Muslims and 'the American way'

Jun 13, 2011

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the lives of Muslims living in America changed forever. Ibrahim Moiz, a Muslim lawyer in Fairfax County, mixes Muslim tradition with "the American way", which he believes steers Muslims away from extremism while still holding their faith close. Moiz chatted about this religious approach, as well as how the American Muslim community has been affected after a decade marked by suspicion and mistrust.

The discussion doesn't end here. Check out and participate in the following:

On Faith: What is it like to be Muslim in the United States in 2011? Tell us your story.

Your photo story: send us a photo that represents your life as a Muslim

Related: Under suspicion: American Muslims search for identity 10 years after Sept. 11

Welcome to the online chat to discuss the article that was published yesterday titled Under Suspicion: American Muslims search for identity 10 years after Sept. 11.

I am Ibrahim Moiz from the article and will answer questions relating to the article to the best of my ability.

Do you think Muslim Americans are worse off than non-Muslims living in Muslim majority societies? What is the worst that has happened to American Muslims since 9/11. And secondly why is your wife standing behind you and two teenage boys while praying? Are women treated equally under Islam?

Thank you for your question.

In my opinion, the countries today that claim to be "Islamic countries" are nothing but Muslim majority societies are not following the true teachings of Islam. I think this is a consensus among most of the American Muslims and world wide scholars. There is corruption throughout their governments and people are mistreated. This is what has led to the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the current revolutions in Syria and Libya. 

Muslims and non-Muslims are not treated well in those countries unless they are from the elite. So, Muslim Americans are better off than other Muslims and non-Muslims living in those societies.

Further, it is a fallacy that non-Muslims living under Islamic law have to convert or die. The Quran says "There is no comulsion in religion." 3:256. People cannot be forced to accept the religion. And those who are not Muslims are not expected to follow its tenets.

The worst that has happened to American Muslims since 9/11 is the distrust that has crept among our fellow citizens. This is partly our fault for not reaching out to our neighbors and doing our job as good citizens.

My wife is standing behind us in prayer because this is how God has commanded us to pray. The men stand in the front and the women in the back or on the side. I am not a scholar and don't know exactly the reason we are told to do this but I beleive it may be due to the position of prostration.

When Islam first came to Muhammad and his people women were not allowed property rights, baby girls were buried alive because of the fact they were girls and women were treated as slaves. Islam came and the first to embrace the message of Muhammad was his wife, Khadija, who is said to be the first PERSON that will enter Heaven. Women were given rights and the Arab people were told NOT to bury their children. There aresaying of the Prophet wherein it is said that Heaven is under your mother's feet (so respect her and listen to her). 

I wholeheartedly beleve that women are treated equally under Islam.

The American way, to many US Citizens is centered around freedom of speech. However, Muslims appear to want a double standard in this area. Its the only religion that constantly makes threats when its criticized. To the point where the religion has scared networks away from making fun of it (while still poking fun at all other religions). What can you, or other Muslims do to help the community really embrace free speech.

Thank you for your question.

Islam cannot "constantly make threats when it is criticized." The people that are doing so are not spokespersons for the religion. We have to look to the history of Islam and see that whenever the Messengers of God were mocked, including Muhammad, Noah and Jonas, they responded with kind speech and treating the people better than they were treated. 

I believe that Muslims, need to realize this and learn the religion. Islam was spread much further by traders and business-people than by the sword (see how it spread to Indonesia and Malaysia).

We need to educate other Muslims on this fact and we need to be able to ignore the hate-mongers and respond with Peace. "Islam" means submission to God and most of God's attributes are peace.

I have to admit that I feel very sorry for Muslim women I see wearing the headscarf and even more the ones in the full black outfit with the veil. I saw a little girl about 8 at a carnival wearing the full outfit--everything but a face veil. To me this says child abuse. Why can't the women wear modern, albeit modest, clothing? Orthodox Jewish women do. I personally find the scarves very unattractive, and I imagine it would be a nuisance wearing them every day.

Thank you for your question.

