It's a shame when a person introduces herself as "a human" and it actually seems necessary.
A new video, titled "Meet a Muslim," aims to mitigate some of the fear and misperception currently pervading the American dialogue—by putting the camera on a diverse cross-section of U.S. citizens who share the Islamic faith.
There's a pediatrician, a mom and a handful of adorable kids. There's a woman who calls herself the "naughty Muslim," a couple of parents who call their family "smiley Muslims," and a man (who also—gasp!—drinks) married to another man.
There's also a white dude. And a young, Ohio-born woman who wears a floral hijab and describes herself as a "foodie." They all share a little about themselves, then offer reflections—uniformly warm, sometimes baffled, often heartbreakingly insightful—about why they face so much animus from people who don't know them.
Timed to launch around Ramadan, which started last Sunday, and the California primary, it's a stark contrast to the images of violent jidahists that have become news fixtures in recent years, and grown to occupy the role of bogeymen for an uncomfortably large swathe of the political psyche. I'ts a sad state of affairs amplified—or worse, simply drawn out—by the demagoguery of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The clip, directed by Tara Miele, is meant to tackle such broad issues, though its genesis was far more personal. She recalls a recent family dinner, during which Trump's rhetoric about banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. came up.
To Miele's horror, her mother-in-law defended it. After the ensuing family fireworks, Miele discovered the elder woman had never actually met a Muslim—and the project was born.
That Miele herself isn't Muslim makes her position all the more relevant—it's harder to dismiss as tribalism. She encourages viewers on the YouTube channel to consider donating to the nonprofit NewGround: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.
But for anyone swayed, inspired or just intrigued by her argument, it's worth reading more of her statement on the piece, excerpted at length below, for more perspective on how compassion can fuel action and transcend causes that might, at first blush, seem disparate.
This video does not represent all Muslims by any stretch—this is simply a different cross section of Muslims than we are accustomed to seeing in the media. They are Muslims who happen to be my peers: Creative, young, urban artists, and families. They are good people. They are human.
Also worth noting, this shoot caused me to do some serious self-reflection as a filmmaker. Why was I, an agnostic ex-Catholic, fighting this fight when my fight as a female filmmaker in Hollywood was already taking up 110% of me?! I realized that the truth is, my goal as a filmmaker is not just to give a voice to women but to give a voice to all the underserved voices out there that need to be heard.
And the truth is, I got more out of doing this project than any other I've done. I was touched by the honesty and beauty of every individual I interviewed and the outpouring of support from the film community—people wanted to help, people want to do good. This is a drop in the bucket but I truly believe every drop counts.