New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

VIDEO of Imam Zaid Shakir’s interview on Bill Moyers Journal

Posted in notes by on 2007-06-22

Here is the link to the full streaming video of the interview:
Link to Video

More video footage of the Muslim Women who were interviewed:

The treatment of women under some Islamic systems is among the most contentious of issues faced by American Muslims today.
In May 2007, the Pew Research Center released a study of the growing population of American Muslims, “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream” which gauged attitudes toward the issue. Of those surveyed 69 percent said that the Islamic religion treats men and women equally well.

Producer Candace White spoke with four Muslim women in the San Francisco Bay area about being a Muslim woman in America:


Saliah Shakir is the wife of Imam Zaid Shakir. Like him, she converted to Islam during a tour of duty with the Air Force.

Sadaf Khan  studied at Zaytuna for four years and is now the Institute’s Office Manager.  She is also the Institute’s fundraising coordinator and at the start of the 2007 school year, will assist in coordinating school curriculum.

Marwa Elzankaly is a litigation attorney and currently a provisional partner in her firm. She earned her law degree from Santa Clara University in 1999 and passed the bar the same year.

Uzma Husaini works as an editor in Zaytuna’s publications department which includes SEASONS Journal and the Zaytuna Curriculum Series.  She received her ijazah (license) to teach tajweed from Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi. She teaches a weekend class in Qur’anic recitation at Zaytuna as well as a class in Islamic studies at Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA. 


By Bernadette on June 23, 2007 at 1:00am

Dear Mr Shakir, I just saw your interview with Bill Moyers and I was very impressed. I am a graduate student at the University of Chicago and am currently writing my Master's thesis about the Dutch integration program which is mainly directed at Muslim immigrants. I am myself not a Muslim, but it was amazing to see how the exact same prejudices that I encounter in my research all came up in this interview, and how easily you countered them in clear and precise language. I hope many saw the interview and, as you said, will try to think about all these matters somewhat more objectively and will try to find the right context for this debate. Good luck and best wishes, Bernadette

By Anonymous on June 23, 2007 at 1:01am

I met Imam Zaid Shakir and heard him speak at the June 16 fundraiser for Zaytuna in New Jersey. I read most of his book, Scattered Pictures, that night. Tonight I watched his interview on Bill Moyers PBS show. The Imam is a guiding voice, one that should be heard by all.

By Mikael Pittam on June 23, 2007 at 2:10am

Wow! What an amazing interview. Imam Zaid is a true American Muslim scholar. With such finesse, he was able to execute the proper answers. May Allah protect and bless Imam Zaid and his loved ones.

By General Fred Gordan, retired, US Army on July 3, 2007 at 8:17am

Thanks, Imam. I watched the show. I thought it was an inside-the-park home run -- the hardest, most skillfully demanding kind to make. You were excellent settling in at the plate, taking your stance comfortably and confidently and absolutely knocking the ball for a long one that none of the oppositions' fielders (critics of Islam) could handle easily. And in taking each of the bases that Moyers laid out for you (anti-American activism/sentiments, growth/spread/advocacy of an Islam-American culture, treatment of women, radicalism, etc., I thought you not only kept your eye on the ball but at the same time advanced a view of truth compatible with American democracy that only the most vehement and inveterate critic, Islamic or otherwise, would reject. And the questions (the bases Moyers had you run) seemed tightly focused on drawing out radical or extreme views if there were any. I thought that your closing comments warmly embraced Americanism as you crossed home plate. I suppose that is the reason for the tag of moderate that Moyers ultimately ascribes to you. It was, for me, a cause for a standing ovation. I can easily imagine how someone with more radical and activist views --Islamic or Christian -- might take issue, and that responses you are getting no doubt range from one end of the spectrum to the other. I suspect you stay mindful of that. We are all proud of you. General Fred

By Aaliyah Shabazz on July 8, 2007 at 9:48pm

While I was grateful for the opportunity for myself and other viewers to view a presentation of valid Islamic views of life in American, presented very scholarly and sincerely by Iman Shakir, it was disappointing and exasperating that still the misunderstanding of Islam is still prevalent, as expressed by the questions and then by many comments from viewers on the PBS site. My first contention was Moyer questioning Iman Shakir's exploration of other beliefs, like meditation and communism as perhaps negative examples that his searching lend him to the road of Islam when instead he clearly stated his search was for truth, which he found in Islam. American culture is primarily Judo-Christian, where seeking knowledge of life is not supported. Other examples that you and many view failed to acknowledge was in your constant assertion that assimilation in American Christian society is the answer to societal problems not instead, a new way of viewing the problem. Moyers did not acknowledge that alternative religions and ways of life as just as valid as so-called Christian life. There are many men that misrepresent the teachings of the Qur'an just as many misrepresent the teaching of the Bible or the Torah. Even Bill Moyers , at PBS misrepresnted the verse s of the Qur'an about striking women. Read the entire chapter which is a complete outline of social interaction among peoples. People put off obedience with various excuses and even when they obey in the letter they fail in the spirit, life is movement activity striving fighting against baser things.American society may have come a long way baby, but not far enough when the lyrics of popular music still degrade women and their station in society. (African American Rap music for one)While I trully applaud Moyers journalist approach to include many and all points of view including Islam, it also exposes the true lack of understanding about who and what is the American Muslims. I was born in America, my mother, her mother and so on were all born in American. I have recent as well as past Native American blood in my veins, so I am a real American. I condenm any acts of terrrism no matter who th eperpertrators are, but I find that most are not as tolerate of their condemnation. It is okay that the US detains men without trail in Guantanamo, but an outrage (and indeed it is) if men fighting on their on home soil (Iraq) detain a foreigner in their homeland. What a double standard and frankly I don't find it patriotic at all. Ethnic cleasing abroad is ghastly, where was (is) the outrage when the US Army practiced their ethnic cleansing of native Americans. Mostly, I am grateful that I live in a country like America where I can express my views and outrage, but I offended that my views are condenmed if I don't support those who equally supress life and liberty in the name of God.

