A Celebration for All: Launching the ‘Journey into America’ Film
By Craig Considine
Washington, DC

(Left): Craig Considine thinking at the Statue of Liberty
Craig Considine and Frankie Martin in Houston
Dr Akbar Ahmed (right) and a member of the team

 

About nine months ago, I embarked on the unprecedented ‘Journey into America’ with my tutor and professor, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed of American University. We set out to study Islam in America, the Muslim experience in the US, and the various interpretations of American identity.

We visited over 75 cities, we entered into 100 mosques, and we interacted with thousands and thousands of Americans from all walks of life. We spoke with descendants of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, we voyaged on boat to Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia to retrace Islam’s roots in America, we shared the story of the Somalians living in Grand Island, Nebraska that were fired at a meatpacking plant for praying during Ramadan, and we ventured into the middle of the Pacific Ocean to meet with Muslims in Hawaii.

The last nine months have been more than just a physical journey. It was also a spiritual journey for me as I embodied in my character and conduct the pluralist vision of America’s Founding Fathers. Resulting from this journey is a pivotal documentary film that may serve as the most accurate representation of the Muslim experience in America.

As Ambassador Ahmed’s film director, I am excited to announce the premiere of the Journey into America documentary. It will be showing at the annual ISNA Convention at the Washington DC Convention Center at 9 pm this Saturday, July 4 th. The timing for the premiere could not be more fitting. What better day to launch a film on American identity than on the birthday of this great country? After all, the Declaration of Independences’ author, Thomas Jefferson, owned a Qur’an in his library at Monticello. That very same Qur’an was used by Congressmen Keith Ellison as he was being sworn into office as a member of the House of Representatives.

The film is filled with dramatic scenes and stories of the Muslim experience in the post 9/11 world. It shares the stories of Muslims who have struggled in the face of prejudice, racism, and bigotry. It also captures the rich diversity of Islam in America from African Americans in Detroit and Las Vegas to the Bhora community in Houston, Texas. It also highlights the similarities between Mormonism and Islam with scenes from Palmyra, New York (the birthplace of the religion) to the mosques of Salt Lake City. The film also visits Jinnah Way in Chicago, Illinois where the Ambassador interacts with some Pakistani-American businessmen who have bared the fruit of the American Dream. It consults world famous intellectual Professor Noam Chomsky, Reverend Jessie Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Congressmen Ellison and Carson and countless other Americans to juxtapose the different narratives of American identity in an effort to better understand the intricacies of the American social fabric.

Through my travels, I have become very familiar with Muslims living in America. To be quite honest, it is an impressive community. I met doctors, lawyers, professors, and successful business men and women. I became friends with enthusiastic young Muslims that play football and joke around just like any other American child. I was welcomed with open arms and great hospitality in mosques and madrassas. Even when I became ill in Los Angeles, local leader Hamid Malik offered to pay for my hospital bill. The journey has introduced me to life long friends. I have memories that are permanently imprinted in my mind. Best of all, I became an ambassador for my own country by spreading and representing the pluralistic vision of America’s Founding Fathers.

Through this film, we hope to strengthen the diverse American social fabric and to enhance the potential for Muslims living in the United States. Following the premiere of the film on the 4 th of July is a panel discussion that includes Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ingrid Mattson of the Hartford Seminary, Imam Magid of the ADAMS Center in Virginia, and Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

Stay tuned for members of the Journey Into America team appearing across the country and in the media, to discuss the film and its significance to both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans alike. The Abrahamic Tradition is alive and well in the new millennia. It’s incumbent on all to participate and promote a mutual understanding of mankind and a celebration of discovery.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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