What's it like to be Muslim in America?

November 13, 2008 7:08:49 PM PST
A university professor has set out on a mission to change Americans attitudes and perceptions of Islam. Akbar Ahmed will travel for a year around the country helping us all understand what it means to be a Muslim.

Akbar Ahmed is a leading expert on Islam and the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United Kingdom.

Since September, he's been traveling throughout the U.S. to study the lives of Muslims in America and what non-Muslims think of them.

"The stereotypes about Muslims that Americans have are Muslims are violent, they are terrorists, The Qur'an preaches violence, Muslims treat their women very badly," said Akbar Ahmed, Ph.D. from American University.

A video taken by Dr. Ahmed and his students shows a small group of New Yorkers protesting the Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan.

In September, his team traveled to Grand Island, Nebraska to interview a group of Somali Muslims workers who were fired from a meat packing plant or quit over the right to pray at sunset.

"We're telling their stories, we're helping them understand and sometimes people tell me we have never talked to a Muslim before, we have no idea about their customs," said Dr. Ahmed.

Dr. Ahmed and his team will visit a total of 30 American cities. In the Bay Area, one very important stop was Google, where they hope to enlighten the company's young employees.

Ahmed estimates there are about seven million Muslims in America. He says Muslims must do a better job at reaching out to communities.

"I think they have to be much more committed to the idea of explaining their fate and culture because there is so much misunderstanding," said Dr. Akbar Ahmed.

His findings will end up in a book and a documentary that examines America through the eyes of a Muslim.


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