My dearest friend, assalam alaikum!
I should put my glasses on for this, right? Hold onto yours if you’re wearing them.
What?! You’re looking at your phone in bed?! Go to sleep, child. I’ll be here in the morning.
Fine. I’ll just tell you.
An idea has been knocking around in my head for quite a while. It’s wild. Well, no, not really. But it seems hard. Especially with what I’ve learned.
“What have you learned?” I hear you ask from beneath your covers.
I’ve learned that we Muslims don’t trust each other.
I sent a survey out a few weeks ago to three of my favorite Muslim WhatsApp groups. I loved them and they love me. I assumed.
I asked them very simple – absurdly simple! – questions about their viewing habits. I want to know what makes Muslims tick when it comes to visual content. These 60 or more people whom I already had a relationship with might be the easiest and most willing mine, right?
Maybe this means I need to work on my friendships. Fair assumption.
Maybe this means Muslims in general do not trust the mainstream media. This would explain why I got crickets when I asked the local Muslim community for help on my latest film. (To be clear – I wasn’t asking for money. I was asking for locations and discounted catering, if they were up to it. No one was up to it.)
This suspicion is understandable. I mean people like me made Homeland.
Donald Trump. (Yeah it was us.)
But it’s also distressing. And I’ve been wondering how to bring down those walls. What are your thoughts on why we trust each other so little?
Here’s what I think: we need to build a worldwide Muslim filmmaker network. Dare I say it – a MAFIA. Movies and TV could be a powerful dam to stem the tide of Islamophobia.
When you actually engage with a story, you’re inviting strangers into your house. You’re giving them a cuppa. You’re asking them where they’ve been. If we get more people to do that with Muslim stories, we may lose a few enemies and gain a few more vocal allies.
I mean take the LGBTQIA2s+ community for example. The fact that I even know that acronym means that, at least among the ‘liberal progressive’ media, people are sympathetic to the queer cause. I ask people for their pronouns before speaking with them or about them. Through shows like Queer Eye and Soldier’s Girl (Lee Pace is insane in this one), I was given a peek into the life of a transgender person.
Do people have that level of knowledge about Muslims? There are 1.8 billion of us!
Do people know what halal meat really is?
Do people know why or how we pray? (Watching Homeland, the answer is definitely no.)
Do people know why women wear the hijab and what’s the appropriate etiquette when meeting one in the wild?
Movies and TV could change that. But we need to band together to do that. We need to start trusting each other.
These are all ideas that Lena Khan, a fellow hijabi and filmmaker, has floated in her talks.
- Muslim organizations and businesses need to support local Muslim filmmakers. That means money. If not money, free in-kind services. If not that, free locations and free consultations on their areas of expertise
- We need to have grants for Muslims films, TV and web-series. See above: money. Film-making is an expensive business. A few less Audis, a few more films.
- We need to support each other with time, resources and expertise. And money.
- We need to recognize the value of using visual art to change things.
- We need to NOT sell out. We need to be as loud and as proud and as MUSLIM as we can.
What do you think? How can we create a thriving global Muslim film scene?
Okay. You can go to sleep now. With that bee in your noggin.
P.S. When you wake up, watch these shows.
Yes, my friends made them/are in them, but I have no affiliation with the projects. So many hijabis. Wallahi, it warms my heart.