Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: ‘The Big Sick’ and Hollywood’s Muslim-American Renaissance

hollywoodreporter_garcia_ryan_2017_full1-h_2018The NBA Hall of Famer and THR columnist, a practitioner of Islam since college, is hopeful that the Kumail Nanjiani starrer and Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’ are bringing an end to portrayals of the devoted as “rabid, merciless terrorists” onscreen.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” an apple farmer observes in the opening to Robert Frost’s Mending Wall. That line, indeed that poem, is the spiritual essence of America: a country founded on a sacred mission to tear down walls that needlessly separate neighbors. There are all kinds of walls, from the $70 billion physical wall that Trump wants to build to walls that one-percenters build to keep their money in (they don’t call it Wall Street for nothing). But the most formidable wall of all is the Perception Wall of false images and ideas that nurtures fears and prejudices about other groups based on religion, ethnicity, national origin or gender identity.

Muslims have had a great run being portrayed as rabid, merciless terrorists. That’s what Americans saw in movies and television shows from True Lies to 24 to Homeland. That is the image of Muslims many Americans still cling to. Even with the many recent positive portrayals of Muslim-Americans in the arts, it takes time for images to dilute the poison that’s been mixed in for so long. Every time the news reports that a Muslim has been involved in a terrorist attack, the prejudice stored in our body sweats through the pores and reheats our fear. And yet, as of Nov. 6, there were 307 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017, the majority by white Christian men. When a generic white man fires 1,100 bullets into a Las Vegas crowd, killing 58 and injuring 546, we have nowhere to go with our anger or fear. We can’t be on the lookout for every disaffected white Christian male. We can’t profile them. But we think we know what Muslims look like (though vigilantes have often mistakenly targeted non-Muslims), so our mistrust more easily takes a human form. We prefer our villains with a physical Cain-like identifier — dark skin, large nose, prayer hat, veil, foreign accent — to clarify that they’re not one of Us. The irony is most Americans are descended from a persecuted group.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

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Fuller Theological Seminary Receives Luce Foundation Grant for Interfaith Dialogue Project

photo copy - Version 2Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary has received a $250,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for a three-year research-to-resources project that aims to shape public discourse about people of other faiths and witness, “so that such discourse is characterized by convicted civility, not fear and rancor.”

With special focus on Islamophobia and migration in a global society, this will be joint project between Fuller’s Schools of Theology and Intercultural Studies, according to a Fuller Seminary news release. The project will explore how the relationship between American evangelicals and those of other faiths has long been a tenuous and delicate one.

“We live in a divisive era, increasingly so since last year’s presidential election, with Fuller-Receives-Luce-Foundation-Grant-for-Interfaith-Dialogue-Project450heightened displays of xenophobia, especially among evangelical Christians,” says Dr. Yong, director of the Center for Missiological Research and professor of theology and mission at Fuller. “In the latter half of the second decade of the 21st century, evangelical churches across North America remain in need of developing theologies of other faiths and cultures, and practices for relating to and interacting with members of such groups, that are more welcoming than alienating.”

Principal investigators in the project include President Emeritus Richard Mouw, professors Amos Yong, William Dyrness, Roberta King, Ryan Bolger, and Kirsteen Kim, and PhD candidate Matthew Krabill.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PASADENA NOW 

Where Can Women Make Movies? The Middle East

merlin_131702723_934a19ad-fd2f-48cc-9933-f55e5cc7e835-superJumboHailed as a fresh, frank look at the lives of young Palestinian women, Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut film, “In Between,” follows three female roommates who share an apartment in Tel Aviv. There, they participate, to varying degrees, in the debauchery on offer in Israel’s cultural capital: dancing, drinking, smoking, taking drugs.

The movie is being talked about as a milestone. An article on CNN says, “‘In Between’ depicts alcohol consumption, drug taking, casual sex and homosexuality — topics Hamoud admits are seldom touched on in Arabic-language films.” The “split lives” of the protagonists, who have traditional Palestinian families but live away from them, “have rarely been depicted on screen,” a review in Variety says.

It’s true that Ms. Hamoud deftly portrays the world of modern, urban Palestinian women — the world to which she belongs — and explores how they are affected by constrictive, suffocating traditions. But she is far from alone on that front. Unlike Hollywood, Arab cinema is flush with female directors making films that deal with feminist issues.

In terms of contemporary Arab films, “In Between” is heavily reminiscent of “Caramel” (2007). Both films are about women from different social strata and religions: The female characters in “In Between” include a fierce criminal lawyer, a D.J. and a conservative university student; “Caramel” follows a group of women who work in or frequent a hair and waxing salon in Beirut. Both are about the restrictions the women are forced to abide by, and about love and vying for independence in a society in which marriage is regarded as the most desirable option for a woman. “Caramel” is directed by Nadine Labaki of Lebanon, who went on to make a second feature film in 2011, “Where Do We Go Now?,” a comedy about a mixed Christian-Muslim village where the women prevent the men from starting a religious war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Mohammed bin Salman’s Next Saudi Challenge: Curtailing Ultraconservative Islam

saudiCrown prince’s overhaul includes a crackdown on religious fundamentalists who exercised rigid control; female drivers and music concerts

ABHA, Saudi Arabia—Arwa Alneami wanted to be an artist ever since she was a child. But growing up in the conservative region of Asir, she was constrained by a rigid strain of Sunni Islam that has long defined life in Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s image to the outside world. When she drew a bird, Ms. Alneami recalls, teachers would scold her and cross off its head, saying only God can create life.

