Here is my interview with an Iranian Woman's Magazine, the original article can be viewed here in Persian.
*Note: As the entire site is in Perisan I do not know what other articles contain or condone and my link to this magazine is to support Literacy in Iran.*
A Bud, Waiting to Open
Born in Tucson, Arizona, USA; 26 years old, likes Tiger-Lilies. Mrs. “Brandy Chase” has chosen the Name “Aminah-Zahira” for herself after converting to Islam. She introduces herself as: “a creative imaginative idealistic Muslimah who is striving to find her way to Jannah. I'm like a budding flower waiting for the right moment to open gloriously and show the world my beautiful colors.” Now she knows herself as an American Muslimah, married a wonderful Lebanese man and has a 6 years old daughter and a 3 years old son.
She’s a Author, Poet, Artist, and Designer and also an active blogger. She said Shahada on August 5th, 2001, one month before September 11th happened!
Read Our detailed interview that occurred on a spring day.
The first and basic question: How did you find Islam?
I had been searching for years for a better religion and way of life. I grew up Christian until I was 14 years old and then gave up Christianity to believe in Atheism, which is the belief that NO God exists at all. Alhamdulillah Allah sent me Islam when I was 17 years old. After a year of being Muslim I married a wonderful Lebanese man, and after seven years of marriage we have two children Rajaa 6 years old and Mustapha 3 years old.
Which happened first: Your being Muslim or telling poetry and stories?
I wrote poems since I was very young around 8 years old and started writing short stories when I was 12 years old. Once I reached High School I continued writing longer stories/novels. Then in my last year (grade 12) of High School I became Muslim.
Was there changes since that time till now that you could relate those changes to your being muslim?
Yes, There are many changes that happened to my writing after I became Muslim. Before many of my characters did things that are normal by American standards but in Islam is Haram. Now I must weight and decide how good or bad I need a character to be for the story to still feel deep. Like in Romance stories I must make sure that if a person around 13 years old picks up my book he/she won't be uncomfortable with what they are reading. In my Poetry I used to talk about life and my hatred towards Religion and my animosity (dislike) of "God". Now of course I would never do such a thing. My joy now is to write about the Greatness of Allah and show others my Joy and Peace in Islam.
Tell us that when a young American muslimah starts to writing stories or poetries, what are they about and for whom she writes?
Most writers start with an image in their mind or a phrase, and through that grows a story or poem. Most writers feel this image or phrase deeply and want to find a way to share it with the world so others may feel as deep. As a Muslim there are two choices. One is to write about any subject, in stories this could be Mystery, Science-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Fantasy etcetera... or the Second Option would be to write something Islamic. There is a new category of books called Islamic Fiction that is really gaining popularity around the world. Muslims who love to write stories and want to benefit young people and adults are turning to Islamic Fiction to give people the choice of reading better quality books without compromising their Islamic Morals.
What do you know about the feedback of your works from your country people who are not muslim? Was there any time that some of non-muslim people who has read your works, talk to you about them?
Many non-muslims in America and around the world have read some of my work and say that it inspires them to learn more about Islam and how they never knew certain aspects about it. My family who is not Muslim really enjoys my stories, poems, and artwork and says even though they are not Muslim they can relate to the message I am sending in my work.
Are there Muslim Novelists or Poets who are famous out of their local limitations and media? E.g. some who are famous in whole USA?
Masha'Allah there are dozens if not hundreds of very well known Muslim Authors and Poets who are known not only all over America but World-Wide. One Author Yahiya Emerick is an example, or Jamilah Kolocotronis, or Linda D. Delgado, these three are but few of the many who have had their books shipped internationally. You can find many more Authors at http://www.islamicfictionbooks.com/ifbauthors.htmlAlso I belong to an international group called Islamic Writers Alliance ( http://www.islamicwritersalliance.net/ ) who are striving to improve literacy around the world, support writers and other artists, and also get Islamic Fiction to be more recognized for the quality books they are.
Does their work have clear Islamic phase or just they’re muslim who write like others and if you don’t know them, you couldn’t understand they’re muslim?
Well if you search the websites above you will see there are two definitions of "Muslim Writers" The kind that write any kind of book and they are people that are Muslims, and then Muslim people who write about Islam. The people I mentioned above mainly write Islamic Fiction or Islamic Non-Fiction. But there are hundreds of people who are Muslims and write stories of other subjects too. You have to search their names or profiles to know they are Muslim. I think both ways of using your talent of writing is acceptable as long as you are willing to face Allah in the end with your written words.
