MetroFocus

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RESHAPING ISLAM IN AMERICA

Tonight, in the 2nd installment of our special 3-part series produced in conjunction with PBS’ American Portrait project, Metrofocus shares the narrative of Islam, thanks in part to several community organizations like the Muslim Community Network whose Executive Director Aniqa Nawabi joins us tonight.

AIRED: January 12, 2021 | 0:12:59
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> FOR THE PAST YEAR PBS HAS

BEEN ASKING PEOPLE ACROSS THE

COUNTRY TO SHARE STORIES ABOUT

THEIR LIVES, TO GET A PICTURE OF

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE AN

AMERICAN TODAY.

THOUSANDS OF STORIES HAVE COME

IN AND GIVEN LIFE TO "PBS

AMERICAN PORTRAIT."

THE CROWD-SOURCED STORY TELLING

PROJECT WE'VE BEEN TELLING YOU

ABOUT RECENTLY, FEATURING VIDEOS

SHOT BY VIEWERS LIKE YOU, THE

PROJECT IS NOW A FOUR-PART

DOCUMENTARY SERIES FOCUSING ON

EVERYTHING FROM THE WORK WE DO

FOR A LIVING TO TRADITIONS AND

VALUES WE HOLD AND WHAT IS BEING

DONE TO CREATE AN ANTI-RACIST

AMERICA.

NEW YORKERS ARE SHARING THEIR

STORIES, TOO.

THANKS IN PART TO SEVERAL

COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT

HAVE PITCHED IN AND HELPED US

HERE AT "METROFOCUS" AND THE

WNET GROUP GATHER VIDEO

SUBMISSIONS.

IN JUST A MOMENT WE'LL INTRODUCE

YOU TO ONE OF THOSE

ORGANIZATIONS, THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY NETWORK, WHICH IS

WORKING TO SHAPE THE PUBLIC

NARRATIVE ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO

BE A MUSLIM IN THE U.S. TODAY.

BUT FIRST, HERE IS A LOOK AT

SOME OF THOSE SUBMISSIONS.

>>> WHEN I STEP OUTSIDE MY DOOR

AND WALK A COUPLE OF BLOCKS IN

QUEENS, NEW YORK, I SEE STORIES.

>> HOLA.

>> I COME FROM NEPAL.

>> FROM INDIA.

>> HI, I'M ELVIS FROM ECUADOR.

>> ALL RIGHT, GUYS.

>> I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE THAT

EVERY LITTLE BLACK GIRL AND

EVERY LITTLE MUSLIM GIRL IS

POWERFUL.

>> THE TRADITION THAT I CARRY ON

IS BEING RESPONSIBLE, BEING A

PROVIDER, AND ALSO BEING A KIND

PERSON.

>> AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE I

HAVE REALIZED SELF-CARE IS SO

IMPORTANT.

>> I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE IN

OUR FUTURE LEADERS, FUTURE

SCIENTISTS, DOCTORS, TEACHERS,

LAWYERS.

I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE IN YOU

AND ME, IN EVERYONE.

>> NOW IS THE TIME TO BE ASKING

YOURSELF, WHAT CAN I DO.

>>> JOINING US NOW AS PART OF

OUR ONGOING PBS "AMERICAN

PORTRAIT" COVERAGE IS THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY NETWORK EXECUTIVE

DIRECTOR, ANIKA NUWABI.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH, JENNA.

REALLY GLAD TO BE HERE.

SO VERY QUICKLY FOR ANYBODY WHO

MIGHT NOT BE SURE ABOUT WHAT

EXACTLY YOUR ORGANIZATION'S

PURPOSE IS, ITS MISSION, WHAT IT

DOES, JUST TELL US A LITTLE BIT

ABOUT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK.

>> OF COURSE.

SO MCN, MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK, WE ARE A NONPROFIT

ORGANIZATION THAT'S WORKING IN

THE AREA OF DEVELOPING THE CIVIC

LEADERSHIP OF MUSLIM-AMERICANS.

WE FOCUS SPECIFICALLY ON YOUTH,

AND WE WANT TO EDUCATE THE

LARGER AMERICAN, YOU KNOW,

COMMUNITY WHO WE ARE AS MUSLIMS.

BECAUSE ONCE WE ARE ABLE TO

DEFINE OUR CIVIC ROLE IN THIS

NATION, WE ARE ABLE TO HELP

SHAPE THE NARRATIVE, WHICH FOR

SO LONG HAS BEEN ALMOST

HIGHJACKED BY, YOU KNOW, LIKE

THE MEDIA AND POLITICS ABOUT WHO

WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY.