I cannot answer that question because I do not wear the headscarf and do not know if I were born a women if I would be able to do so. I pray that God give the women who wear it the strength to continue to do so.

Similar to praying 5 times a day, men not allowed to wear gold and silk, and all Muslims not allowed to consume alcohol or eat pork, women are told to cover their hair.

I personally find the headscarf to be beautiful and very happy that my wife chooses to obey the commandment from God. My daughters role model and idol is their mother. My 4 year old at times wants to wear the scarf out, but we don't let her. She wants to be like her mom and some of her mom's friends. Does that mean there are parents who don't force this on their children? Not at all, it happens and is a huge issue. Just like a Muslim has a choice to pray, the same goes for a Muslim woman to cover her hair.

Muslim women all over the world wear different styles of headscarf and some are very stylish. There are many American Muslim women who, using their entrepreneurial skills are starting clothing companies with modest clothing and scarves for women.

I hope this answers your question.

In my experience, most people who claim that Islam isn't compatible with American life aren't talking about the religion at all, but instead about Arab culture. Or to be more specific, a caricature of that culture. Would you agree? Although though fewer than one-fifth of the world's Muslims are Arabs, too many Americans talk as if these the same thing. Even someone as educated as Juan Williams mistakenly believes there is such a thing as "Muslim garb," as if the religion was like Amish Christianity or Hasidic Judaism. I shook my head when I read that, because all the Muslims I've met personally have worn "Western" clothing.

Thank you for your question and comments.

I agree with you 100%. There are many aspects of Islam in America that are not part of the religion but part of Indo-Pak, Arab, African culture. That is the beauty of Islam is that it can adapt to these cultures and those cultures can adapt to Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad dressed as his people during his time did, he did not do anything differently (from what I know of his life) except that he forbid arrogance and the showing of wealth (at that time the rich would have extra long clothing and "drag" their clothing behind them showing how wealthy they were - this act was forbidden in Islam).

Many American Muslims do not know what is culturan and what is religious. It is incumbent upon all American Muslims to learn their religion and differentiate what is cultural and what is religious.


Isn't this relative? Dressing modestly in the US connotes something very different than dressing modestly in the Old Country (my grandparents immigrated from the Eastern Mediterranean and always referred to "the Old Country"). In the US, dressing modestly means, to me, not showing your midriff, not showing most of your cleavage, not showing your legs about halfway up from the knees, and not showing your rear end crack. If you cover these but show your hair, you won't get a second look. It thus seems to me that by American standards, women can dress very modestly even though they don't cover their hair.

Thank you for your question.

Obviously this question is better off being answered by a Muslim woman who covers but I will do my best.

There is no doubt that dressing modestly is relative. Today's modest dressing in America is much different than what was modest here in the 40s and 50s and what is considered modest in Holland or China.

Muslim women have been commanded by God to dress modestly and cover their hair. This is taken from the Quran and also from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Women can and some do, cover their hair but wear immodest clothing. This goes to defeat the purpose of wearing the scarf and becomes more cultural than religious.

Would you agree that there is some basis on screening based on nationality, i.e a randomly selected US Citizen (regardless of race or religion) will generally represent a lesser risk than one from a Middle Eastern country who have terror groups operating within their borders?

Thank you for your question.

I do not believe that you should screen based on appearance. This opens pandora's box and leads to ostricizing a group of people. This happened to the Japanese Americans and continues to happen to African Americans.

One example of this not being the case is Timothy McVeigh.

I believe that we are better off with more security but it needs to be done in a just way. Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason.

I am a Christian but I am ashamed when there are Christian extremists such as that pastor in Florida who put the Koran "on trial" and the burned it. He admitted having never read it afterwards. But what he did was as offensive to moderate Christians as to Muslims. I have scanned the Koran and noticed that some of the Koran actually has Biblical text in it as well. So, when that pastor burned the Koran, he burned part of the Bible as well and did not even know it! What can we, as moderate Christians, do to halt such ignorance and promote understanding between the two faiths? (I do not like using the word tolerance because that implies there is something bad about the other religion.) Thank you...