Now that religious control is coming under its sharpest challenge in modern times. Saudi leaders, spurred by the need to diversify the oil-dependent economy, are moving faster than any of their predecessors to unravel the legacy of Islamic conservatism that had taken hold of the country four decades ago and shaped the education of generations.

Spearheading the transformation is 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who sees social liberalization as a vital part of his radical economic modernization plan and has vowed to return his country to a more tolerant form of Islam.

“We are only going back to how we were: to the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people,” Prince Mohammed said during an investment conference in Riyadh in October.

Ms. Alneami, 32, today is a rising star of the kingdom’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. “Before, I had a love-hate relationship with Saudi Arabia,” she says. “I used to think a lot about leaving the country. I wanted to go somewhere where I could have a normal life. Now, normal is coming to us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

How America Is Transforming Islam

MUSLIM WOMANBeing young and Muslim in the U.S. means navigating multiple identities. Nothing shows that more than falling in love.

Taz Ahmed is 38, single, Muslim, and Bengali. She describes herself as spiritual, but not particularly religious. When she was growing up, her immigrant parents hoped she would marry an I.T. worker they found for her in Oklahoma. “I’m like, ‘I don’t even know who this person is, what do you even know about him?’” Ahmed recently told me. “They’re like, ‘You’re asking too many questions. You don’t need to know this much information.’”

Like other U.S. Muslims of her generation, Ahmed has spent a lifetime toggling between various aspects of her identity. She got to prom night by promising her mother she’d go with a gay guy. She swapped marriage in her 20s for a master’s degree. She even followed a band as it toured the country—a coming-of-age story straight out of Hollywood, except that it was a Muslim punk group called the Kominas.

 

“It would have been so much easier if I would have just gotten an arranged marriage,” she said. “But my parents were really half-hearted about it.”

Certain big life moments tend to force a reckoning with cultural identities. And there’s nothing that invites more questions about identity and values than figuring out who to date and marry.

American culture often presents two opposing paths for young Muslims. On one side are people like President Donald Trump, who retweets unverified videos purporting to show Muslim violence; says things like “I think Islam hate us”; and claims there’s “no real assimilation” among even second- and third-generation Muslims in the U.S. On the other are movies like The Big Sick, which depicts the autobiographical love story of Kumail Nanjiani, a Muslim comedian who rejects religion and falls in love with a white woman, devastating his immigrant family.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

With rare Israel visit, Bahraini delegation seeks new dialogue for coexistence

6-1024x640In a strikingly rare instance of a visit to Israel by representatives from an Arab country without diplomatic relations, a delegation of religious figures from the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain traveled to the Jewish state last month “to send a message of peace” from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“Our message is peaceful coexistence with no government involvement,” said Betsy Mathieson, president of the Bahrain-based nongovernmental organization “This is Bahrain,” who led the delegation.

In an exclusive Times of Israel Persian edition interview with members of the delegation in Jerusalem, Mathieson said that her seven-year-old NGO “celebrates religious freedom and peaceful coexistence by sharing the centuries-old humble Bahraini way of life, where people of all faiths live together in the spirit of mutual respect and love.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 

US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group

american muslimAbout 3.45 million Muslims were living in the US in 2017, representing 1.1 percent of the population [Julie Jacobson/AP]


Muslims are expected to become the second-largest religious group in the United States after Christians by 2040, according to a new report.

There were 3.45 millions Muslims living in the US in 2017 representing about 1.1 percent of the total population, a study by Pew Research Center found.

At present, the number of Jewish people outnumber Muslims as the second-largest religious group but that is expected to change by 2040 because “the US Muslim population will grow much faster than the country’s Jewish population”, the report said.

How many Muslims are there in the US? As of 2017, 3.45 million (or 1.1% of total population), according to new @pewresearchestimates. http://pewrsr.ch/2lP2MKc  pic.twitter.com/2WrynrD8WR

Jews outnumber Muslims in the US today, but by 2040, Muslims are projected to outnumber Jews. http://pewrsr.ch/2lP2MKc pic.twitter.com/VawIyPLO5E

View image on Twitter

American Muslims will total 8.1 million, or 2.1 percent, of the population by 2050.

The number of followers of Islam in the US has grown at a rate of about 100,000 per year because of the migration of Muslims and higher fertility rates among Muslim Americans, Pew Center found during its demographic and survey research.

“Since our first estimate [2007] of the size of the Muslim American population, the number of US Muslims has been growing rapidly,” it said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA