslim religious leaders have to tell Americans.

We’re very
very fortunate
to meet Hassan.
-Thank you, Peter.
-You know, for non-Muslims
what would be an easy association?
You’re sort of like a priest?
Or a pastor?
-No, I serve as a brother and
as a servant. [chuckles]
-But you’re a religious leader?
-Yes.
And basically the title, my title
my official title is Imam.
-And so the best way
to address you is Imam?
-Yes.
-Okay, so Imam,
you grew up in Iraq?
-Yes.
-And you’ve been here how long?
-I moved to this country in end of 1992.
-So for those that are not
Muslim in the United States
please walk us through, unpack it for us
because many people associate
Islam with a negative thing.
-Yes.
There are bad actors
in everything obviously
but what would you say?
What would be an easy way to unpack it
for the non-Muslim?
And guys, I just want to let you know
I’m trying to hit Islam
from all different angles.
A more conservative angle.
Which is you.
I’ve hit a more liberal leaning angle
’cause the word Muslim, you
can’t put a label on on it, right?
There are many different types.
But I’ll let you go with that
Imam, how would you unpack that?
-In order for me to make it very
simple for our American viewers
to get a realistic grasp of what Islam is
and who Muslims are.
I would say there is a father
who fathered three children
and probably often those
brothers were estranged
but now they are getting closer.
So the first son was Judaism.
-Right.
-And the second one was Christianity
and now we have the
third brother which is Islam.
-So the Abrahamic religions,
a lot of the same characters.
-Exactly, we have so
many commonalities with
Christianity and Judaism.
We all revere a prophet, Abraham.
He is a sacred figure in
all those three religions.
We all worship God.
We use different names.
So in English you say
God in Arabic I say Allah
but we are speaking about the
same entity, same God basically.
-How are your feelings about
being in the States coming from Iraq?
You’ve seen the histories of the
two countries obviously, geopolitically.
Which probably hasn’t
been an easy journey for you.
How has it been for you
to be Iraqi in the USA?
What are your experiences?
-Look, I have to be fair and honest.
[phone rings]
There is no better country
for me to live in right now
than the United States.
I found freedom in this country.
I found dignity in this country.
My family literally was massacred
in Iraq under Sadaam Hussein.
We lost 16 members of
my family under Sadaam.
-Wow.
-We were denied living in our country.
In Iraq.
That’s why we left Iraq to Kuwait
then to Iran, then to the United States.
America is a great
country to live in, to prosper.
There is one thing about this country
The big gap that exists between
Muslims and non-Muslims.
There is so much misunderstanding
among American non-Muslims
about Islam.
And maybe it is not their fault.
It could be our fault.
That we have not reached
out, we have not done
enough outreach work to
educate Americans about Islam.
The media is not helping either.
-No.
The media, I mean is not the right
source to know about any religion
not alone, Islam.
So I think that this is our
main challenge, the stereotype.
The misconceptions that exist
in the mind of many Americans
about Islam.
I hope I can help make a dent
on that and help some Americans
to know more about Islam
and to show them how
similar those religions are.
So Peter, this was a church before.
A Baptist church.
And when we were looking for
a mosque to purchase
back in 2017.
We were looking for, actually, a place that
is designed as a worship place.
-Okay.
So we don’t get some
headaches with the city.
So this church was put for sale.
They were relocating to another city.
We did some minor changes.
For example, we converted
the gymnasium into a prayer hall.
-Okay.
And basically that’s it
and we left the rest as is.
You will go inside and see our prayer hall.
-Sure.
Take my shoes off here.
-It holds about 500 people
can fit in this room.
-So you’re about to
run a service right now?
-Salat?
-Yes.
Where do you want me to go?
-Wherever.
-Okay, thank you.
-Assalamu alaikum.
[men greeting in Arabic]
Okay guys, so we’re
gonna get into a prayer.
Sometimes these videos
are more difficult than others.
The Imam had limited time.
So we’re gonna talk to his son also.
Who I think is an Imam.
[praying in Arabic]
I always feel like this
very calming energy
in mosques and churches
and religious spaces.
Even though I’m not religious,
I can appreciate it.
[praying continues]
For this, it seems like daily meditation.
A break from everything,
technology, the noise, traffic lights.
[silence]
So interesting, this juxtaposition.
Being in what feels like Middle America.
Dearborn, primarily Muslim population
and I think it’s the majority.
Maybe it’s not.
Maybe it’s the minority but there
are the most amount of Muslims
per-capita here in Dearborn.
So you have your normal
suburbia Americana landscape
with an old church that’s
turned into a mosque.
