We had a wonderful screening of Abraham’s Children at the community center and mosque Park51 on Friday night. The venue is still a work in progress, but with the clean white walls and ample rooms it is rather impressive. Currently Park51 hosts a photo exhibit, called NYChildren by Danny Goldfield and it showcases one photo each of a child from each country around the globe that lives in New York City. Naturally a screening of Abraham’s Children was a good fit.
The Question and Answer session after the screening was expertly moderated by Park51’s Brandon Newton and on the panel with me were Robina Niaz from Turning Point and Samir Selmanovic from Faith House.
The discussion and Q&A revolved much around the fact that as much as the film shows happy and well adjusted children that seem to have no issues being American AND Muslim the reality can be very different. Robina talked about the difficulty to advocate for women and children when there are not only strict confidentiality issues but also many taboos surrounding especially girls growing up in America with traditional foreign-born parents. Samir talked about the ease with which these children in the film practice their faith and how the strong families and their communities help them be rooted and centered and how he hoped some Christian children could learn from that experience.
There were so many great questions in a very respectful and positive setting that I could have gone on for ever talking about the film and its message.
My favorite question was what my personal take away from the film was in terms of what I had learned about Islam. It’s a big question and there are so many possible answers to it, but I would say two things.
Actually the biggest learning moment for me was to realize that Islam is not a religion the way I was taught religion as a child in Christian Europe, where there is a strict separation of church and state; but that Islam is more than a religion, it is a way of life and it regulates and influences ALL aspects of a Muslims live. That I think, is also where most of the misunderstanding and fear comes from between Islam and Western culture. We (western countries) have spent so much time separating state and church, that a total fusion is a novel (or really old) thought that might not be reconcilable with a Western and Christian believe system.
The second part to that question is the human aspect. I learned so much about humanity making this film. The “other” is not other if you get to know “it”. The generosity of spirit and sharing meals and sharing laughter and ideas was at times overwhelming and made me very humble. Sharing of one’s resources in western culture has somehow gone by the way side.
A big thank you to the Park51 team: Katerina Lucas, the executive director, Sadaf Choudhry, Brendan Newton and Sam Chalfin who took the great pictures below.
Samir Selmanovic, Nina, Robina Niaz, Brandon Newton
Both photos by Sam Chalfin
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