Is it just me, or does it feel like Muslims are still viewed as being on the outskirts of society in North America, though polls and statistics say the opposite? Consider popular CNN talk show host Glenn Beck, who last fall began an interview with the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, with “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”
Novelist Murad Kalem: He is a writer who is contributing to a cultural landscape that seems intent on marginalizing Muslims to write about Islam-based topics. His novel, “Night Journey,” is the tale of a boxer who gets caught in the worst of humanity, which ledes him to search for some salvation. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “blistering,” and Booklist praises it as “remarkably assured.” Kalem told Islamica that to him, writing is believing: “The responsibility of the Muslim artist is to affirm our humanity to the world and to ourselves … ” Indeed.
Journalist Shahed Amanullah: This journalist and internet entrepreneur (and frequent Beliefnet contributor) founded altmuslim.com after 9/11, a unique news and opinion website that also covers art and culture, gender relations, and family and community. Amanullah also created a number of other useful Muslim-themed websites designed to help Muslims live their faith in non-Muslim countries (guides to finding halal restaurants, mosques and Islamic schools in all communities, and mosque information including the availability of women’s facilities.
Director and producer Zarqa Nawaz: Ever watch “LIttle Mosque on the Prairie?” You should. This hiliarous Canadian sitcom pokes much-needed fun at the prejudices Muslims face (and the holes we dig for ourselves) in towns across North America. I keep up on this show courtesy of YouTube. This hijab-wearing woman broke barriers within her own community by attending film school, and then showed that she can make a difference through entertainment. She continues to put the “fun back in FUNdamentalism.”
The latest issue of Islamica Magazine makes this point in its editorial, and then goes on to prove that Muslims in North America form “the most visible microcosm of the global Muslim community.” In the same issue they offer intriguing profiles of 10 Muslim visionaries–artists, television producers, novelists, philanthropists, humanitarian workers, doctors and laywers–who without a doubt prove what’s right with the Muslim community in North America.
Let me introduce to you to three movers and shakers on the cultural/entertainment scene:
The thing that I appreciate is that these visionaries build off of their faith and culture to produce savvy, sensitive, and really interesting work. Yet they don’t limit their work Islamic-themed topics. Because that’s how you’ll really thrive in entertainment–know who you are, but go beyond that.