Okay, we’re gonna talk to the Imam’s son.
Who is also an Imam.
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Now back to the video.
Good afternoon, Sir.
How are you?
Your name?
Mohammad?
-Qazwini is the Arabic version of Caspiani.
The Caspian sea, yes.
-Oh.
-So we call it Qazwin.
I was born overseas in Iran.
My family is originally from Iraq.
-Okay.
-But at the time, Sadaam was
persecuting so many families.
So my grandfather fled Iraq.
-Right.
He went to Kuwait and then to Iran.
I was born in Iran at that time.
And then when I was seven we
immigrated to the United States
to Los Angeles, California.
-Tehrangelas?
-Tehrangelas.
Also known, Irangelas.
Sadaam was persecuting anyone
who was not supporting him.
Sunnis, like the Kurds are Sunnis.
-Yep.
So he was persecuting anyone who
was not supporting the Ba’athist regime.
So my grandfather was
critical of the Ba’athist regime.
So they imprisoned him
a couple times in Iraq.
Then a death sentence was passed on him.
That’s when he fled Iraq.
So how is it navigating Islam in the USA?
You’ve been here most of your life.
-Yes.
-You’ve been Muslim since birth, right?
-Yes, that is correct.
-How has your journey been?
What are the challenges?
-Let me give you an example from today.
-Okay
-So I went to New York City for a program.
I just came back a couple of hours
and so I’m wearing my
religious garment, right?
This is the traditional
attire that we wear.
-Yeah.
-Which basically is what the
prophet Muhammad used to wear
and then some variation.
-Sure.
So I was on the plane
yesterday going to New York.
-Right.
And I had the prayer bead in my hand.
-Okay.
So I’m just making a prayer
and a fellow American was sitting
across the aisle and he looked at me
and he was uncomfortable
and then he told me,
“Are you okay?”.
I told him, “Yes, I’m okay. Why?”
So the fact that he saw
a Muslim with this attire
and me supplicating on an airplane
obviously triggered some senses in him.
So when I spoke to him in a fluent
English accent, American accent
and I assured him who I am, what I do.
He was relieved because when he saw this
he probably associated
it with extremist Muslims
or terrorists, right?
So we are highly misunderstood.
Once people come to know we are Muslim…
And there are Americans who have
never had any interaction with Muslims.
-Right.
Or they’ve never had any Muslim friends.
That does concern them.
According to Pew research
74% of Americans who
have anti-Muslim sentiments
or some levels of Islamaphobia,
or view Islam negatively.
They don’t have a single Muslim friend.
That says a lot.
-Sure.
-So my message to my fellow Americans is
give us the opportunity
to know one another.
Once we break ice, we
have shared human values.
A lot of those fears, a lot of
those concerns just fade away.
-Yeah, but
you’re a great bridge.
You’re a great personality.
You’re a great face
and you speak perfectly
and you’re obviously an extrovert.
So some people
might not have those skills
and might come into a
community and be closed off.
Right?
So the person that’s living
in the community might think
“Okay, who is this guy and why is he
not trying to connect
with me in any way?”
and I think it’s probably
fear on both sides.
-Absolutely.
-Which would explain that.
-In the Muslim community we
have a lot of challenges as well.
Those communities that you’re referring to
are recent immigrants
and I would say to my fellow Americans
that these communities
have gone through a lot.
They’ve escaped either
persecution, or war, or trauma
wherever they came from.
So when they come here it
takes a long time for them to
integrate into society.
-Yeah.
-Get to know the American culture
and they probably have heard some
negative remarks here and there
that makes them fearful.
-Right.
-So even if you see someone
who is different.
Who is an introvert,
they’re not really outgoing.
Make that contact, take that step
and you will find that
human friendship with them.
-I know it’s interesting.
You would be considered
conservative, right?
You’re a conservative Muslim?
-Well, what scale are we using here?
[laughter]
In the Muslim community because you’ve got
Muslims all over the spectrum.
-Sure.
Me, and my father, and my
family are more moderate, yeah.
-You’re very religious obviously
-Yes.
You’re spending your time in the mosque.
This is what your life
has revolved around.
-Correct.
From that aspect, yes.
You could say I am conservative.
-Because I’m trying to hit this
series about Muslims in the USA
from different angles.
I was with a Lebanese woman
who does not wear a head scarf.
-Very open, liberal.
-You would never even
know she was Muslim unless
somebody was talking
with her at a deep level.
Obviously you wear a dress.
-Yes, I’m practicing Muslim
openly Muslim and
my life revolves around the religion, yes.
-Most people don’t know about Islam.
This place, Dearborn.
