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Muslim American Identities

Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Cerritos Public Library, Skyline Room 18025 Bloomfield Avenue Cerritos, CA 90703 Map and directions

Check out the Live Blog below! Scroll down to the bottom to see the beginning of the conversation.

9pm A woman in the audience says she was raised a Christian. She said she didn't like the Trinity. She doesn't like mixing God with man. She said she landed in Islam because there was something else that she needed. (Applause.)

8:58pm Jamaal Diwan answers the man too saying sharia law talks about the preservation of religion, life, family, wealth, property, intellect and honor - and human dignity. All of these things are core to Islam. Compared to the Declaration of Independence and other foundational documents share those core values. Islam is in the same legacy of other prophetic religions.

8:57pm A gentleman in the audience asks what is in common by being American and being Muslim? What's the link? Naim "Papa" Shah says the Koran teaches about us being one. That is the same value that being an American is. It is a part of our religion to embrace the law of the land. There is no law in the land that says we have to kill anyone or bother your family. We all believe in the same thing. (Applause)

8:55pm Patricia Dunn says she met many Christians, Jews, and atheists who also had great compassion. She says Catholicism is not something she could embrace. We can find the answers everywhere. I'm a Mets fan. I like the underdog. There's nothing more of an underdog than being Muslim at this time.

8:52pm A gentleman asks people are usually born to religion. There's a sense of humanity from religion. Why can't one extract it from another religion? Naim "Papa" Shah says Islam is the seal of the book. He says Islam says you can get benefits from other religions but Islam is the last revelation, thus the seal. Does that answer your question, son, asks Mr. Shah?

The gentleman says not really. Is there something specific that you learned from Islam that you couldn't have learned somewhere else?

Mr. Shah says he was born into a Baptist family going to a Baptist church. He got tired of his church. His mom would pinch him if he moved. He said once he grew up he was ready to receive the same message from Islam when he was 18-19 because then he was able to receive it.

8:48pm Patricia Dunn it's in the spirit of Ramadan to not eat if you are sick. Muneer Adhami says some people gain weight during Ramadan.

8:46pm Muneer Adhami says if someone misses a prayer that's between him and God. Patricia Dunn says "or her and God." (laughter)

8:44pm Kiran Hashmi says her dad says Islam is easy. Do what you can and do it with sincerity. God is the ultimate judge. Nobody can tell what's in other people's hearts.

(from l-r Jamaal Diwan, Muslema Purmul, Naim "Papa" Shah, Sr., Ruxandra Guidi, Patricia Dunn, Muneer Adhami)

8:41pm. A gentleman from Cerritos who says he is a Republican is talking about his friend who is a Tea Party Republican. His friend read the Koran and really got it. He thinks more people should just read it. "It is an ocean of peace and kindness and love," he says.

8:40pm Muslema Purmul says there are some debates about what it means but some there is no argument like there's only one God. She says the bills were written not so that they would be passed into law but raised for political reasons to get people in office.

8:38pm Jamaal Diwan says the root word of sharia is "going to the watering wells". Ultimately its about the roots of the Koran and its teachings. He says that he and his wife graduated from the College of Sharia and even they are confused sometimes when people talk about it. He says when people say he cannot practice sharia law then that means he can't be good to his parents. Part of the sharia is to follow the law of the land you're in, he says. So what should he do if the law says he cant follow his sharia? It gets problematic. The audience applauds.

8:35pm Another woman in the audience is asking about sharia law. "I get the impression it's a horrible things for states to have." She wants to learn about it. Someone asks "have you been watching a lot of Fox News?"

8:33pm A woman in the audience says the media has a lot of power in portraying the identity of Muslims. Often when mass murderers or killers are originally described, she says, they are wrongly identified as Muslim.

8:32pm Naim "Papa" Shah, Sr. says people should ask the homeless what they think of Muslims. He says they would say they love Muslims because that's who feeds them. He says in general the work should speak for itself.

8:31pm Patricia Dunn says, "if people believed everything they heard on Fox News they would believe that Muslims are bad." Someone asked Fox News, is that a bad word? She says, "in my house it's a bad word."

8:28pm Muslema Purmul says when she was younger and the U.S. was in the cold war with the USSR, Republicans liked the word jihad and mujahideen but now when American conservatives say it they say it negatively.

