Islam in a post-Obama America
Last week, my thirteen year-old sister’s Middle School received a bomb threat. Thankfully, it was just a prank. During my tenure at Loganville High School, we also received bomb threats. However, my experiences and my sister’s experiences were totally different. My school got threatened BEFORE 9/11/2001. My sister’s school got threatened right after the Fort Hood Shootings. Bomb threats are nothing new to public schools in America. They’re very serious, but most of the time they’re just pranks to get out of taking tests or what-have-you. And that’s exactly how I remember them: nonthreatening. My sister, on the other hand, felt very different about them.
My thirteen-year-old sister was harassed and made-fun-of by many of the other students at her school. Their first response to the bomb threat? It must have been my sister because she is Arab and Muslim. A couple of students even approached her directly, calling her a “Muslim Terrorist” and a “Bitch”. Okay, so maybe the second name is just something kids do – but the first one is very troubling. My sister came home that night, crying her eyes out, because the negative perceptions of Islam have gotten so mainstream and universally accepted that even school children are spreading them. I really wished my sister hadn’t experienced that ridicule, but it’s something that many American Muslims are experiencing.
Colin Ferri recently handed our feature screenplay to one of the head readers at Dreamworks Pictures (nice score, Colin!). And out of the goodness of his heart, he read our screenplay and gave us his notes. First thing’s first. He thought the screenplay was, “a hoot”. Awesome. Having our screenplay come off as “funny” and “hilarious” was one of our main goals, and according to the reader, we succeeded. Yay!
The problem? The reader was very concerned that our screenplay wasn’t relevant anymore. His argument: The United States of America has elected an African-American president with the name, Barack Hussein Obama. Because the plot of Arab in America relies heavily on Osama changing his name to Samuel – the reader was wondering if having a name like Osama would still be a roadblock. He thought America was becoming more accepting of Arabs and Muslims and that our screenplay addresses a non-issue.
And then I got to thinking… If things are getting better, then why is my sister being harassed by all the kids in her school when some punk calls in a bomb threat? Why is my father still running a Middle Eastern Restaurant with his 22 years of Engineering experience? And why in the hell am I seeing Time Magazine running a cover like this?
Back in 2006, Colin and I shot the first half of our short film, Arab in America. There was a scene that was cut from the movie that we used for a Teaser Trailer. Most of our friends and family who saw the Teaser Trailer, complained that it was too “outlandish and ridiculous” and “Time Magazine would never have a cover like that.” I’ve included the Teaser Trailer below…
We think Arab in America is still relevant. Arabs and Muslims are still having a hard time in this country and many are treated like second-class citizens. And because some people might think that the topic is fading in the background and “getting better” that only emboldens us even more to get this thing made.
Keep checking back for some new updates, including – your very own copy of The Arab in America Pitch Packet! – AND – DVD News! – AND – Even More Arab News!