Newsworks: Filming Philadelphia’s Muslim past and present

By Waleed Shahid (Newsworks) – For many Muslims born to immigrant parents in this country, our first encounters with an indigenous American Muslim tradition allowed us to see pieces of ourselves in the cultural life and history of the United States. Whether it was watching slaves carry their religion to Southern plantations in the TV series “Roots,” poring over the prison conversion story in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” sifting through old footage of Muhammad Ali citing his religious beliefs as his rationale for refusing his Vietnam draft notice, or deciphering Islamic references in the lyrics of hip-hop artists such as Lauryn Hill or A Tribe Called Quest, each moment illuminated a rich archive of American Muslim history that we had never been exposed to in our homes, schools, or even in our mosques.

Since 2010, Scribe Video Center has been facilitating a number of community history projects titled “Muslim Voices,” aimed at producing short documentary films that tell the stories of Muslim Philadelphia, one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Scribe partnered with local Muslim organizations and provided media trainings in order to not only build technical skills behind the camera, but also to explore the best methods to tell their stories and define themselves.

“With Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, participating groups produce media works that are useful to their communities, but also gain video production and media skills that extend beyond the project,” said Zein Nakhoda, project coordinator at Scribe Video Center. “The groups’ work challenges stereotypes and negative perceptions of Muslims, but even further shares positive stories of the vibrancy and strength of diverse Muslim communities in the Philadelphia area.

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