Better Perspective

Getting a Better Perspective on Muslim Culture

University Screens Mooz-lum and Holds Q & A with Director

Better PerspectiveThe University Center for the Arts along with the Student Activities Board (SAB) Diversity committee hosted a film screening of Mooz-lum followed by a Q&A with director and filmmaker Qasim “Q” Basir on November 30.

Mooz-lum is a film based on true events of Basir’s life about his upbringing as a devout African-American Muslim growing up in Michigan and his first year in college prior to the 9/11 attacks. Evan Ross seen on the new “90210,” plays the main character Tariq “T” Mahdi.

Basir says he was inspired to make this movie as he thought Muslims “got a raw deal” as they were “wrongfully portrayed by the media in the past decade.”

“[There’s] been a lot of misrepresentations and demonization of a people taking place…Being born and raised Muslim and seeing what Islam was really about which was complete opposite of all the violence and extremism they show consistently in shows and media,” Basir told the audience. “To show a story that represented Muslim people as human beings. I’ve never seen a film that accurately represented me or people like me.”

Megan McGowan, advisor for SAB, said the movie showing came from the National Association of Campus Activities board sending the SAB an advertisement for Mooz-lum.

“We thought it would be a different way to get students involved in diversity programming on campus,” McGowan said. “We hoped it would be more appealing because it was a theatrical and not a documentary and it has well known actors in it, so we were hoping we could grab students’ attention that way.”

Mooz-lum starts with Tariq saying a prayer with his father Hassan Madhi, played by Roger Guenveur Smith, before he leaves for college on his own. Hassan is a soft spoken man that undoubtedly loves his son and seems scared to let him go. As Tariq gets far enough from his house, he throws his taqiyah, a traditional Muslim head piece, out the window.

The film then goes back and forth between Tariq’s childhood as he attends public school and is picked on by a fellow classmate, Cedric (Vladimi Versailles), for not having a television and changing the traditional Muslim greeting As-Salamu Alaykum to “Ham Salami Bacon” which Muslims can’t eat. Tariq is eventually taken out of public school and sent to an all-boys Muslim school against his mother Safiyah’s (Nia Long) wishes.

When Tariq gets to college, it’s obvious he doesn’t want to be seen or known as a Muslim, even if his father requested a Muslim roommate, Hamza (Kunal Sharma), that continually asks Tariq to participate in their club. Tariq tells Hamza that he “isn’t going that route.”

Tariq tries to fit in at college, even with the kid that made his life a living hell when he was younger. “Ham Salami Bacon” Cedric, offers Tariq a beer with the comment, “Ain’t no bacon in it dude.”

The film also stars Dorian Missick as the coolest professor on campus, Professor Jamal, a Muslim, who teaches world religion while butting heads with Dean Francis (Danny Glover). Dean Francis doesn’t care for Professor Jamal’s style of teaching and thinks him being Muslim hinders his performance as a teacher and that parents will look negatively at the college because of him.

The film brings light to the negative connotations Muslims suffered even before the 9/11 attacks, as a young Catholic girl tells a young Tariq “My dad says you’re all dangerous,” or “My dad says confused men wear dresses.”

Mooz-lum also touches on parents influence on their children’s way of thinking and beliefs, the debate over how American citizens should act, and some peoples’ beliefs that all Americans should speak English.

Basir found the script “quite difficult” to write even if it was based on his life because “there are things we block out sometimes.”

“Things that happen to you as a child might alter you. You build up defense systems, your personality might change in certain ways based on those [experiences] and live a life nurturing these wounds that affected you and you don’t even really realize it,” Basir said. “By the time the film was completed and I sat there at the premier, I felt it was the most therapeutic thing I had done.”

University student and Diversity Chair for the SAB, Maria Tsampounieri, found the screening and event “magnificent.”

“It was definitely something that caught my attention and loved every minute of it,” Tsampounieri said. “Being a Greek-American, I can relate to the differences one must face as a student with separate backgrounds.”

McGowan thought the message of the film “seemed really important” and “really relative to University students” as the campus is so close to New York City.

“The movie really focuses on the life of a college student and the experience of being an African-American Muslim student on a college campus,” McGowan said. “SAB thought it was a really important message to get out to all of our students since we are also on a college campus… just how your actions affect your peers. You don’t always know people’s backgrounds and beliefs so you always want to respectful when you talk about subjects and how you carry yourself on campus.”

Basir said Mooz-lum is available for viewing on Netflix’s instant streaming and will be featured on the cable film channel Starz in the coming month.