Tag Archives: Muslims in America

Journey into America a hit at the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, Australia

Guest blog by: Melody Fox Ahmed

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s documentary “Journey into America” was screened this morning at the World Parliament of Religions, the “Olympics of interfaith dialogue” begun in Chicago in 1893 and now held every 4-5 years. There are thousands of people here from around the globe and an incredibly diverse array of beliefs and cultures. The schedule of events is truly overwhelming – the program book is hundreds of pages long – and it is a challenge to get to every session you want to see, with so many interesting programs and speakers scheduled.

Ambassador Ahmed unfortunately wasn’t able to make it Melbourne, but  I introduced the film and talked about the project and it’s predecessor, Journey into Islam. The room was nearly full, with a diverse crowd – happily, there were a lot of young people there, something I found missing in other Parliament sessions. The film started and the crowd was totally engaged throughout – laughing at the funny parts, gasping at the stories of discrimination, smiling at the antics of the team, moved and thoughtful. Although we were supposed to leave the room at 11, the film had about 15 more minutes to go, and I invited people to stay if they were able. Nearly the whole room stayed until the end, and clapped enthusiastically at the end.

After the film many people came up to me to say how much they’d enjoyed it (I’m sitting in a cafe now and a young Australian girl just came by to say thank you for showing it and that she was really moved by it). An American here told me it made her homesick.

Some special guests who I met after the film were Prof. Fred Woods, Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University and his colleague Prof. Daniel Peterson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at BYU. They met Ambassador  Ahmed and team when they were in Utah, and was delighted he’d been able to see the film – he had not been able to make it to the DC screening and we joked that he had to come all the way to Australia to see it! They both appreciated the portrayal of Mormons in the film and do work to promote religious understanding about Mormons – and Muslims – in the US, a not so obvious link to most, and one of the really interesting parts of the film. Prof. Douglas Pratt of the Religious Studies Programme at the University of Waikato in New Zealand also was excited to see the film – he knows Ambassdpr Ahmed through his BBC series, which he uses for his courses – and will be in DC soon, where he hopes to meet the Journey into America team.

Directly following the film, another film started, fittingly on Islam and Muslims in Australia. Ambassador  Ahmed’s film is a creative, insightful, engaging, and wise addition to the much needed global discourse on Muslims and Islam that is the hot topic here at the Parliament and around the globe. It was great to see the film brought across the world to start dialogue with a new group of people dedicated to promoting peace and understanding, in this lovely site overlooking the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia.

Melody Fox Ahmed is the Director of Programs and Operations at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Trailer for “Journey into America”

The world premiere of “Journey into America” is premiering on Saturday, July 4th. This feature film will be shown around Washington and throughout the United States.

The film shows Akbar Ahmed in his journey to over 75 cities and 100 mosques asking hundreds of Muslims and non-Muslims what it means to be “American.” From a bishop and an imam in Las Vegas to Somalis in small-town Nebraska to Noam Chomsky in Boston, this is the first film of its kind giving insight into the diverse and closed Muslim community in America and how they are fitting into American society. It ends on the hopeful note of coming together as a nation based on our pluralist identity going back to the Founding Fathers.

Don’t Judge, Just Listen and Learn

The team had iftaar and broke the fast during Ramadan with Imam Qazwini at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. Michigan. This oppurtunity, like so many other events for me on this journey, was an experience which I have never had before. It was my first ever visit to a predominantly Shia mosque. Prior to this journey, I was somewhat guilty of perceiving Shias in a similar way in which history books, media outlets, and American political leaders have portrayed Shiaism as anti-American, inherently violent, and politically radical. In meeting Imam Qazwini, all of those rumors have come to fruition as false. Now, I know that I can never judge anyone or any group until I engage face-to-face with them.

In driving down the Ford Highway, the Center becomes visible from a ways away, as its grandiose minaret sticks out amongst its neighboring churches. The outside of the Center is even more aesthetically pleasing at night, as it illuminates the dark horizon with a white glow. Inside of it, beautiful Islamic calligraphy lines the walls of the main prayer room while sparkling mosque shaped chandeliers hang from the ceilings. The Center itself is undoubtedly striking in its appearance, but its preeminance is much deeper than the majestic looking building itself.

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