In Iran, some of theorists believe that Literature and Art should be at service of Introducing Islam and Muslims to the world and in the opposite side some believe that Art is the aim itself. Which do you agree?
Actually I think these two opinions don't HAVE to be on opposite side of each other. It is not an either-or choice. Some writers feel comfortable writing dawah for non-muslims or using their pens to serve Islam and write for the benefit of other Muslims and May Allah reward them for that. Yet other writers for whatever reason believe they either don't have enough opinions or knowledge to write about Islam or it isn't in their field of interest. Some writers of Mysteries for example only want to write Mysteries not Islamic Mysteries. And May Allah reward them for what they can accomplish too. I know many writers including myself who write for both options Islamic and not-Islamic. The point is no matter what you write take the time to learn your skill well so that no matter what you write it benefits someone, and make good intentions.
Does the American Muslim Community try to introduce itself, its ideals and its properties to other Americans or just prefer to live like an insular minority?
Americans in general are pretty friendly people who for the most part are upfront and honest. So when trying to introduce Islam to Non-Muslims they try to do so in a way that doesn't shock or repel them. There are very large communities of Muslims across America and there are other cities like the one I grew up in where you can go your whole life without ever meeting a Muslim up close. So Muslims in both areas do what they can to spread the word of Islam without upsetting people. Where the numbers of Muslims are few of course they try to stick close together as this is natural human preservation and sometimes they might become too cut off from others, but in most instances Muslims in America like sharing their values to others and mostly the non-Muslims are receptive.
In which ways?
For example in the major cities there are multi-faith gatherings where Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people get together to show their unity for or against something. Many Muslims invite their neighbors or friends or co-workers/co-students to join them in their homes or events at the masjids. Other Muslims, especially women, try to just show how friendly and happy they are with Islam by the way they dress and act in public.
You blog. Is your audience just Muslims or you talk with all the world?
Actually I took a poll a year or so ago about the religious belief of the people who read my blog and about 2/3rd of the people were Muslim and 1/3 was of other faiths. Most of my post topics feature Islam so naturally more Muslims will come to read, yet I try to throw in variety to appeal to all people who are out there and maybe think like me. And of course I hope many of them will come to see the beauty in Islam and insha'Allah join us.
What do other muslim bloggers do? Do they write for each other or they speak to non-muslims?
The majority of Muslim Bloggers are searching for other Muslim bloggers to meet and talk with and share their similar viewpoints, but all in all from what I read across the world they too reach out to other faiths and try to show that no matter where they are in the world, Muslim Bloggers are Human; we have human wants, needs, desires, ambitions just like non-Muslims.
Also because I enjoy reading so many Muslimah’s Blogs I made an ALL MUSLIMAH BLOG DIRECTORY ( http://www.allmuslimah.blogspot.com/ ) to showcase the various Sisters out there trying to make a difference.
Does the world listen to these talks? Which groups read muslim blogs?
Yes the world does listen! The highest traffic to Muslim blogs after Muslims is from Christians actually. As they share many of the same values that Islam has they feel close to what we blog about. The same can be said the other way around. There are many Christian Blogs I visit because the people are writing about things I relate to and I want to share with them that I support them. For example there is a Catholic Blog I like to read about and I always send messages of encouragement when she says they want to keep wearing their hair scarves/veils to church. As Muslims we definitely are happy when a non-Muslim wants to wear a form of veil out of modesty.
Tell us about political partnership. American muslims take part in elections and political meetings? Do they aid any political parties?
Many American Muslims are divided by political parties just as in any country. You have the Muslims that like democrats, that want their agendas of more tolerance to minorities and such. Other Muslims like republicans, with their more conservative agendas such as anti-abortion or such. These are just few of the many topics that each group has opinions on. Then other Muslims stay completely out of politics and refuse to vote for their own reasons. But where there are people there are opinions and where there are Muslims there are Muslims trying to find ways for their opinions to be heard.
Was it possible to you that feel that there’s a confliction between being muslim and being American? For example the country wants something of you that Islam prevents you of that.
Well this is a deep question and I feel there are many good answers to it. There is a conflict at certain levels between being Muslim and being American. For example if the US drafts Muslims into the Army and that Army send them to places like the Middle East to fight against their brothers/sisters in faith. There is going to be extreme conflicts. Yet on the everyday level there isn't too many conflicts. You eat with non-muslims as long as you take precautions what YOU are eating is Halal. You work with them as long as what you are working with is Halal and the money you make is Halal. Sure you have to be more careful but life goes on without too much conflicts.