By omair on July 8, 2007 at 9:49pm

Imam Zaid Shakir is someone who truly represents Muslims in North America. He is intelligent, compassionate, personable, and sincere. Thank you Bill Moyers and PBS for giving viewers an honest and accurate perception. For those who are complaining that Imam Zaid did not answer questions completely, please attend his regular talks all over North America and read his literary works. He has always answered questions fully and honestly. The editing on the show was needed to fit in more content in little time. Imam Zaid did not edit his words, the show did, as all television programs must do.

By Juliana on July 8, 2007 at 9:50pm

Many thanks for this excellent interview with the imam. I liked especially his manner of presentation - it was clear that he loves his faith, as did the women interviewed as well. A person in love with his faith, it seems to me, is someone that nobody needs to fear, that everyone can learn from. Just as any lover, he glows with an inner radiance; and like a bee happy to be gathering wonderful pollen in a feast of flowers, he is not out to dominate the world or to destroy those with whom he disagrees. There is a lesson here for those who would use their faith as a bludgeon, whatever faith that may happen to be. I loved this interview.

By Nura on July 8, 2007 at 9:52pm

In response, to some comments regarding the question on women's rights in Islam; the Quranic quote used by Mr. Moyers was loosely translated and taken out of context. Due to obvious time constraints in a 30 minute segment, that issue could not be discussed adequately. Imam Zaid Shakir would have spent an hour clarifying this if that time was so alloted. In my laypersons understanding, the Arabic word translated as 'beat' is not correct. Women are given equal, albeit different standing and the rights afforded them in Islam are remarkably contemporary in their rationale and range. Very briefly, Muslim women can seek to be educated in any area and choose to work, they have a right to spend their income where they please, a woman has a right to domestic help if it is attainable, mothers are considered to play the most important roles in the educational growth of their children and therefore are strongly encouraged to be educated, etc. Cultural and financial constraints and patterns should not be confused with Islamic guidelines.

By Tim D Litton on July 8, 2007 at 9:53pm

Thanks for answering some tough questions about Muslim Americans, Imam Zaid Shakir. Even though I tell myself not to judge Muslims I see in my small Midwestern community by the actions of the radicals in other parts of the world, I do. Muslim religion has been tainted in my thoughts just as my perception of Catholic priests have been tainted, both by the actions of the very few. In reason I know most people, regardless of religion are pretty much the same as the rest of us. In reality some red flags go up when I see a priest, a Muslim or a group of bilkers.

By Sundex on July 8, 2007 at 9:55pm

This segment on Imam Shakir was superb. It reinforced my belief that Muslims in the United States, for the most part, are very peaceful truth-seekers, who can live at peace with other human beings with other belief structures. I was very impressed with Shakir's sincerity, honesty, and his ability to express himself with such uncommon clarity. In my eyes, Imam Shakir serves as an extraordinary spokesman for peaceful Muslims living in the United States.

By Cindy on July 8, 2007 at 9:57pm

Thank you Bill Moyers for this segment on Imam Zaid Shakir. Also, thank you for interviewing Muslim women in America too. Thank you for interviewing a mainstream Muslim. Very responsible journalism, I hope you receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

By SAF on July 8, 2007 at 9:58pm

The observation that struck me most about the Imam Shakir interview was his statement that we must "seek the truth". This too me is not only scientific but religious. Personally, I was raised a Christian fundamentalist, the odd right wing kind. I probably would be still a member of this strange group of individuals if it wasn't for science. Through science I discovered evolution...much later on I discovered cosmology and via this fascinating physical science I read about how quarks became protons, how nuclear particles interacted with electrons to form atoms, how vast collection of atoms formed stars, how stars via fusion created new atoms (new elements), how these new elements where spewed out of dying stars to form supernovae (yes I have a point to this sequence), these new elements formed planets, and finally how through mysterious chemical processses life came to be. This, very abridiged, sequence appeared to have a purpose - that of increasing complexity. If it wasn't as Imam Shakir's said - this inquiry into truth - I probabaly would be very lost. I think that is why Imam Shakir loves America here - we are free to pursue our own personal journey into what is true for us. This is something that we must pursue for ourselves - Imam Shair found Islam, I found science, some one else may find buddhism. We can only find truth for ouselves if we are brave enough to start the inquiry.

By Fatou Bah on July 8, 2007 at 10:00pm

No one could have explained better my own opinions as a muslim than Imam Zaid. I see peace and honesty in him. Generaly people try to use Islam to solve their own problems, no one has the time to deeply think about the source of all these problems. The truth is out there, every intellectual should be able to analyse it. But people are rather busy blaming. No Body wants to take the responsibility for his own doing, there should always be someone or something to blame. This is very sad about humanity.

By Michelle Baraka on July 8, 2007 at 10:34pm

I was so impressed with Iman Shakir and the young women who spoke (and very proud as well). I am considered a "left-wing" christian and feel that Islam and Christianity have so much to learn from each other and yet we refuse to listen to one another. I identified with those women because I too dress modestly and my faith is first in my life and I am considered an oddity for those beliefs. America was established in some part for those with spiritual conviction. However, colonialism and capitalism has taught us that it is easier to marginalize than to include.

By Ibraheem on August 11, 2007 at 3:50pm

I think Imam Zaid did an excellent job and was able to answer the tough questions very well.

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