LAS CRUCES — In a world growing smaller through technology, but farther apart in terms of social and political polarization, a New Mexico State University professor and a theatre and video production company, are bringing two films to Las Cruces to open dialogues with the community and encourage understanding of Muslims in American culture.
“Meet Mosque Alert” and "The Imam and the Homosexual," which provide early glimpses into the development of playwright Jamil Khoury's full-length stage play, "Mosque Alert," will be shown from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5 at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. The animation short “The Four Hijabs” will be shown from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6 at the Digital Media Theatre in Milton Hall at NMSU.
The Interdisciplinary Studies/Gender and Sexuality Studies department collaborated with NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, NMSU’s Honors College and International and Border Programs to bring the films to the university.
“This is a collaborative effort brought to NMSU,” said Manal Hamzeh, Gender and Sexuality Studies associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. “With the recent Islamophobic flurry, showing films like these is absolutely necessary for this community.”
Hamzeh co-wrote “The Four Hijabs” with Jamil Khoury, of Silk Road Rising, a Chicago-based theater and digital media company that focuses on storytelling through an Asian-American and Middle Eastern-American lens. It was inspired by Hamzeh’s book, “Pedagogies and Deveiling: Muslim Girls and the Hijab Discourse,” and follows the journey of three friends who explore the different meanings of the hijab, which most people see as only a headscarf.
After the showing of “The Four Hijabs,” Hamzeh and Khoury will engage in a discussion with the audience.
"Meet Mosque Alert" stems from a project exploring resistance to the building of mosques in communities across the United States with a specific focus on two families living in a suburb of Chicago. "The Imam and the Homosexual" delves into the complex and often awkward challenges of building alliances across lines of religion and sexuality.
The idea for “Mosque Alert” came to Khoury in 2011, around the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “I was particularly concerned with the challenges facing America’s Muslim communities,” said Khoury, founding artistic director for Silk Road Rising, which produced both films. “It was also inspired by the controversy that occurred in New York City about the Mosque being built near ground zero.”
Khoury hopes viewers will engage in thought-provoking questions and unaddressed worries around Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. “My hope is to bring awareness to the NMSU community,” said Khoury. “We want to open up discussion.” A question and answer session with Khoury and producer Malik Gillani will follow the film.
Hamzeh has used her film as a way to demonstrate the connection between art and research for her students. “By turning my research into an animated film, I believe it makes this information more accessible to other people,” Hamzeh said. “Not only do we want to raise awareness, but we want to create an open space for discussion.”
Since the release of “Meet Mosque Alert” and “The Four Hijabs,” Khoury and Hamzeh have received numerous requests to show the films on other college campuses. They hope to eventually produce the films in other languages and open this dialogue for college campuses around the world.
For information about “Mosque Alert,” “The Four Hijabs” or Silk Road Rising, visit http://www.silkroadrising.org/video-plays.
Taylor Vancel writes for New Mexico State University Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7953, email@example.com.