How to Meet Muslims: A (Cinematic) Primer
If you don’t know about some of these films, consider yourself uncultured.
By Haroon Moghul, rd, January 19, 2011
The most effective way to counter a prejudice is to know someone about whom the prejudice is supposed to apply. Those who personally know Muslims are far less likely to have negative thoughts and feelings about Muslims—but in a country of now almost 310 million Americans and only several million Muslims, this advice remains wishful.
Add to it that Muslims, unhelpfully, are not distributed evenly across the country, but concentrated in places like New York City, where almost one million Muslims live in our nation’s most crowded metropolitan area. (There is, astonishingly, no major cluster in Oklahoma, despite the obvious importance of that state to the global campaign to install Shari’ah law in random places.) Short of putting Muslims on buses and driving them around the country to be gawked at, talked to, and interacted with, what more can be done?
The next best thing to a living, breathing Muslim is an approximation of one. That is, the silver screen (had you said robots, I’d counter: Muslims will be the last people on Earth to come up with robots). Why not? Movies explore the lives and experiences of Muslims in a format that can be watched as easily at home as on the train (that’s what iPads are for).
Plus, a lineup of cool movies, foreign and domestic, will only make you, your friends, or your community look intimidatingly more sophisticated. Who doesn’t like movies? And who likes people who don’t like movies?
Fear of a Brown Planet
Probably a third of the world’s Muslims live in or come from the Indian subcontinent, such as this writer, descended from the steamy plains of the Punjab but raised in gelid New England. And South Asia’s a part of the world we never stop hearing about. Of course, most of this attention is directed to Pakistan, so let’s start there.
In Silent Waters, we follow a young man from a small village impressed by the Islamist message coming from more urban types. But his falling for the forces of extremism doesn’t come without a price, not least for the secrets buried in the village, sad attempts to forget historic violence and move on, as best as possible. We see in this unsettling film the true cost of extremism, and the ways in which it has undermined, cruelly and uniquely, the religious culture of the societies it does not spring from so much as it consumes from within.
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