Recently someone posted a trailer of a yet to be produced movie Unmosqued. It is supposedly meant to start a dialogue among the American Muslim community about the issues in the Mosques. Unfortunately it does the exact opposite: http://www.unmosquedthemovie.com/
The movie trailer is over dramatized and over generalized. Experiences are clearly anecdotal and don’t support facts (refer to 2011 Mosque survey). None of the speakers are out of the NY/NJ area which has a HUGELY different Muslim culture than other parts of the country. To me it appears like an expression of someone’s personal rant rather than a picture of a national situation.
They should use facts not opinions and personal experiences. They show a NJ mosque with a declining attendance while failing to mention that American mosques have doubled in the past decade. The NJ mosque is said to have a declining attendance due to construction of another nearby mosque and has nothing to do with its policies. But it is dramatically shown in the trailer as losing its congregation due to its policies on women and youth.
On the website they transcribed Ust. Nouman Ali Khan’s RIS convention speech and posted it under “interviews”. Ust. Nouman Ali Khan is reported to be against this movie.
They haven’t yet made a single trip outside their location and want to make a movie on “American” mosques. The only person interviewed outside of NY/NJ is one from Detroit who happened to be visiting NY. And he ends up giving the statement “women are treated like dogs at mosques”. So they had to re-edit the trailer after 14k views on YouTube.
The producers say “many youth… have felt judged or unwelcome at a mosque.” Where did they get this info? How much is “many”? There are millions of American Muslim youth. How many did they talk to?
The movie introduction on its website fails to mention that the Mosque is the most diverse place of worship in America. Also what is the basis of the claim that “only 10% of all Muslims in America attend …mosques.”? Also what is the basis of the assumption that “most of the established mosques in America have created a large amount of confusion in the minds of (youth) between what is a cultural practice and what is essential Islam?” How many is “most”? How did you get this info? What is “large amount of confusion”?
Another baseless assumption: we are losing “the future generations of Muslims in America.”? But it fails to mention that Mosques have the most youthful participation of all American places of worship according to the Mosque Survey 2011.
Of course no one should discount issues like the mosques are less welcoming of women as they are true and supported by independent reports. But the way it is being presented here is counterproductive, unnecessarily alarming and exaggerated. The movie should address the causes and possible solutions correctly to be beneficial. For this proper homework is needed. The data is out there now. Just takes some effort to analyze before grabbing a camera and interviewing the first available person.
Right now, I fear the movie is simply going to offend a large section of the community that have put in so much of their lives in establishing these mosques. Also more than that, I fear its going to provide valuable fodder to the Islamophobes who will use it to substantiate their stereotype accusations against Muslims and worse, against Islam itself.
I had mentioned these points to the producer of the movie.
The first statement in the trailer is by a Muslim revert woman who calls the women’s entrance a “slap in the face”. Here is the response from the Imam of that Masjid: “With all due respect, the actual sisters’ entrance is not shown in the video. The Sisters have two entrances; one at the side next to the brothers’ entrance and one at the back. The Brothers only have one working entrance into the Masjid. I invite all of you to visit Nueces Mosque 1906 Nueces St. Austin, TX 78705 and see for yourselves.”
I was just forwarded this video today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgoQtzXwGdY . Its a talk that inspired the film maker to produce this movie. Also the speaker is one of the two people behind the project. Apart from the disrespectful tone, the experiences are ridiculously anecdotal and far from the actual data. Among several issues with this presentation I would like to mention one: He calls an appeal for donations (not the method but the act itself), an act that was engaged by the prophet of Islam (pbuh), his companions and others as “begging”. Donations have always been part of running a religious institution in human history. He not only calls it “begging” but also mocks the people who volunteer in Mosques. When someone criticizes by mocking those who have given so much of their lives in establishing and running the Mosques, can we call it constructive? Do you think these volunteers and those who run the Mosques will take his criticism positively? When a person is disrespectful of the the Prophet’s (pbuh) sunnah this way, he looses all legitimacy for himself.
I think we can criticize our Mosques as much as we want without being disrespectful and getting personal like mocking their accents or foods etc. But since this is America, he is allowed to mock anyone, even the sunnah. But it certainly doesn’t help the cause he says he is espousing or those who are working hard to bring about change in our Mosques.
Why is there absolutely no information on the people behind the movie? Not in the trailer. Not on Facebook. Not on the website. No names. The community should know the talent behind such an important and serious topic that claims to address an issue for all American Muslims. Who is doing the research? Who is writing the script? Who is the director? The producer? Who is funding? What is the background of the people behind it? We only know a couple of names from Radtalks. But it doesn’t help those who would like to know or even support the project.