It’s Saturday morning, and several dozen Muslims are gathered in a college classroom in Los Angeles. There are men and women, young and old, U.S.-born and immigrants, but they all have a common dream: to break into show business. In television and films, however, Muslims are often portrayed as the bad guys, like the terrorists seen in FOX’s 24 or in the Bruce Willis film The Siege. A group called the Muslim Public Affairs Council has been working with Hollywood studios for years to foster more accurate portrayals. And recently it has adopted a new tactic: The group is teaching Muslim-Americans how to become Hollywood screenwriters. Marium Mohiuddin, communications coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, says in the past the group had some success consulting non-Muslim writers and producers at Hollywood studios. But realistic depictions of Muslims, both positive and negative, are still rare, she says. “The Muslim-American community is kind of at that point, ‘We’re like OK, we want these stories to be told. You’re not telling it, so we have to do it,'” she says. Bringing In Hollywood Insiders So they’ve enlisted insiders like Oscar-nominated Tom Cook to teach courses specifically tailored to Muslims.. “I’ve always thought of writers as outsiders, and who is more of an outsider in modern day America than Muslims?” Cook says. Among those taking notes from the veteran writer is Pakistani-born Avais Chughtai. “One of the things Tom Cook said [is], ‘What the Hollywood industry likes is experiences, you know, the personal experiences,'” Chughtai says. “But it’s up to us to actually go and write those experiences and share them.” The workshops also brought in agents and executives who explained how to turn those experiences into scripts that actually get made, which as Qasim Basir can attest, is no small feat. If all you see is bad, bad, bad, then how are you ever going to tell the American community that ‘Don’t worry, you’re fine, your Muslim neighbor is not going to do anything to you?’ – Marium Mohiuddin, communications coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council Basir wrote and directed the recent feature film MOOZ-lum, a semi-autobiographical tale of a young African-American who struggles with the challenges of being raised Muslim. Finding financing for MOOZ-lum was a real challenge, Basir says. Hollywood executives didn’t quite know what to do with a film about African-Americans who were also Muslims. “Because we know how to sell Big Momma’s House 4, you know? We know how to sell the Tyler Perry movies, but this here — who’s the audience for this?” Basir says. Curbing Prejudice So far, MOOZ-lum has played well with Muslim audiences, but Basir hopes that the film will find success with non-Muslim moviegoers, too. And not just for commercial reasons: The filmmaker says he wants to improve the impression many Americans have of people like him. “I am seeing a level of discrimination in this country that I have never seen in my life,” he says. Mohiuddin says it’s easy to see why many Americans would fear Muslims when the only real exposure they get to Islamic life comes from the media. “If all you see is bad, bad, bad, then how are you ever going to tell the American community that ‘Don’t worry, you’re fine, your Muslim neighbor is not going to do anything to you?'” she says.
A previous post discussed talking points” supplied by MPAC to its supproters for use in the Muslim radicalization hearings recently held by Congress. MPAC also appears to be playing a greater role in US counter-terrorism efforts. Previous posts have reported that MPAC was scheduled to speak at a November Southern California counterterrorism and has recently completed a quarterly training for US Transportation Security Officers (TSO). Another post discussed an analysis of a study by MPAC that claims that 1 out of 3 Al-Qaida terror plots in the US since 911 were stopped with help from the Muslim community.
MPAC, headquartered in Southern California, was established initially in 1986 as the Political Action Committee of the Islamic Center of Southern California whose key leaders likely had their origins in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Since that time, MPAC has functioned as the political lobbying arm of the U.S. Brotherhood. MPAC has opposed virtually every count-terror initiative undertaken or proposed by the U.S. government. At times this opposition was said to be on civil-rights grounds but, just as often, MPAC claimed that U.S. counter-terror efforts were aimed at the U.S. Muslim community itself. MPAC has consistently supported and facilitated terrorism by supporting terrorist organizations and, more broadly, constructing an elaborate ideology defending the use of violence by Islamists and Islamist organizations. More than any other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organization, MPAC has developed extensive relationships with the U.S. government which have included numerous meetings with the Department of Justice and the FBI.