Thank you for your question.

We (all humans) need to do a better job of understanding others beliefs. That is the only way we can coexist with one another.

I personally, am very ignorant when it comes to the differences between Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists and in the Jewish faith reformists and Hasidic Jews.

I think we have to take it upon oursleves to read and understand for ourselves and not take the word of others (when it comes to another's faith or belief).

Many people do not know that Muslims believe in all the Prophets before them, from Adam to Jesus. We respect them all and therefore MUST respect all faiths. We are commanded to that by Islam.  Those who disrespect others' faiths are doing a disservice to all humanity.

Why do you think so many politicians are raising "shariah takeover" as a campaign issue nowadays? How does this affect American Muslims who oppose extremism?

Thank you for your question.

I think its a political tactic, similar to the Red Scare that was exploited and used over and over in this country.

Politicans and their campaign advisors know that when it comes to learning about something foreign to humans, they tend to take the others' word for it.

The "shariah takeover" is annoying because it could never happen here in the United States. All these state and local bills being introduced and thankfully defeated, are unnecessary and a waste of tax payers money. We have a separation of church and state and "shariah law" falls right into that.

Unfortunately, it was succesful in getting certain politicians elected in the mid-term elections last year and will likley be a hot platform in the upcoming elections.

I hope we realize this and can see through it.

Whenever I hear Muslim condemnations on attacks either attempted at home,or overseas there is always conditions. It's never the attacks are just wrong; it's the attacks are wrong, but so is ... This is even more true for attacks on Israeli citizens, including the women and children. The failure to absolutely condem attacks like these leads to a lot of mistrust between Americans and the muslim community.

Thank you for your question.

I've never seen the language you are referring to so I cannot respond to it.

The condeming language that I have seen from American Muslim organizations has been very direct and to the point.

Terrorist attacks are wrong and do not have a place in Islam.

Please note that just because someone says they are Muslim or shouts certain words when they are committing the cowardly act does not make them a representative of the faith.

Does Islam recognize that people have free will. If so, what is the role of free will in Islam?

One of the six pillars of faith in Islam is to believe in pre-desitnation and free will (Qadaa' and Qadr). Everything is pre-determined but we control our actions.

Further, the Quran says "there is no compulsion in religion."

No one can be forced to do anything. If one chooses not to abide by a certian tenet of Islam then so be it. S/he cannot be forced to do so.

Islam, does not look into people's bedrooms to see what it is they are doing and what they are not doing. That is between them and God.  Privacy is recognized in Islam and one cannot invade another's privacy to see how they are acting.

I hope this answers your question.

I appreciate your readiness to take questions. The fact that you and the Muslim community believe that your lives have changed forever after 9/11 mystifies me. Why are Muslims so different say from Japanese Americans who might have made a similar statement after Pearl Harbor? Why do American Muslims refrain from speaking out against hate mongering Imams in Pakistan, and I ask this because again I compare the reaction of Americans of Japanese descent who stood up for the Country even though they were terribly abused by the government and non asian Americans.

Thank you for your question.

I would invite you to read the comments to this article and see the distrust people have for Muslims. This is a direct result of the hijackers of the planes of 9/11 who that day hijacked our religion as well.  Their cowardly and heinous acts were an attack on America and Islam.

American Muslims do speak out against atrocities that are taking place in other countries by "Muslims". I am not sure exactly what you are referring to in Pakistan, but the treatment of women in certain parts of Pakistan and the tribalism that exists there is not part of the religion and many organizations have spoken out against these people.

There are between 1.2 and 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. We as American Muslims should not and cannot respond to every acts that is done in the name of Islam, good or bad. Unfortunately, the bad acts are those that are recognized and we should instead focus on the good ones and promote the good acts.

One of the ways Muslim-Americans separate themselves is by setting up their own banking and finance systems to comply with Sharia. However, many countries and Muslim organizations that publicly subscribe to Sharia use non-Sharia banking facilities, laws, and regulations. Can you please comment on whether you see Islamic banking as a positive step for Muslim-Americans to affirm their identity as Muslims, or as a hindrance to their assimilation as Americans? Thank you.

