And let’s say for a moment they believe this happened in the 7th century. That’s no reason to validate it in the 21st century.
So there needs to be a lot of knowledge and awareness by people outside the faith and within the faith as well. Even if there’s an aberration taking place within a faith community, it should never stop us from critiquing it. I mean, I’m an observant, practicing Muslim, but I’m very critical of some of the practices within my faith – although I don’t go to the extreme of saying Muhammad married a child bride. There are a lot of different understandings of that.
What would you say the majority of Muslims living in America believe? Many Americans, as you must know, sometimes wonder if the Muslims among them aren’t much more radical than some portray them to be.
I can’t speak for all Muslims, but if I were to make a generalization I would say they believe in different things, and the majority of them believe in leading a 9-5 life, earning a good living, and going to bed at night knowing their children are fed. They’re the silent majority.
Unfortunately, after 9/11 we’ve been put into a position where unless all Muslims speak out, by default they’re considered terrorists or prone to violence. Obviously that is not the situation, so there has to be better understanding by the masses who are not Muslim and there has to be more outreach by Muslims as well, [making it clear] that organizations like CAIR and ISNA – the Islamic Society of North America – do not speak for them.
There are many interpretations of the faith. Unfortunately, we are faced with the most violent interpretation today, and the battle for the soul of Islam at the moment is to take back that voice.
“Honor Diaries” has been translated into Arabic and Farsi. Is this film being shown in the Middle East? Is it allowed to be?
The Facebook Arabic page for “Honor Diaries” has more than 100,000 likes.
[People] are afraid to show the film publicly, especially in a country like Pakistan where the Taliban operate, but they’re more than willing to show it in private homes. In Pakistan the rate of honor killings is very high. In Egypt female genital mutilation is very common. So they are showing the film, but it’s not public screenings because they’re afraid for their safety.
You’re the president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. What exactly does your organization do?
First of all, I specifically chose the name Muslims Facing Tomorrow because we have a huge problem of Muslim societies living in the past. For example, the Taliban and the extremists believe that the only good Muslim is a 7th-century Muslim. We say no, we must look forward, we must look ahead.
So we hold seminars, we bring in speakers, and we also host events for youth because they’re very confused. They don’t know what is right and wrong and which path to follow. We embrace individual freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, the value of living in a pluralistic society….
We also want to bring back the beauty that was part of Islam – music, art and culture – all of which has been totally subsumed by extremism.