A national network of resources and information about the Middle East

From Humor and Hollywood to Piety and Fashion

By Greta Scharnweber, New York University

The following are a few fascinating online, print, and film resources that would help support extension activities in the classroom.

30 Mosques in 30 States: www.30mosques.com

Beginning August 11 in New York City, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq spent each night of Ramadan at a different mosque in 30 states around the United States. The two’s 12,000 mile route took them on an outline of the entire country and concluded in Dearborn, Michigan – home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in the country.  Aman and Bassam blogged about their experience each night, sharing photographs of significant moments and landmarks, highlighting stories about the people they met, and the mosques they prayed in and of course the tasty cuisines each place had to offer.

Mosque in Ross, North Dakota

Ross, North Dakota is home to one of the first mosques that was ever built in the United States. A Syrian farmer by the name of Hassan Juma immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Ross in the late 1800s. More Syrians came into town shortly after and the community built a mosque in 1929 after spending years praying in each other’s basements. It was later demolished in the 1970s but there’s a Muslim cemetery nearby where many of the original community members are buried. In 2005, a new mosque was built on the same land as the original mosque. Photo courtesy of 30mosques.com.

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things: Muslims Dressed in Their Garb


In response to mass media suggestions that one can identify Muslims based on what they wear or look like, here a blogger posts pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as “Muslim garb” or a Muslim look.

Council on Islamic Education (CIE): www.cie.org

CIE’s mission is to support and strengthen American public education as the best foundation for a vibrant democracy, a healthy civil society, and a globally literate citizenry.  They have a number of excellent downloadable lesson plans for teachers about Islam, Muslims, and related issues.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): www.cair.com

CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.  They have a free download that may be of interest: An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices, which is an excellent introduction to Islamic religious practices for educators and school administrators. This guide is a tool to promote diversity and accommodate Muslims students in educational institutions. http://www.cair.com/AboutIslam/PublicationDownloads.aspx

Teach Mideast: An Educational Initiative of the Middle East Policy Council: www.teachmideast.org

TeachMideast is a website designed for K-12 educators featuring a plethora of innovative new resources on the Middle East and Islam. The site includes essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.  Includes thematic content on stereotyping.

A Land Called Paradise (dir. Lena Khan): http://www.linktv.org/video/2944

In December 2007, over 2,000 American Muslims were asked what they would wish to say to the rest of the world.  Their responses form the backdrop for a music video for Muslim American country singer Kareem Salama’s “A Land Called Paradise.” The video won the LinkTV grand prize for the One Nation, Many Voices: Muslims in America/Stories not Stereotypes amateur film contest.

Land Called Paradise

Lena Khan’s whimsical and poignant video “A Land Called Paradise” shows the diversity, sincerity, and humor of Muslims in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Link TV.

Allah Made Me Funny: www.allahmademefunny.com

This landmark concert film follows three acclaimed comedians on stage and off as they lift the veil to reveal the humorous truth of what it’s really like to be Muslim in America. Mo Amer, Azhar Usman, and Preacher Moss poke fun at themselves, their communities, government, human nature and the tricky predicament of living in post-9/11 America. Featuring music of rising indie scene artists, Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert is rollicking good fun and gives people of all cultural backgrounds an opportunity to laugh hard, drop their guard and open their minds.

Comedy of Terrors: Allah Made Me Funny: The Official Muslim Comedy Tour consists of Azeem, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss.

Comedy of Terrors: Allah Made Me Funny: The Official Muslim Comedy Tour consists of Azeem, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss.

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Villifies a People: www.reelbadarabs.com

This documentary film dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs and Muslims–from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding “terrorists”–along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today.

Characters from children’s cartoons often play an important role in stereotypes (Alladin still from Reel Bad Arabs Press Kit).

Park 51: http://blog.park51.org/

Ubiquitously referred to as “The Ground Zero Mosque,” Park51 states its mission to be “a nonsectarian community, cultural and interfaith spiritual center along with a Muslim prayer area and a monument to the those lost on 9/11.” Their stated goals are pluralism, service, arts and culture, health and healing. Have your students read through Park 51’s blog to assess for themselves the perspectives and desires of the developers of the building.

Middle Eastern American Resources Online: www.mearo.org

MEARO provides educators, students, and professionals access to a variety of materials about Americans who trace their ancestry to the Middle East. Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish-speaking immigrants and other smaller numeric groups from the Middle East and North Africa have settled in the United States since the late 19th century. Together with their descendants, they comprise a diverse and important multiethnic community deserving attention and study, especially in America’s precollegiate schools and institutions of higher learning.

Yemeni students

Yemeni-Americans youths at a family owned business in Delano, California. Their immigrant experience and life and times are part of a high school curriculum unit available on MEARO in January 2011. Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Friedlander.

How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America: http://moustafabayoumi.com/

Just over a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois posed a probing question in his classic The Souls of Black Folk: “How does it feel to be a problem?” he asked. Today, Arab and Muslim Americans, the newest minorities in the American imagination, are the latest “problem” of American society, and their answers to Du Bois’s question increasingly define what being American means today.  In a wholly revealing portrait of a community that lives next door and yet a world away, Moustafa Bayoumi introduces us to the individual lives of seven twenty-something men and women living in Brooklyn, home to the largest number of Arab Americans in the United States. Through telling real stories about young people in Brooklyn, Bayoumi jettisons the stereotypes and clichés that constantly surround Arabs and Muslims and allows us instead to enter their worlds and experience their lives.

Categories: Perspectives, Resources

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