HENCE, WE AS MCN, WE WANT TO BE

ABLE TO OWN THIS NARRATIVE AND

TELL OUR SIDE OF THE STORY, OF

WHO WE ARE AS MUSLIMS, WHICH IS

A VERY DIVERSE COMMUNITY, WITH

DIVERSE OPINIONS, WITH DIVERSE

LEVELS OF, YOU KNOW, CIVIC

EDUCATION AND SO FORTH.

SO OUR ORGANIZATION, WE LIKE TO

TEACH OUR COMMUNITY ABOUT THE

AMERICAN NARRATIVE AS WELL AS

OUR ROLE IN THIS SOCIETY AND HOW

WE HAVE TO HELP DEFINE THIS

NARRATIVE IN THE COUNTRY.

>> OF COURSE.

AND I AM SURE IT IS NOT AN

ACCIDENT THAT YOU SPECIFICALLY

CHOSE TO USE THE WORD

"HIGHJACK," BUT WE WILL COME

BACK TO THAT IN A MOMENT.

BUT JUST TO FOCUS ON THE

DIVERSITY OF THE MUSLIM

DIASPORA, IF YOU WILL, I

UNDERSTAND YOU ARE A QUEENS

RESIDENT, AT LEAST ARE FROM

QUEENS, WHICH IS KNOWN TO BE ONE

OF THE MOST DIVERSE

NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE COUNTRY.

LIKE SO MANY PEOPLE IN QUEENS,

PART OF WHAT MAKES IT SO DIVERSE

IS THAT IT HAS A LARGE IMMIGRANT

COMMUNITY.

I UNDERSTAND YOU WERE -- YOU ARE

AN IMMIGRANT YOURSELF, COMING

FROM BANGLADESH.

I AM WONDERING, WHAT WAS IT LIKE

TO GROW UP AS A MUSLIM YOUTH IN

QUEENS?

>> WELL, A GREAT QUESTION.

SO, YES, I WAS AN IMMIGRANT.

I MOVED TO QUEENS, AND QUEENS

HAS BEEN MY HOME FOR THE PAST 20

YEARS ALMOST.

YOU KNOW, I CAME HERE AT 13, AND

WHAT I SAW WAS ESSENTIALLY THE

INCREDIBLE DIVERSITY OF THE

BOROUGH.

IT WAS MY FIRST TIME THAT I

ACTUALLY EVEN, LIKE, MET A

GUYANESE MUSLIM.

I HAD NEVER MET SOMEONE FROM THE

COUNTRY OF GUYANA BEFORE.

ESSENTIALLY WHAT IT SHOWED WAS

THAT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY HERE

IN NEW YORK CITY, THE MOST

GLOBAL CITY IN THE WORLD, AND,

QUEENS, THE MOST DIVERSE

BOROUGH, IT SHOWED HOW, YOU

KNOW, THERE'S SUCH A MULTITUDE

OF CULTURES THAT PEOPLE BRING TO

THEIR FAITH, THE MUSLIM FAITH.

THAT'S WHAT KIND OF ALWAYS DREW

MY EXPERIENCE IN WANTING TO DRAW

ALL OF THESE MULTITUDE OF

STORIES TOGETHER AND BE ABLE TO

TELL A UNIFIED STORY OF HOW

BEAUTIFUL WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY,

YOU KNOW, WITH OUR DIVERSITY.

WE ARE NOT JUST ALL ARABS, YOU

KNOW.

WE ARE SOUTH ASIAN, WE ARE

EUROPEAN, WE ARE SOUTH AMERICAN,

YOU KNOW, WE ARE AFRICAN, AND SO

THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE AT MCN

HAS REALLY ALLOWED ME TO PRODUCE

A VISION WHERE I CAN KIND OF TIE

IN ALL OF THESE DIFFERENT

STORIES TOGETHER.

AND, AGAIN, IT IS TO DEVELOP OUR

LEADERSHIP AS MUSLIM-AMERICANS,

YOU KNOW, SO THAT WE CAN TELL

OUR STORIES AS WELL.

YOU KNOW, THERE ARE LANGUAGE

BARRIERS, THERE ARE ECONOMIC

BARRIERS THAT WE ALL FACE, BUT

AS AN INSTITUTION OUR ROLE IS TO

HELP OVERCOME A LOT OF THESE

BARRIERS BY THE MULTITUDE OF

SERVICES THAT WE PRODUCE, AND AT

THE END OF THE DAY BE ABLE TO,

AGAIN, PROFESS OUR STORIES IN

AVENUES LIKE THE MEDIA, IN

PUBLIC OFFICES, IN SCHOOLS, YOU

KNOW, IN PRIVATE OFFICES AS

WELL, SO THAT WE ARE A PROUD

COMMUNITY OF MUSLIM NEW YORKERS,

YOU KNOW.