It’s everywhere
So anyone that grows up around
here is gonna have some interaction
but there are parts of the country
where there is really no interaction.
So what would be something you could tell
say your average American
that’s never had a Muslim friend
or had any relation with the religion?
I’m gonna say one more thing.
I’ve spent about a year of
my life in the Middle East.
In Muslim countries.
-Really, where in the Middle East?
In Iran, in Saudi Arabia, Syria,
Egypt, Pakistan.
If you consider that the Middle East.
But Muslim countries.
-How was the experience?
-It’s amazing, right?
And so a lot of the questions I ask
I know the answers to
but a lot of my audience
hasn’t been to the Middle East
and I would say
look, politically there is a lot of…
A lot of rifts between
the West and Middle East.
-Absolutely.
-People are very much against
American foreign policy
because it was directly affecting
their lives in a negative way
Some people in a positive way
but the majority in negative.
But they would really
break up the difference
between people and politics.
Like, “We don’t like
the US foreign policy.
Habibi, my prince…” or whatever…
“Come here, let’s eat.
and let’s connect.”
So I never felt any anti-American vibe.
You will feel more
anti-American vibe in England.
-Parts of Europe than the Middle East.
-Or France than the Middle East.
Which is crazy.
But that’s my experience.
-I agree with that.
-What would be the difference
between being Muslim in Europe
and I know Europe is many
countries so you can’t really generalize
but let’s just generalize
for this example…
And the United States?
-I would say Muslim-Americans
are a lot more successful
than Muslims in Europe.
That’s because American
society is a lot more open
and honestly
in Europe there is a lot
of opposition to Islam.
There is a lot of racism over there.
-Not here?
-It exists here but to
a much lesser extent.
I feel Americans are much
more welcoming than Europeans
and I, myself, I witnessed
that in my travels.
So
that
is very encouraging for Muslims.
It makes them feel like America
is their home, it’s their country
and so they’re a lot more successful.
If you look at Muslim-Americans
they’re well-achieved
their income is more
than the average American.
-Really?
-And they’re more educated
than the average American, yes.
-Interesting.
-Whereas in Europe
that may not be the case.
This is a biography of the
life of the Prophet Muhammad.
Peace be upon him.
So all the events that happened in his life
and you can see the size
of these encyclopedias.
That is 35 volumes in Arabic.
-Yeah, but maybe that’s because geography.
If you don’t have much money
and you’re getting out of Syria.
You’re getting on a boat to Greece
and then you’re going overland
up through Europe, right?
-Well, I’m not talking about
those very recent immigrants.
Even Muslims who have been there for
decades or generations.
-Sure.
Americans are much more open,
they’re much more welcoming
and I think
part of the reason is because
America is a nation of immigrants.
So naturally they’re more welcoming.
It’s more diverse.
Whereas in France and some other countries
you see that opposition to
anyone who looks foreign
especially if they’re Muslim or Jewish.
So
I think this is one big factor that
has made Muslims a
lot more successful here.
-Okay, can we sit down?
-Sure, absolutely.
-So speaking of Jewish,
what do you think of…
I mean this is a wide question but
the Jewish faith, the Christian faith
what would a very religious person like you
say about those other faiths?
I know we’re all Abrahamic religions.
A lot of common ground.
A lot of common actors.
Similar names, Jesus is in all of them.
-Absolutely.
-So what’s your…
You can take this any way you want.
-I see Islam as a continuation
of Judaism and Christianity.
So we recognize the origin of Christianity
the origin of Judaism.
as divine faiths.
We believe in their prophets
who advocated for those faiths
So we have a lot of respect
for Jews and Christians.
In fact, the Quran gives
them a special status called
“The People of the Book.”
-So when you see people
that maybe you’d see
in the mainstream media.
That are Muslim talking down on Judaism.
Talking down on Christianity.
That’s the minority
or tough to say?
-I would say that is the minority
and I think a lot of those people
conflate politics with religion.
-Right, right, right.
-So a lot of Muslims who might
come and openly denounce Jews.
What they’re really denouncing
is the political situation,
let’s say with Israel
or with Zionism, right?
Otherwise, historically Muslims
have not had a problem with Judaism
as a religion because we recognize it
as a legitimate religion.
Yes, we believe that Islam
came to complete those religions
and now this is the religion of
God that’s the most comprehensive.
So those Muslims who denounce that
they’re conflating politics with religion
and sometimes they may
not be able to articulate that.
So you see them just condemning Jews.
-And you don’t teach
that in your mosque at all?
-We teach against it.
-Okay.
Some mosques might teach…
Connect the two, right?