In these cases, which do you choose? Islam or your country?
But for those large topics that might come up of course Islam comes first. If your business partner is drinking alcohol and talking about gaining money though interest (riba) you need to realize the appropriate action would be to excuse yourself from the table and conversation or make your opinion clear you do not like this situation. If perhaps you are living in a situation you feel you cannot let Islam come first then you might need to decide if that is a place worth staying in. Allah gave us the entire world to live in. Save up some money and move to a location where you feel you can do the right thing. In the end we are accountable on the Day of Judgment for what we permit to slide by and what we stand up for. A country's borders and affiliations can change any day but Islam and it's 5 pillars remains the same.
What do you think of Islamic Union? Do you think that a muslim shoud be union to his religious fellows or country fellows first?
In Islam we have the obligation to help our Muslim brothers and sisters first. Then we extend our hand to others in need. But few situations really require one to choose a Muslim over a non-Muslim. Say a Muslim is starving and a Christian is starving. Of course you get help for the Muslim and then you find a means to help the other. Being United in Islam doesn't mean people cannot help others outside of the faith. But if people do not even do their basic duty of helping their brothers and sisters then how can we expect others to help us? Many Muslims feel sad when they are starving or homeless there is no Food or Home Shelter set up through the masjid or local Muslim communities they will have to turn to other faiths to get help. Many Muslims become lost and confused and turn away from Islam when this happens. They can't understand why someone of the same faith cannot help them. So I do believe we need to be more United as a whole.
In America, what’s the general think about muslim countries, governments and people?
In the majority of American Cities people know what is fed to them through the news and propaganda. If the news screams Afghanistan tortured someone in Prison or in Saudi a woman was denied access to her children then of course they will think the Middle East governments are barbaric and dangerous and a threat to the safety of the world.
BUT some Americans try to find their own information through blogs and networks and meeting people from the countries they hear about in the news to hear how life is there first hand. Then they learn the reasons behind some of these issues. The same can be said for news about America. Rarely we hear in national news about Americans torturing or harming others across the world or in their own country so it is twice as shocking when the scandals do get out.
I think the more people share information with each other the more countries will get along. But both sides have to remove walls and barriers that have been erected for centuries.
You’ve lived in United Arab Emirates and also in Lebanon. Does Americans think right about muslims?
No, there are a lot of misconceptions due to blatant ignorance and reluctance to accept other's cultures and opinions. Cleanliness for example. In America many people believe all Arabs live in tents and ride camels, and are filthy from not bathing. The complete opposite is true I found. Especially in Lebanon, the houses are meticulously kept clean and the people are well groomed. In UAE, although I have seen camels here ,the majority don't ride them. The Emirati people have beautiful manners and customs and are very welcoming to their guests.
But again there are extremes on both sides of issues. Sure there are Bedouin people still in existence who live in tents and ride camels but there is nothing wrong with that. Just as there are people in USA who live in traveling homes or ride horses. There are people in USA and in other countries who are too poor or ignorant to clean well and May Allah help them. So again both sides need to open their eyes to the world and have more acceptance for other cultures and get to know people different from themselves.
Particularly, What do they think about Iran? We know that Iranian and Us governments has dissensions about Nuclear Power. What do US people think of these dissensions?
Wow, what a question! For sure most Americans and other nations view Iran as a threat for their declaration of having Nuclear Power. But there is a growing number of people Muslim and non-Muslims alike that feel Iran and other countries should have the right to Nuclear Power too. Some feel the BIG countries are trying to keep a monopoly on this power and that isn't fair. Others go the other extreme and say NO ONE should have this kind of Power. Most in America though are very afraid if Iran gets Nukes they will use them against their enemies and they worry America is definitely their enemy. If not U.S. directly then one of its key allies.
As many have seen the Iranian President doesn't back down to many demands made on it from other countries.
What do you think yourself?
Well sorry to disappoint you and your readers but I have vowed not to discuss my political affiliations online for the safety of my family. But I do hope the USA and Iran can come to agreements and bridge the gaping hole between them. Both offer the world amazing things and should pool the best they have to offer for the betterment of mankind.
We really appreciate you that joind us in this interview.
Thank you for interviewing me and I hope I have offered everyone a fair glimpse into American life and my life as an American Muslimah Writer, Brandy Aminah-Zahira Chase
Masha'Allah that was a wonderful oppourtunity.
Here is my interview with an Iranian Woman's Magazine, the original article can be viewed here in Persian.