Islam forbids certain things and one of those things is usury. Many economists have applauded Islamic finance for this and believe that a non-usorious financial system is a win-win for all, the consumer and the banker.

I believe that if people realize that Islam is more than a religion but a comprehensive way of life then they will begin to accept its multiple facets.

I believe, a non-usorious banking system,  is best for America and will avoid the predatory lending that took place here and has led to the real estate downfall. 

Would expression by non-muslims of solidarity with Muslims in applauding the seisure and scheduled trial of Adaovan Daradzic at the International Court in the Hague strengthen ties of friendship, fellowship and brotherhood between these population groups?

Radovan Karadzic is a war-criminal. He killed innocent men, women and children. I do not see how anyone who knows of is heinous crimes against humanity could not applaud his capture regardless of whether the victims were Muslim or not.


A number of times you have mentioned in this chat about X group not speaking in the name of Islam. While no one can speak for all of a group why don't we often see more conflicting comments coming from different groups associated with the religion. The crazy groups will always shout the loudest, but what can Muslim groups do to show to a skeptical public that they are not part of the majority?

From my reading and understanding American Muslim groups immediately issue statements condemning these cowardly and terrorist acts. The leaders of these organizations need to continue to do what they are doing.

We as people, need to do the research ourselves and see what statements are made and what are not. We have information at our fingertips and can easily verify what we are told to believe.

Hello, This may not be the right forum to ask this question, but is it taught that it is haram to have cats and dogs as indoor pets? Something about not being able to pray if they are kept indoors?

This is one example of how culture plays a huge role in Islam. There are 4 schools of thought in Islam and all are within the realm and followings of Islam. Dogs are allowed in Islam under one of the schools and cats are allowed in the other schools of thought, therefore it can never be said that dogs or cats are not allowed as indoor pets.

Please note that I am not a scholar by any means but this is my opinion and my understanding of what I have been told and what I have read.

But doesn't the Koran call for apostates to be killed?

From my understanding and reading the Quran, it does not.

One must realize that the verses that were revealed were revealed in a 23 year time frame (13 years in Mecca and 10 years in Medina). For instance, the prohibition of alcohol was in 3 stages which spanned over years.

Verses cannot be read by themselves but must be read in context of when and why they were revealed.

In response to my earlier question about modesty being relative, you mentioned that the Koran requires it. I have read that some scholars claim that the Koran actually refers to women covering their hips. They base this on a linguistic analysis of the Koran, which was not written in everyday Arabic. Are you familiar with this?

There is a discussion on the meaning of the "hijab" today. This is a discussion that has been ongoing.

As Muslims, we not only look at the Quran but we also look at the sayings and the lives of the Prophet Muhammad. For instance, the Quran tells us we have to pray, but the Prophet taughts us how it is we pray.

Similarly, the Quran tells women to cover themselves in 24:31 and 33:59 and to see how they are told to cover we look to the implementation of the women of the Prophet's family. It is said they covered their hair.

Again, please note that I am not a scholar.

Thank you for your enlightening questions and comments. I apologize if I was unable to respond to your question or comment.

Please take the time to learn about your fellow American Muslims and do not rush to judgment from what you hear other "Muslims" doing.

Thank you for your time.

From the Producer:  The discussion doesn't end here.  Check out and participate in the following:

On Faith: What is it like to be Muslim in the United States in 2011? Tell us your story

Your photo story:  send us a photo that represents your life as a Muslim

In This Chat
Ibrahim A. Moiz
Ibrahim Moiz graduated from Howard University School of Law in 2007. While in law school, Mr. Moiz was the vice president and co-captain of the Goler Teal Butcher International Moot Court team and was awarded 3rd best oralist in the Inter-American Human Rights Competition. During law school, Mr. Moiz was an Oliver Hill Fellow for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in the employment discrimination project.
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