8:26pm Muneer Adhami, above, says a phrase he thinks about is "Struggling to Surrender" which he says is a better definition of jihad.

8:24 Patricia Dunn says she's converting all the time. Her son is 13 and he's questioning religion all the time and she's proud about that. She was always trying to do it right but learned it's not about that, it's about doing it from the heart.

8:21pm Kiran Hashmi grew up Muslim, was taught values and teachings from youth. She did it to keep her parents happy. As she got older she became introspective. She realized how blessed she was. A passage that struck her was "Which of the Lord's blessings will you deny?" She never forgot that and appreciated so much including the human foot: great design. She grew up riding skateboards. As she got older she developed iman, a sincerity in her worship. She goes through the same motions but she pays more attention to the thoughts and convictions behind it.

8:17pm Muslema Purmul asks the crowd if they understand what it means to be '90s Islam. A few raise their hands. She says it is the most strict type of Islam. She says that while reading books to learn about the religion, because the books were published in Saudi Arabia the opinions were very strict. As she traveled she saw that that opinion was in the minority. "In order to be a better Muslim I had to be more flexible," she learned. "The 90s culture I grew up with I have to fight," she says, adding she wants to live the spirit and not the letter of the law. An example is most things are off limits until explicitly allowed in 90s Islam.

8:14pm Jamaal Diwan says his story is complicated. His father came to the USA from Pakistan, his mom is from Newfoundland, Canada. She was used to outhouses. They didn't get him into religion. But they fought over it. He went to UC San Diego and got into Islam through hip-hop and reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X in his sophomore year. He married his wife which he says was his biggest blessing. He is now a Resident Scholar to some but he has only spent 6 years studying so he doesn't think the title is totally accurate. But Rux says he is on the path and he agrees.

8:10pm Rux asks if there was an epiphany when Islam spoke to them. Naim "Papa" Shah says he was on 1st and Mission in East LA when he saw a picture of the Hon. Elijah Muhammed. He then saw him speak. Once his children started to get involved in Islam and praying then he really got into it. He thanks Allah for the opportunity to be Muslim. Applause breaks out.

8:07pm Patricia Dunn says she converted to Islam after arguing against it. It's loving and inclusive she says. Jihad to her is her own personal struggle. If she sees something wrong she has to make it right. She agrees that character is a big part of her religion.

8:04pm A gentleman in the back of the audience says that the older generation knows who Allah is and is on a quest of trying to be a perfect Muslim. There is an emphasis on character. He says the best Muslim is one who has no prejudice towards anyone.

8:02pm Sajid Mohamedy says that unlike his parents generation where everything is about religion, but here in the U.S. his generation questions religion.

8pm Muneer Adhami asks the audience if they remember the rap group Naughty By Nature. He says he's Muslim by nature. "I am just like you. I just happen to be Muslim American."

The panelists are in agreement identifying themselves as both Muslim and American. It is not something that's mutually exclusive.

7:57pm "I am Muslim and American. One is not first. I don't have to choose between the identities," says Jamaal Diwan when asked how he identifies himself.

Muslema Purmul says that women do not say they are women or Americans, neither does she.

7:55pm as Rux introduces the panel, let's take a look at this beautiful library:

7:50pm It is close to a full house here at the Cerritos Library.

7:45pm The audience is being asked to introduce themselves to strangers in the crowd. It is very friendly. People are smiling and laughing as they discuss where they are from and what religion they were raised in.

Our panelists tonight are
Jamaal Diwan
Muslema Purmul
Naim "Papa" Shah, Sr.
Patricia Dunn
Muneer Adhami
Kiran Hashmi
Sajid Mohamedy

moderated by KPCC’s Ruxandra Guidi

Event description
One half- to one million Southern Californians identify as Muslim. What does that mean in day-to-day practice? Which mosques they attend… how they observe Ramadan… where they’ve lived/been… which paths they’ve followed, left, or made for themselves: these are just some of the things that reveal how vast the Muslim American identity spectrum really is.

On Tuesday, August 28th, KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum went on the road with “Muslim American Identities”, an evening program at the Cerritos Public Library. This forum, moderated by KPCC’s Ruxandra Guidi, featured a diverse panel of Muslim Americans with some spiritual roots in the Southland.

Location: Cerritos Public Library, Skyline Room: 18025 Bloomfield Avenue Cerritos, CA 90703

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