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Film Reviews Migrations of Islam: Muslim American Voices in the 21st Century Documentary, 2015, 58 minutes, Directed by Swarnavel E. Pillai, and Produced by Salah D. Hassan and Swarnavel E. Pillai Migrations of Islam is thematically rooted in the integral historical relationship between Islam, migration, and the production of new cultural forms and hybridities. Over the centuries and across thousands of miles, Islam has brought, absorbed, influenced, and reshaped culture. Whether one is looking at Malaysia or Spain (and thence Mexico), Nigeria or France, Yemen or Morocco, Turkey or Bosnia, India or Uzbekistan, the blending of Islam with local cultures is both distinctive and elemental. And so too, as this documentaryexplores ,Muslimsareproducingcreativeinnovationsattheintersectionof IslamandarangeofU.S.subculturesandAmericanculturalforms.Particularly since 9/11, according to writer and playwright Wajahat Ali, interviewed in the film, there has been an American Muslim “explosion in the arts.” The documentary treats viewers to a broad range of contemporary American Muslim artistic genres, including theatrical readings, staged performances, stand up poetry, hip hop, classical oud, and comedy, as well as artists’ commentaries on oud, and comedy, as well as artists’ commentaries on oud their autobiographical paths to these creative outputs. All are segments of performances and interviews conducted at Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University between 2011 and 2012. Cainkar / Film Reviews 93 The task of facing and surmounting challenges permeates the documentary. Muslim Americans speak to challenging their family’s and community’s sense of the proper career path for their children (you should be a doctor not a performer ). They speak to the flattening and homogenizing effects of Islamophobia, something their artistic work challenges not only in content but because it exists at all. Muslim Americans interviewed in the film point out that every American Muslim has had to grapple with how to come to terms with 9/11 and its aftermath , and emphasize that each has done so in their own unique way. The challenges are multi-faceted as gender, race, socioeconomic status, and sexuality intersect with being Muslim and American; so in turn Muslim American artistic productions are complex and multi-dimensional. The documentary film begins and ends with staged readings of Wajahat Ali’s award winning play Domestic Crusaders. The segments shown focus mainly on Muslim American (or American Muslim) intra-family dynamics and the dialogues , sometimes funny, sometimes painful, that take place between youth and parents when the former choose to strike out on paths that differ from their parents ’ visions. Following this are segments of Hijabi Monologues, a performance in which Muslim American women articulate slices of life for women who wear hijab. “I am not a head scarf” is the theme that critiques both the essentialized views of outsiders — where are you from? Do you do anything besides pray? — as well as internal community sexism. The next segment of the documentary, “Americans and Islam,” shifts from performance art to a collection of material on how non-Muslim Americans perceive, react to, and experience Islam. Filmed during Islamic Awareness week at Michigan State, we hear about the encounters of non-Muslim women wearing hijab for a day, observe a Muslim public pray in, and listen to the challenges of non-Muslims attempting to observe a fast. While the point of this segment is that outreach and education are forms of Muslim activism that must parallel artistic ventures, more could have been done to tie it in thematically to the rest of the documentary. Also included in this segment are Muslims noting that violence and radicalism are found in all religions and Religious Studies Professor Mohammad Khalil’s observation that Islamic studies has surged since 9/11. The next segment, entitled “Islam and its Discontents,” is also somewhat of a hodgepodge of reflections. It includes American Muslims speaking of experiences with discrimination and repression in the Arab World as well as institutional discrimination, harassment, surveillance, and securitization in the US. Following these voices are Muslims speaking of the universality of Islam and its varying contextualization and of oppressions that exist within Muslim communities, such as of leftist and gay Muslims. All of these points disclose important aspects of the Muslim 94 Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 1.1 American...


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pp. 92-95
Launched on MUSE
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