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American Muslim (A Movie Review)

American Muslim


Featuring Mohamed Bahi, Debbie Almontaser, Aber Kawas, Imam Shamsi Ali, Kobir Chowdhury, Rafael Espinal, Bedor Elhanafi Bahi, Zaid Nagi, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Rabbi Marisa Alana James, Rev. Khader El-Yateem and Linda Sarsour.

Directed by Adam Zucker.

Distributed by Longnook Pictures. 82 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened for Cinematters: New York Social Justice Film Festival.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

This campaign “pledge” in 2016 from then-candidate Trump was not the first time that all the members of Muslim religion have been held responsible for the acts of the most extreme members of their faith. Previous incidents like the September 11th terror attacks and the Iranian hostage situation have had Americans of the Islamic faith looked at with distrust and often hostility.

However, with Trump’s Muslim bans – two of which were found unconstitutional before one of them stuck – life has become particularly uncomfortable for Americans who believe in Islam. This is even though the great majority of them are proud citizens who love the United States.

Therefore, director Adam Zucker has made American Muslim to help show people “what the hell is going on.” Now, chances are very good that Trump and his cronies and followers would likely never even consider watching the movie. Still, it is an informative look at five ordinary New Yorkers who just happen to be Muslim, and what it is like to be part of their faith during the era of Trump.

Well, just happen to be Muslim may be misstating it. Each of these people are very active in the Muslim-American world, and each of them are trying to spread their message – each in their own ways – the Muslims are people, too. Some are bad, but most are good. Most love their home country of the US, many are patriots, and many of them are also horrified by the evil that has been done in the name of Islam by extremists. They reject the violence that has been committed. They just want to be treated like any other American.

However, that is becoming harder as division and hatred is approaching a boiling point in the United States.

Therefore, it is nice to see a showcase of Muslim-Americans who are working for the greater good – of the US and the world at large – and not having an entire religion painted by the broad brush of Isis, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

These five Americans – Ozone Park mosque president Kobir Chowdhury, educator and activist Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Muslims Giving Back founder Mohamed Bahi, community organizer Aber Kawas and Imam Shamsi Ali – all eloquently discuss their love of their home and their religion. They also ruminate on the difficulty of being judged for the acts of the more fanatical members of their faith, when their beliefs are more about love and giving back to their community.

There is an old proverb: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. American Muslim helps you do that – at least metaphorically – and reminds us that no matter what our race or religious beliefs, we are all just people. That is a sentiment which we need to express more often in this deeply divided world.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: January 14, 2020.

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