>> WELL, YOU SPOKE A LITTLE BIT

ABOUT -- FIRST OF ALL, YOU SPOKE

VERY BROADLY ABOUT, OF COURSE,

WHO MAKES UP THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND THAT IT IS SO

VARIED AND DIVERSE, BUT I AM

WONDERING WHAT SPECIFICALLY IS

IT THAT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NETWORK IS DOING FOR THE

NON-MUSLIM POPULATION SO THAT

YOU CAN RECLAIM THE NARRATIVE,

THAT -- USING THE WORD THAT YOU

USED EARLIER WAS HIGHJACKED FROM

YOU?

HOW DO YOU GET THE REST OF

NEW YORK AND, I GUESS, AMERICA

TO UNDERSTAND AND PERHAPS, YOU

KNOW, BETTER SEE OTHER MUSLIMS

AS JUST OTHER AMERICANS?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

THIS IS A HUGE PART OF OUR WORK.

IT IS TO FOCUS ON THE NON-MUSLIM

COMMUNITY, AND THE WAY WE DO

THIS IS THROUGH THESE, WE HAVE A

COMMUNITY EDUCATION PROGRAM

WHERE WE GO INTO SCHOOLS AND WE

PRESENT ABOUT MUSLIMS.

INSTEAD OF HAVING THE TEACHERS

PRESENT ON MUSLIMS, WE HAVE

MUSLIMS BEING ABLE TO TEACH A

CLASS ON MUSLIM HISTORY AND

ISLAMIC HISTORY, WHICH STARTS

FROM A VANTAGE POINT OF REALLY,

YOU KNOW, A LARGE CIVILIZATION

THAT STARTED AND EXPANDED

GLOBALLY IN MANY WAYS.

SO IT DOESN'T START FROM THE

VANTAGE POINT OF 9/11, LET'S

SAY.

IT STARTS FROM THE VANTAGE POINT

OF THE CONTRIBUTION THAT MUSLIMS

AND ISLAM HAS MADE ON THE WORLD.

SO DIVERSITY AT EDUCATION IS ONE

OF OUR MOST IMPACTFUL PROGRAMS,

AND WE'VE HAD REQUESTS FROM

HOSPITALS RECENTLY BECAUSE THEY

WANT TO UNDERSTAND MUSLIM

PATIENTS BETTER.

WE HAVE PRESENTED IN PUBLIC

OFFICES AS WELL AS PRIVATE

OFFICES, AND REALLY THE SCHOOLS

BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE STUDENTS

AND YOUNG PEOPLE GET TO FIRST

LEARN ABOUT MUSLIMS.

SO THAT'S A LARGE PART OF OUR

WORK.

THE SECOND PART IS A VERY

PRACTICAL ASPECT OF OUR WORK,

WHICH IS TO COMMUNITY SERVICE.

WE RUN AN INTERSTATE SOUP

KITCHEN AT THE CHURCH OF THE

HOLY TRINITY EVERY MONTH.

WE DO A NUMBER OF VOLUNTEER

ACTIVITIES.

WE ENGAGE MUSLIM VOLUNTEERS TO

ESSENTIALLY PHYSICALLY SHOW THAT

MUSLIMS ARE REGULAR NEIGHBORS

AND REGULAR AMERICANS WHO WANT

TO DO GOOD FOR THEIR SOCIETY.

SO THOSE ARE THE COMMUNITY

EDUCATION PART AND COMMUNITY

SERVICE PART AS WELL AS ONE

THING THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION

IS THROUGH BUILDING INTER-FAITH

PARTNERSHIPS AND FRIEND SHIPS.

WE ENGAGE WITH THE CHRISTIAN

COMMUNITY, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY,

THE HINDU COMMUNITY, ALL OF THE

DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO

SHOW, AGAIN, WE ARE ONE OF THE

FEW MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE

ENGAGING IN INTERFAITH WORK.

IT IS VERY CRITICAL TO OUR WORK

TO SHOW THAT WE WANT TO BUILD

BRIDGES, WE WANT TO BUILD

FRIENDSHIPS, AND BECAUSE ONLY

THROUGH THAT ARE WE ABLE TO

DEVISE A SOCIETY THAT HAS SOCIAL

HARMONY.