The politics and the religion?
-Yes, there are extremists.
Muslims out there, definitely.
They are supported by
governments like Saudi Arabia or
factions over there or institutions.
So we do recognize
there are extremist Muslims
who may advocate for that
but here in the United States
the mosques and the community
centers that I’ve been to
honestly, it’s very rare to
find that type of rhetoric.
That type of speech.
-Do you like it’s your
duty as a patriotic American
if you hear that as a
leader to call it out?
-Absolutely, we call it out.
We stand up.
In fact, sometimes we’ll
invite a Jewish rabbi.
To come to our center here.
-Oh, wow.
-And to be with us in a program
just to send that message.
That we don’t have a
problem with Jewish people over here.
We have very good relations.
We go to their temples.
My father has been invited to speak
at Jewish temples before
I’ve been to many churches myself
and we take active steps
to send a clear message in our community
that we don’t have a problem
with the other religious communities.
-Okay, because I think
a lot of fear comes from
Americans that see
Christianity on a decline.
Right?
Islam is on the rise.
-It’s a fast growing religion.
-Right, and so that’s a natural
human response to feel threatened.
I would think.
-Yes.
-What would you have to say
to those people that
perhaps feel threatened
about Islam coming into
their neighborhoods or into the…
More people converting perhaps?
-I would say to them
“Know what Islam is and what it represents
and you’ll see that Islam
has so much in common with Christianity
and the basic teachings of Jesus
were just expanded on
by the prophet Muhammad.”
So don’t see Islam as
something that is foreign.
This Quran over here.
This has an entire chapter called Mary.
Madium, in Arabic.
Which is the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is mentioned over a
hundred times in the Quran.
More than the prophet Muhammad.
So
the core Christian values
are values that the Quran talks about.
So I would say to fellow
American Christians
who might feel threatened.
You know, Christianity may
be in decline and you hear Islam
is one of the fastest
growing religions out there.
Yes, there are trouble makers.
There are political agendas
here and there.
But for the most part Islam is
a continuation of Christianity.
You will find those shared values
once you get to know Islam.
Once you get to know Muslims.
-Right.
I can speak from personal experience.
I’ve been in dozens of mosques.
I’ve always been accepted
even though it’s obvious
I’m not Muslim.
When I go in there I don’t
know how to wash correctly.
You know, I stand out
but people have always accepted me
and I’d like to make that
point in my videos that
humans are humans.
It’s pretty simple
there are bad actors
in every race
in every religion
in every category
and so unfortunately I feel the media has
latched on a little bit
hard on the Muslim story.
I get it.
It was the unknown during September 11th.
It’s the other.
Your country is attacked.
You know?
So rightfully so, people are
to be concerned and scared.
-It’s a natural human reaction
and we understand that.
We’re very understanding.
-Right.
But
my experience, I’ve gone to
the hardest parts of Karachi
in Pakistan alone.
Made videos and everyone’s been cool to me.
As edgy as they might be.
And people have taken me in.
So I think that’s one thing that
doesn’t cross over in the news.
Is the fact that
as a whole
the Middle East is the most
hospitable part of the world
that I’ve been to.
-That’s fascinating to hear.
That’s amazing.
By the way, one thing
about Dearborn I would say.
So for those Americans who might
be concerned Islam is on the rise.
What changes are going
to happen to our country?
These Muslims taking over.
Come to Dearborn.
Dearborn is heavily populated my Muslims.
We have over a hundred
thousand Muslims in this area
and come see if there
is anything different here.
If there is anything disturbing
If there is anything that goes
against core American values.
People are living here peacefully.
There are conservatives.
They’re proud of their faith.
You have all these wonderful
restaurants that you can try.
You have these institutions all operating
in a very civil way.
-I was talking to some
Yemeni guys yesterday.
These guys are more pro-American
than many natural-born Americans.
That’s the interesting part.
They’re wearing American flags.
They have American flags
on their houses.
Well, because this country
has given them the opportunities
they don’t get at home
and they appreciate that and they get it.
-A lot of Muslims do appreciate
that and I can see that.
Whether the Lebanese
community, the Iraqi community,
they have a lot of appreciation
for what America has offered.
Muslims in America love America
as a country, as their home.
A country of opportunities.
A country of freedom.
Respect for minorities.
The only problem Muslims have
is with American foreign policy
because they see that
the Middle East is just
quagmired with all these problems
and they feel America
fuels that, doesn’t help them.
Supports one country against another.
-Yeah.
-They have their own foreign policy.
So Muslims, they’re just
disturbed by American foreign policy
but they love America.
They love American people.
