This was a presentation of award winning local film maker Mara Ahmed’s film, “The Muslims I Know.” The film is about getting to know your Muslim neighbors. We framed the event as a Human Library Event and held it at a very nice new public library in a suburb not often included in this conversation. The showing was attended by a small but enthusiastic group of about 15. Several attendees came from Rochester Americorps. Some who attended were interested in knowing more about building our local Fellowship of Reconciliation Chapter.
Mara Ahmed has shown this film a number of times in different venues and different parts of the country and I highly recommend it. She did a great job of balancing the mundane and the local with her background in Lahore Pakistan; of balancing the lives of middle class immigrants with an understanding of our country’s participation in the development of events in west Asia. According to George Payne of Gandhi Earth Keepers who introduced the event, “Mara was brilliant and we had a robust Q&A afterwards. ” We are planning another event in the near term.
Mara’s response to the evening: Fifteen years after 9/11, and 8 years after the release of my film, I’ve become wary of doing post-screening Q&As. It’s mentally exhausting to answer the same basic questions about Islam and Muslims over and over again and it’s emotionally depleting to sense any kind of resistance to the film’s efforts to humanize people who are regularly stereotyped and discriminated against. But I was in for a surprise. All the questions that came my way were well-thought out and the answers I offered were used to further the discussion in deep and meaningful ways. We talked about American Empire and the War on Terror, about consumerism and capitalist greed and whether other ways of being were imminent, we talked about nationalism and industrialization, and about templates for co-existence. One young woman was particularly sharp and inquisitive. As we were trying to illustrate the long history of Muslims in America, she pointed out Thomas Jefferson’s Quran and how Islamic principles and ideas are probably inseparable from the founding of what we understand to be the American state. All in all, it was a wonderful evening that left me hopeful and energized. Thank you to the organizers and to all who attended on a Monday evening.
And we are certainly grateful for Mara’s patience and generosity over these last 15 years.