February 27, 2008
BBC Interview of Shahid Akhtar & Mino Akhtar - US Muslim women seek active faith role


US Muslim women seek active faith role
By Robert Pigott
Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News


The women of the Akhtar family, Pakistanis from New Jersey.

From right, Mona, Mino (mother), Sonia, Sheema.


The Akhtar daughters are following their mother into careers


See the Akhtar family at a weekend lunch, and the renewal of Islam in America seems inevitable and irresistible.


Shahid and Mino Akhtar were born in Pakistan and, like their son and three daughters, they are devout Muslims who attend the mosque regularly.


Meeting them at their house in a quiet tree-lined street in Emerson, New Jersey, it soon seems clear that they, and their progressive Islam, are as perfectly adapted to life in modern America as their Christian neighbours.


Shahid is a hands-on dad. While his wife pursued a career as a lawyer he took charge of raising the children. His son Reza, a hospital doctor, is following his example by being the one who cooks dinner and does the dishes as his wife, Amna, also works.


The Aktar daughters are pursuing careers as a lawyer, businesswoman and dentist. Their emancipation has not diluted their sense of being Muslim, but it has changed it.


Sheema wears shorts to play soccer, but sees no conflict with the duty to behave modestly. They feel bound by the duty to pray, for example, but not at five set times each day.


Mino Akhtar says connection with God is what counts.


"In terms of the daily practices, when I travel on business I don't get to get to pray five times a day," she says. "It's my connection with the creator that's more important than how I do it."


"Absolutely," says her daughter Sheema. "We're just adapting to the surroundings. As long as you have the basic principles, and you abide by them and remember Allah every day."


Click here to see the whole interview