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Day in the life of an American Muslim family

By Kelsey Peck, For My Panhandle, On 25 February 2016, Read Original

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PANAMA CITY, Fla.

The Bay County Islamic Society is going to extremes to disassociate themselves from Islamic extremists connected with acts of terror.

They put billboards up around Bay county following the San Bernadino attacks which said "Muslims are against terrorists too."

There are many questions and misconceptions surrounding their faith, so we sat down with the Imam from the Bay County Islamic Society.

WHAT IS ISLAM?

Imam Amr Dabour, with the Bay County Islamic Society, says Islam is an Arabic term that means “submission to the will of God." It is a religion of God, not a culture, or limited to a group of people. Dabour also says it is a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. 

“Prayer is not just a ritual for us,” said Dabour. He says Muslims pray five times a day to allow themselves to be constantly connected with God.

"It's not just you take some time whenever you like and talk to the higher entity of God," says Dabour. "“It is more of charging, like charging your phone; constantly you have to be connected to the power.”

TEA AND CONVERSATION

“Instead of hearing about one another, we need to hear from one another,” said Dabour about encouraging the public to join him and other Muslims at the mosque for friendly conversation over tea. The Bay County Islamic Society encourages your questions and want to foster a renewed sense of respect and appreciation for each other.

The public is welcome to attend the mosque on Friday, March 11th at 6:00 p.m. You can find the Bay County Islamic Society at 3312 Token Road in Panama City.

MEET AN AMERICAN MUSLIM FAMILY
 
The Al-Yahia family welcomed our cameras into their home and into their lives.
 
Musab Al-Yahia and his wife, Hiba Rahim, both grew up in Panama City and graduated from the Panama City Advanced School. They married 12 years ago in Panama City after Rahim received her Masters degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
 
Rahim's parents came to the United States as political refugees. Rahim was born in West Virginia but moved to Panama City when she was eight years old.
 
"I've never known another home," said Rahim, "I know when people ask where I'm from and I say West Virginia, I know it's a shocker, because it's not what they're expecting."
 
A typical night consists of organized chaos. Their five-year-old twins boys try to help in the kitchen while their girls lend a helping hand or do homework.
 
"At night, we try and have our daily prayers together and dinner is a very essential part of our day," said Rahim.
 
Like many Americans, their faith plays an important role in their daily lives.

"Easily the biggest misconception about our faith is that Islam is a violent religion,” said Rahim. “People say that and I've heard it many times and there's nothing violent about Islam. There is something inherently violent about people, but not about the faith.”

Bay county is a place they're proud to call home in a community that can be both accepting and sometimes ignorant.

"They don't know what to believe or how to look at me,” said Rahim. “Sometimes they let their negative judgment overcome them."

However, Rahim says they're people in Bay county who can look past her veil, or head scarf.

“We have some people who are very open-minded, loving, caring, and who take the time to get to know me and look beyond the veil; and maybe even respect it," said Rahim.

Rahim says her family has the same fears and concerns that others have for their children. "There's health, education, and also security."

Rahim says security is two fold for them because of the threat they have from people who don't understand Islam as well as the same security threat that the rest of America is trying to protect themselves from. "Extremist groups like ISIS and others don't differentiate between an American Muslim and an Arab Muslim and non-Muslim; so we're on the same side of the enemy so to speak."

Every month, the Al-Yahia family aims to a community service project. This month, Rahim and her girls handed out water to area homeless individuals. 

THE HIJAB

"My hijab, my scarf, is my uniform, my identity," says Hiba Rahim. "It marks me as a Muslim." 

The head scarf is a form of modesty and Rahim says not a form of oppression. Women wear it when they are around men who are not close immediate family members or their husband.

Rahim says it does bring some difference in treatment, but says it's not always a bad thing. She says it allows for conversation and an opportunity to change the negative stigma that exists towards Muslims. 

"It's really unfortunate there's a negative stigma towards Muslims, because it's so wrong, it's so false. Any person who has met a Muslim, who acts the way their faith preaches, realizes that is such a misconception."