Muslims today are aware that Islam is under the radar and it is perhaps scrutinised a lot more than other religions and this comes about from the actions of a few who use religion as a means of mass killing and violence. Unfortunately as Muslims we must first accept and understand that there exists a select few who use Islam as a proxy for their hatred and killing.
As someone who lives and resides in London, we perhaps are on the forefront of people’s questions, it is only natural that non-Muslims would ask about our religion and its teachings therefore we must be confident in denouncing all forms of extremism and hate, we must be well versed with our Islamic history and teachings in answering those questions that ask ‘can muslims live in the west peacefully?’
Well the answer is of course we can, Islam is a way of life that dictates that we keep God at the core of all our actions and this in no way compromises our life in the west. It is sad that there is a perception that Muslims cannot integrate if they don’t drink or if they eat Halal meat, what is often forgotten is that these examples simply emphasise how central God is in the life of a Muslim.
On saturday I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of the film ‘Fordson:the movie’ (trailer above) this a documentary film that follows the life’s of a group of American Arabs based in the city of Dearborn, Michigan. It foretells the struggles that they face as Muslims living in a city whose population in dominated by Arab-Muslims. The film is centred around the Fordson football team who are doing well in the season despite the players also fasting during the month of Ramadhan. The movie takes its name from the high school that they attend which is called Fordson, the high school was opened by Henry Ford himself in honour of his son hence the name Ford-Son.
One of the most intriguing aspects to the film is how American values plays a core role in life in America, every individual is almost meant to join their high school football team and every friday nights is dedicated to watching the high school games. Even those who have graduated many years ago still come and watch the high school games. What I enjoyed most about the film is how it personalised (and as the director Rashid Ghazi said later in the Q and A ‘humanised’) the message that the film wanted to achieve. It was a statement to those that misjudge Muslims that said ‘Hey look this is us and this is how we are, are we any different to you? Are our hopes and aspirations different to yours?’
In the film the brother of one of the football players was arrested and charged with terrorism. The media there pounced on this and claimed that he was planning to detonate bombs using mobile phones that were found in his car. Later on it became apparent that he was only buying these phones to sell them on for a profit of $5 per phone. In the Q an A the director Rashid mentioned that when the youth was arrested it made front page news however when he was exonerated it made page 18 in a small paragraph. What Rashid was trying to emphasise is why such a film is needed and the importance of its impact. The need to humanise a struggle allows for other humans to relate to the hardships that others face, this is why this film is powerful in conveying its message and won top prize at a film festival hosted by Michael Moore.
As the cast of the film appeared from back stage there was a surreal feeling when you build an emotional attachment with characters on screen and then suddenly see them in real life, I guess this is why celebrities are so influential in society. Nevertheless the guys deserved a round of applause, the Q and A shed a lot more light on the purpose behind the film. One of the main people in the film was the principle of Fordson high, Imad Fadlallah his story was a struggle of an Arab principle that ran a public high school whose population was 95% Arab. Thus he faced much criticism when it came to issues of Muslim holidays where most students were off school. I asked Imad the following question
“In the slogan of the film one of the key words was the word ‘Faith’, from the film we saw that Arabs of Lebanese decent migrated to Dearborn in the early 20th Century and thus the youth in front of us today are perhaps 4th or 5th generation. However with our Iraqi community here in London, many of us came here in the early 1990’s and so I am considered 1st or 2nd generation. The issue of faith is important and I feel our community here can sometimes be conservative in holding onto their faith however there is a fear that as generations come and go faith will decrease proportionally. Is this something that the Lebanese arabs of Dearborn have faced and how strong is faith in your community today?”
Imad’s reply was honest and truthful and in short he said faith had decreased but that faith was still there, he mentioned that amongst the Iraqi community faith was lower still. The coach, Fouad also added that there were initiatives by youth in Dearborn but that again a lot more could still be done. What was also interesting to see was that because Dearborn is predominately Arab-Muslim, there is a tendency where one becomes comfortable in their own environment and oblivious of society outside of it and Dearborn seems to be one large comfortable environment. Baquer, one of the members of the football team had excelled in the field and currently attends the university of Michigan, he is the only Muslim in the football team and he explained it was difficult being outside his comfort zone but it was also an opportunity for him to adjust and show his team mates that being a Muslim means having the right attitude in manners and doing for others what you expect to be done to you. The principle then added how as Muslims we must strive to learn from the prophet in our manners, in remembering how the prophet was known as the truthful one simply by his great manners.
Overall the experience of watching the film and meeting the cast and director was an unforgettable one, (Michael Moore gives his views in the video above) but typically American football does not sit with the British mind and so I tried getting a quick explanation from the members of the team but it still did not sink in, I think I shall stick with the beautiful game. I only hope that something like this can be done in London and I wish the director and the cast the very best.
I finish off with arguably Imam Ali’s (as) most famous saying.
“If a man is not your brother in faith, then he is your equal in humanity”
Movie website: www.fordsonthemovie.com