By Barbara Petzen, Middle East Policy Council
I'm sure many outreach professionals and teachers are aware of Lena Khan's award-winning short film, A Land Called Paradise. Under five minutes long, this gem is a wonderful introduction to the diversity of the Muslim community in America. The film, set to Kareem Salama's country song of the same name, shows a variety of American Muslims with simple placards, each telling the world one thing they want everyone to know about them--a simple premise, and incredibly effective. The film won the grand prize in One Nation Foundation's inaugural film contest in 2007, and is freely available online.
The Middle East Policy Council uses the film in many of its professional development workshops when discussing stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. It is a great discussion starter about the diversity of American Muslims ethnically, politically and in terms of religious practice. When using the film with classes of students, we often have the classes respond to the film in kind. Students either create their own placards about themselves as Americans in response to stereotypes commonly held by Muslim communities worldwide about our own country, or--if they've completed a unit on Islam or the Middle East--they can create placards that further counter stereotypes they feel that their schoolmates have about the Middle East and Muslims. Then the students film themselves with a handheld video camera, "talking back" to the film in an interactive dialogue about identity and stereotype. Feedback on the film and the student activities have been overwhelmingly positive from participants.
If you haven't seen it, check it out!