-And you guys have a good
ability to separate the two.
I will give credit where credit is due.
-Yeah.
-The Middle Easterners
by and large…
-You saw that they were able
to separate the two.
-“I hate your policy, love you.” mentality.
Quite often here
quite often in the West not just here
all of Europe and the West.
People categorize politics
and people in one group.
It’s easier to understand
and put a label on it.
but it’s very far from the truth.
Like you weren’t for
Sadaam’s policies.
Am I right?
I mean you were a kid but
as you grew up you
weren’t for them were you?
-No, I was not for them.
-Okay.
And that’s a whole messy topic.
America comes in and gets rid of him
but that…
-We supported that.
-You supported that?
-We welcomed America removing Sadaam
from power.
-Really?
-Oh, yes. Definitely.
However, what concerns us
is that American and its allies
at one point supported Sadaam.
Now because America
had a problem with Iran.
So they propped him against Iran.
-Enemy of your enemy is your friend.
-Right.
So America you know
sometimes plays both sides.
-One day they support Sadaam,
one day they remove him
but we were in support of his removal.
Definitely.
‘Cause he was a dictator wrecking
havoc, destroying his people.
We wanted him to go.
We welcomed that.
-But the Sunnis
The majority would have said,
“We wish he was still in power.”
Right?
-I mean some Sunnis. I would not say…
-Yeah, it gets complicated.
A lot of Sunnis did welcome it.
A lot didn’t.
-The Kurds 100% said,
“We’re happy he’s out.”
-Definitely.
See, the Sunnis had a
problem with Sadaam too
when he invaded the Kuwait
and you had the Persian Gulf War.
So Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Gulf countries
they basically led a war against Sadaam
with the US.
So you know, the Sunni world
had mixed feelings about Sadaam.
They knew he was a dictator
but due to sectarian issues,
they knew he was against Iran.
So
on the one hand you want him to stay.
You don’t want America
to remove him from power
but a lot of Sunnis did
welcome his removal.
The first time I traveled after
President Trump became president.
When I came back I’m like,
“Oh no, what are we going to expect?”
because during the Bush era they
would give us a hard time at the airports.
Big time.
After 9/11 you know, it’s understandable.
-It’s understandable you said?
-I mean yes.
It’s unfortunate
but I understand why that happened.
Even though we voiced
our opposition to that.
To the State Department, to the White House
that you need to make a
distinction between peaceful Muslims.
Not everybody who is coming back
from overseas is a suspicious person.
But when I came back maybe a
few months after he became president
it was very smooth at the airport.
Nothing, no problems, no interrogation.
So
when I came home I told my friends
“Look, maybe the
rhetoric is very disturbing
but on the ground we’re not
really seeing much changes.”
Yeah, but the first year
I’ll be very honest with you
Muslims were really concerned.
-You were nervous?
We were nervous.
I would say to my fellow Americans
if you can, come visit Dearborn.
Experience the largest concentration
of Muslim-Americans in America
and you’ll see that we are peaceful.
We love America.
We love the opportunities
that we have over here
and you’ll see that
Muslims are very hospitable.
They really appreciate
what this country has to offer.
Don’t let the major media networks
teach you what Islam is, what Muslims are.
Experience it for yourself.
I would ask my fellow Americans
if you don’t have a Muslim friend,
make one Muslim friend.
Your perspective will change.
-People are people.
Comes down to that.
I really think at the end of
the day all it is is respect.
You give respect, you get respect.
-Absolutely.
-And every type of person
from every type of background
there are always those
that don’t give respect.
And unfortunately then
other people get labeled.
-That’s our challenge.
This happens to every
group, to every religion
but when some Muslim bad
apple does something wrong
1.8 billion people, all of a sudden
have to be held responsible.
We don’t feel that’s fair.
-All right, guys.
So there’s a view in with some Imams here.
In Dearborn.
-It was so nice to meet you.
-Yeah, thank you.
Really nice to meet you.
Appreciate you opening
up your time and your mind
-Did you get the calligraphy here?
The Arabic calligraphy.
-Yeah, that’s beautiful.
It’s like artwork, huh?
What does that say?
-It says, “Oh God protect me.
Offer me protection and bless me.”
-Beautiful.
Okay guys, so that’s just another angle in
on my series about Muslims in the USA.
You have more conservative
types, you have more liberal types.
You have some different views.
-We’re very diverse.
-You can’t put an easy label on them.
-Absolutely.
Thank you so much.
-Thank you.
All right, guys.
-God bless you.
It was an honor.
-God bless you.
Until the next one guys, take care.
-Take care, everyone.
♪ middle eastern ♪

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