After years of watching Muslims portrayed as terrorists in mainstream TV and movies, an advocacy group hopes to change that image by grooming a crop of aspiring Muslim screenwriters who can bring their stories – and perspective – to Hollywood.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting a series of workshops taught by Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated veterans over the next month, an initiative that builds on the group’s outreach for a more representative picture of Muslim-Americans on the screen.
MPAC dubbed its effort the Hollywood Bureau, while Unity Productions Foundation recently started a similar project called Muslims on Screen and Television. Other nonprofit arts foundations, such as the Levantine Cultural Center and Film Independent, have joined forces by planning networking events for Muslim actors and training and mentoring young filmmakers.
“The idea is to really give Muslims an avenue to tell our stories. It’s as simple as that. There’s a curiosity about Islam and a curiosity about who Muslims are – and a lot of the fear that we’re seeing comes from only hearing one story or these constant negative stories,” said Deana Nassar, MPAC’s Hollywood liaison.
Nine years after 9/11, Muslim Americans, feel scared not as much for their safety as to learn that the suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslim is so widespread. The fierce opposition to the Muslim cultural center near ground zero, the knifing of Muslim cab driver in NYC, and other anti-Muslim sentiments has many American Muslims alarmed and questioning: “Will we ever be really completely accepted in American society?”
“They liken their situation to that of other scapegoats in American history: Irish Roman Catholics before the nativist riots in the 1800s, the Japanese before they were put in internment camps during World War II.” Amongst this growing tide of fear, various interfaith groups are calling for greater outreach. The Islamic Society of North America has planned a summit to convene a summit of Christians, Muslims, and Jewish leaders in Washington on Tuesday.
This year September 11 coincides with the celebration of Eid, the finale to Rmadan-and one of the major holidays of Muslims, has been dampened by the political climate. Some Muslim leaders have gone as far as to ask mosques to use the day to participate in commemorations events and community service so as not to appear as celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11.
“Ukraine is a European country and the Muslims of Ukraine are part of the Muslim European community,” according to the head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations of Europe (FIOE) — yet another way in which the people of Ukraine are underscoring their attachment to Europe rather than Eurasia.
During a visit to the Islamic Cultural Center in Kyiv last week, Shakib Benmakhlyuf, FIOE president, not only stressed the Europeanness of Ukraine and of Ukraine’s Muslims but “positively assessed” both the speed of Islamic rebirth there and “the public activity” of Islamic community there.
In response, Mufti Said Ismagilov, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Ukraine, said his community would like to expand its cooperation with FIOE and that he and the Muslims of Ukraine believe that the recent adoption of the Charter of Muslims of Europe can promote more active ties among European countries.
The Islamic Cultural Center in Rome, also called the Rome Grand Mosque, faces desertion and abandonment although it is the biggest mosque in Italy. Despite the fact that the mosque’s large prayer hall can accommodate some 5,000 people, it remains empty except for Friday prayers and Eid celebrations. The keeper of the mosque, Ya ‘quob says that the reason for this lies in the mosque’s own administration. The Islamic Cultural Center in Rome is backed by Muslim and Arab countries which established it. “The grand mosque’s administration has forced worshippers to seek other places even if they are more distant or smaller in size,” says Samir El-Khaledi, imam of the Al-Huda mosque in Rome.
Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)
Spiritual leaders of a New York Muslim community lashed out against purported al-Qaeda message attacking President-elect Barack Obama, using racist language, and comparing him unfavorably to the late Malcolm X. The imams at a Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational, and Cultural Center issued a statement saying: “We find it insulting when anyone speaks for our community instead of giving us the dignity and the honor of speaking for ourselves.”
The Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also condemned Zawahiri’s comments, stating: “As Muslims and as Americans, we will never let terrorist groups or terror leaders falsely claim to represent us or our faith. We once again repudiate al-Qaeda’s actions, rhetoric, and world view and re-state our condemnation of all forms of terrorism and religious extremism.”
Full text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)
Several organizers are planning a symposium on May 9th in Valencia, to discuss the importance of the media, and how Islam is represented by various communication services. The primary goal o the meeting is to establish a roadmap or manual for journalists and journalism students that contains agreed upon consensus about issues related to the Islamic world. In addition, the aim is to promote a pluralistic and open debate about how to cover media information concerning the Islamic world, and to promote a two-way discussion to try to define some concepts that are presented in the media on a frequent basis, to avoid misinterpretation or biased views. The organizers of the symposium include the Islamic Cultural Center of Valencia and the Higher Council of the Valencia Region, and it is sponsored by the University of Valencia.
Unease with Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to Islam has led a US Muslim group to decline to join an inter-faith event with the pope later this week. Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Los Angels based Muslim Public Affairs Council, said that the event seemed “more ceremonial than substantive” and his organization would not participate. He said he was disappointed that no time was made for even a brief private meeting with U.S. Muslim leaders during the pope’s six-day visit. Several other U.S. Muslim leaders expressed similar concerns, but pledged to participate in the Washington gathering. “Our going there is more out of respect for the Catholic Church itself,” said Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America – “Popes come and go, but the church is there.” Siddiqi, who is co-chairman of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue, is among the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu leaders scheduled to meet with pope Benedict on Thursday at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.
This article presents Mohammed Ta_four, a Sunni sheik who opened the first Islamic Cultural Center East of Paris in 1994. Of Algerian-origin, in 2008 Ta_four purchased a series of buildings to expand his Mosque School. Ta_four is characterized in the article as being a learned man who among the Arabic books on his bookshelf, enjoys flipping through his Grand Larousse Encyclop_dique (purchased shortly after his arrival in 1953) and as an old school Muslim who has no problem shaking women’s hands.