While standing in line at the airport, it's no longer a question. I approach the counter and immediately tell them to call their manager because they'll need extra approval to allow me on the plane. When finally in my seat answering a phone call, the looks I get from surrounding passengers as I greet with "Asalamu Alaikum" is a type of fear that I've never seen, one that cannot possibly be sustained in the face of all that this nation is up against.
I was raised in Michigan, where I always attended public schools. I was a decent student, played sports, served on student organizations and was even homecoming king. I have always believed in the ideals of this country, and because of that, I beat the odds and followed my dreams of becoming a working film writer and director. But at some point, I and many others who share my faith became the Other. I became one of "them."
When I turn on the TV and see another broadcast displaying Muslim extremism or terrorism, it makes me cringe. This feeling persists primarily because there are people doing these terrible things in the name of Islam. They go against everything Muslims are supposed to represent and make the lives of many people here very difficult. We have to live in fear not only of terrorists but also of being associated with them. To make things worse, there has been an unyielding and unapologetic attempt to push it in our faces for the last decade. If we're talking real numbers here, Al Qaeda represents less than 0.1 percent of the world's Muslim population. How can the actions of such a small percentage serve as the representation of a group so large?
Now this idea has manifested itself in a crucial debate, and the issue on the table has the potential to deny American citizens their basic constitutional rights. There needs to be the recognition of the problem of this argument at its core: by going against the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, you're essentially associating the ideals of extremism and terrorism with every peace-practicing Muslim American. I am appalled by this association and disappointed that so many fellow Americans have taken that stance instead of believing in what this country has represented since its birth. If this freedom is defeated, I fear what's to come.
This is not a plea for sympathy; it is a call to character. It's not a question of whether or not we should or shouldn't. Once we get past the unreasonable debates fueled by emotions and illegitimate accusations, we know what's right. As the leaders of the free world, we cannot afford another embarrassment of this magnitude on our record. It will again, in a crucial time of rebuilding, question our validity for years to come.
When I wrote my film "MOOZ-lum," which speaks about the Muslim-American experience, I had no idea so much would be at stake; I simply wanted to give a voice to a generation that is often drowned out by the heavy volume of extremism. But alas, here we are. And I'm willfully submitting my film into the discussion, hoping that it will be able to shed some light and humanize a group of people who have been demonized for far too long.
When all is said and done, the compelling statement of freedom that the construction of this mosque represents can be an ultimate sign of our country's progression.
I hope you enjoy the trailer.