Hi Guys! This is another post I thought would be appropriate for the “Literature” section because it deals with Muslim representation in the media, which includes written media. So here goes:
“It is our job to read that destiny in the name of Allah” –Sheikh El Bakri
Hi Guys! Many of my followers and readers know that I attended the Islamic Scholarship Fund last night in Redwood City, California. Few of my followers and readers know that Islamic Scholarship Fund is the only organization of its kind in the United States that promotes and encourages pursuing journalism, traditional media/social media, and film/documentary-making to Muslims. Their mission/vision is to increases American Muslim representation in media and politics in order to improve public opinion and policy. Sounds wonderful, right? Annd even fewer followers or you know that my uncle, Dr. Ejaz Naqvi sits on the board.
I have been going to this fundraiser since 2012. Not only do I believe in its vision, but I feel it genuinely and successfully promotes students of Liberal Art majors such as Journalism/Writing, Sociology, Law/Public Policy, Religious Studies, Public Administration, International Relations, and Film/Media. Till 2017, it has awarded $360,000 in scholarships and these recipients have gone on to making wonderful movies highlighting issues pertinent to not only Muslims, but people of all ethnicities.
I am not an active participant or contributor of the organization beside the donation here and there, but I do have discussions with my uncle, who incorporates my millennial, modern Islamic views in his handlings in the organization. In the last couple of years, I felt a lot of anger in the ISF community, when the fear of Muslim Ban, discrimination/harassment, and outright institutionalized racism was eminent. After last year’s event, I advised my uncle on a couple of topics. I said the most important aspect of integrating with the American society for Muslims is to INTEGRATE with them. That means not to explore just Muslim issues, but other issues concerning different races such as African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Issues such as immigration, poverty, health care are important to each and every American and it is important for Muslim’s grassroots efforts to shed a Muslim perspective on these issues.
The end result of that initial endeavor was reflected in this year’s movie. I saw movies highlighting topics such as the burning of the Victoria Masjid to Flint, Michigan’s water crisis to Native American/native Hawaiian rights in America. This not only showed a more integrated perspective from Muslims, but it showed that we, the Muslims care more than just Muslim rights; we care about human rights in America. I say to keep that momentum going and keep stories (on print or on film) coming where we are integrating Muslim opinions and perspective/voice with other races/ethnicities issues. I mean, why not? Aren’t there black Muslims? Asian Muslims? Aren’t those races a part of Muslim American fabric? They sure are and their identity issues are very different than those of Middle Eastern dissent.
Next year, I would like further investigation of issues such as terrorism. How about highlighting terrorism in Pakistan and other Muslim countries? That would be a perfect cure of the misguided belief that Islam and Muslims encourage murders of innocents in the name of jihad. How about highlighting different Muslim governments-monarchy, dictatorship, democracy and how people live and feel there about different issues? Are their problems any different than ours? This would be an excellent topic to explore and very educational. Lastly, I would love to see a movie/documentary on the face of Islamophobia-literally. Is the face white, black, Asian, or any other race or is it more convoluted and deep than we think? This would be a great conversation to start and a topic that can lead to clarification of misunderstandings between people.
So, how do we get these stories out? While, making indie movies is a wonderful way to get a person’s voice/vision out, the reach is limited. People care about these issues, so we need to eventually think mainstream. I would suggest use the unlimited influence of YouTube (for film and film journalism). How about having Muslim channels where Muslim voices, directors, producers are interviewed and their movies are viewed. We need to go to mainstream media. Making short movies and documentaries on YouTube is a wonderful way to get your stories out and you WILL get noticed if you are talented and have a unique perspective.
By mainstream media, I also want to eventually see Muslim directors and actors in Hollywood, not necessary as superheroes because that is cheesy and corny, but as a voice of the people. I want them to make movies that delve into human psychology; utilize the best technology has to offer; and work with the most talented actors/actresses the industry boasts. That day we will say we have arrived.
Before that happens, continue making movies, writing stories, and supporting organizations that promise turning this dream into reality. How do we start? Conversations. I want to change Muslim conversations and conversations about Muslims through movie making and writing. Like Dena Takruri dreams, “We Muslims are protagonists, not the villains in America’s story” and the only way to do that is to look at America’s history and rather than complaining we do not identify with it, make our own identity and place in it. As Mehdi Hasan said, when “we will invest in our future in this country” then our future generations can reap the benefits of having a positive Muslim American identity.
So why I want to do this? Just because I want to know that I was a small part of a collective effort that changed the face of modern Islam.
* To learn more about the Islamic Scholarship Fund and ways to support their work, click HERE
** Also, a correction. Till 2017, ISF has donated a total of $860,000 in scholarships to Muslim applicants.