This is a short research reel for the currently untitled project I am working on about Muslims in the US prison system. I chose to upload this interesting conversation I had with Saalik Mustafa after Friday prayer held on the Southside of Chicago.
“David” tells the story of Daud, an eleven year old Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn. As the son of the Imam of the local mosque, he has to juggle his father’s high expectations, the dynamics of a conservative family, and being different – even from his peers in the Muslim community.
Through an innocent act of good faith, Daud inadvertently befriends a group of Jewish boys who mistake him for being Jewish and accept him as one of their own. While working together on a summer project, a genuine friendship is formed between Daud and Yoav, one of the Jewish boys. Unable to resist the joy of a camaraderie that he has never felt before, David, as he is known to the Jewish boys, gets drawn into a complicated situation that is based upon both the best of intentions, and youthful deceit.
When the Jewish boys discover that Daud has lied to them, his world is shattered, and he is left alone, struggling to come to terms with his place in the world.
“A chemistry professor recently stated that he couldn’t pass today’s examinations because at least two thirds of the questions require knowledge that didn’t exist when he graduated from Oxford in the early 30s.”
Read more: http://j.mp/f2I9n8
(Bihar al Anwar)
It is reported that the disciples were the followers of Jesus. Whenever they were hungry they said, “O Ruh of Allah! We are hungry.” Then Jesus would hit his hands on the ground and he would bring out two loaves of bread for each of them. Whenever they were thirsty they said, “O Ruh of Allah! We are thirsty.” Then Jesus would hit his hands on the ground, and brought out water and they drank from it. They asked, “O Ruh of Allah! Who is better than we? Whenever we want we are given food, and whenever we want water is given to us. We have faith in you and follow you.” Jesus said, “Better than you are those who work with their hands and eat from what they earn.” After this incident the disciples washed clothes by the stream and ate from their wages.”
(Bihar al Anwar)
The Apostles said to Jesus ‘O Ruh of Allah! With whom should we keep company?’ He said, “The one who the sight of whom reminds you of Allah, the speech of whom increases your knowledge, and the works of whom make you desirous of the next world.”
I just completed 5 days of shooting in the notorious South side of Chicago for my current film on Muslims in the US prison system. Running camera for our 5 day shoot was Dillon Schneider of Reel Big Films and Matthew Rivera who did a great job at working on their feet. The main focus of my filming was around a transitional house (a house where ex-offenders live after prison but before completely re-entering society) and a job training program for Muslim ex-offenders. The transitional house coined “Project Restore” was initiated by a Muslim led community organization called the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Project Restore is an effort to quell the high recidivism rate of mostly black males in Chicago whose daily struggles tempt them right back into prison. The program starts with a focus on faith and self discipline for those who qualify for the program while they are finishing their sentences.
I had the honor to spend time with Rafi Peterson, one of the project’s founders who currently lives in the small three bedroom house. The Project Restore house offers an environment that adheres to an Islamic lifestyle complete with a designated prayer room and a no tolerance policy for alcohol, drugs, profanity, and sexual promiscuity. Project Restore residents are encouraged to serve the community of the South side and to become leaders in disarming the areas various gangs through an organization called Cease Fire. The Project Restore house’s basement has become a space where the residents have organized local gang interventions to stop the violence between what they call the neighborhoods’ “warring tribes.”
Each resident is given a full time job working for “Project Green Re-entry” which trains those in the program in green home construction and renovation. From sustainable and recycled building materials, to energy efficient appliances and plumbing, the crew of Project Green Re-entry are learning the newest construction practices for job skills that are in high demand. Currently the project is busy in renovating a home that will serve as a second home for more Project Restore residents, which will be a living space for 6.
The current residents of the Project Restore house, Hassan and Taqi, will serve as the new administrators of the second house. Everyone I met affiliated with the program were truly inspiring people and in my opinion are some of the greatest examples of Muslims in America. Their sincere desire to help others like them and those in their community is nothing short of amazing. After living their lives behind bars they are eager to return to the same dangerous neighborhoods from which they came in order to dismantle the structures and the pressures that lead them to crime.
I am not exaggerating when I say I have never seen so many funeral homes in the same 5 mile radius in my life. We were told that the area sees a multitude of violent crimes everyday and we witnessed the result of funerals almost on every block. This year alone we were told that over 10 Chicago police officers have been killed and in some cases directly targeted by the violence in the area.
As a part of the project, I am collecting video messages from Muslim ex-offenders that I meet on the outside and I hope to share these messages with those I am in contact with on the inside, building a support system between the two.
The community of Muslim ex-offenders we spoke to at projects Restore and Green Re-entry are people I will never forget and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to document their unique story for my current project.