IT BREAKS DOWN THE BARRIERS OF

RACE, OF CULTURE, AND REALLY

UNITES US AS HUMAN BEINGS WHO

BELIEVE, WHO ARE FAITH

COMMUNITIES AND WHO BELIEVE IN

REALLY A UNIFIED HUMAN RACE,

RIGHT.

SO INTERFAITH BRIDGE BUILDING,

COMMUNITY ED AND COMMUNITY

SERVICE ARE WAYS THAT WE SERVE

THAT PURPOSE.

>> OKAY.

WELL, NO, I THINK THAT'S

INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE

TO ALSO UNDERSTAND.

I DO WANT TO ALSO JUST GET A

BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF, IS THIS

SOMETHING THAT YOU SEE AS LONG

TERM, ONGOING WORK THAT JUST

GOES ON AND ON AND ON, OR

PERHAPS IS THIS SOMETHING THAT

YOU MIGHT SEE AS HAVING AN END

POINT, THAT THERE ISN'T

NECESSARILY SUCH A NEED TO

PRESENT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AS

JUST NORMAL PEOPLE?

>> RIGHT.

WELL, I THINK AS LONG AS WE SEE

IN THE LARGER -- LIKE, YOU KNOW,

AS LONG AS WE SEE LIKE TARGETED,

YOU KNOW, POLICIES AGAINST A

COMMUNITY LIKE THE MUSLIM TRAVEL

BAN HAPPENING OR TARGETED, YOU

KNOW, MEDIA ATTENTION THAT

MUSLIMS ARE ONLY PORTRAYED AS

TERRORISTS OR AS SOME, YOU KNOW,

VIOLENT ENTITY, AS LONG AS THOSE

CONDITIONS ARE EXISTING, OUR

WORK IS GOING TO CONTINUE AND

OUR ADVOCACY WILL CONTINUE.

YOU KNOW, IT IS BEYOND JUST THE

MEDIA PORTRAYAL OF MUSLIMS, BUT

I THINK IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS

OR SO WE'VE SEEN AN INCREASED

NUMBER OF ATTACKS ON THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND FAITH COMMUNITIES,

THE MUSLIM AND THE JEWISH

COMMUNITIES BOTH HAVE BEEN

TARGETED.

SO AS LONG AS THESE, YOU KNOW,

GENERALIZATIONS ARE CONTINUED TO

BE MADE BY THE MAINSTREAM,

WHETHER IT IS POLITICIANS OR THE

MEDIA, WE HAVE WORK TO DO THERE.

>> UH-HUH.

>> YOU KNOW, WE HAVE WORK TO

EDUCATE, WHETHER THEY'RE

POLICYMAKERS, THE COMMUNITY AT

LARGE, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF

STILL COMMUNITIES WHO HAVE

ACTUALLY NO IDEA WHO MUSLIMS

ARE.

A RECENT POLL IN 2015 SHOWED

THAT 58% OF AMERICANS HAVE NEVER

INTERACTED WITH MUSLIM-AMERICANS

BEFORE.

>> WELL, ACTUALLY SPEAKING OF

THAT -- SORRY, WE ARE COMING UP

SO CLOSE ON THE END OF OUR TIME,

BUT FOR ANYONE WHO MIGHT BE

SEEING THIS WHO MIGHT WANT TO

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE MUSLIM

COMMUNITY AND PERHAPS IF THERE'S

A WAY THAT THEY CAN GET

INVOLVED, WHAT WOULD YOU

SUGGEST?

>> WELL, I WOULD SUGGEST REALLY

GO VISIT OUR WEBSITE,

WWW.MCNNY.org.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWS LETTERS.

WE ALSO -- WE ARE ACTUALLY

CONTINUING OUR FOOD DISTRIBUTION

EVENTS THROUGHOUT THIS WHOLE

COVID PERIOD BECAUSE OUR

COMMUNITY IS IN SUCH A STATE OF

FOOD INSECURITY.

VOLUNTEER WITH US.

GET TO KNOW US BETTER.

YOU CAN REQUEST DIVERSITY

EDUCATION TRAINING IF YOU ARE IN

THE EDUCATION SECTOR, AND WE

CAN, YOU KNOW, START A

CONVERSATION THAT WAY AND

ENGAGE.

>> WELL, OF COURSE.

STARTING A CONVERSATION IS

ALWAYS SO IMPORTANT.

ANIKA NUWABI, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US AND SHARING ABOUT

THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY NETWORK AND

THE WORK THAT YOU DO.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME.