On almost a daily basis now, our airwaves are absolutely inundated with nonsensical Orientalist prejudice. It is worthwhile note that, while the vitriol is aimed at Muslims and the Islamic faith, we sadly see the prejudice also impact non-Muslims. For example, in September 2001, within mere days of the attacks in New York and Washington, Providence Police arrested a man sitting on a train wearing a turban, failing to recognize that the gentlemen was a Sikh! In this sense, Islamaphobia is an improper term because it fails to account for this type of prejudice. I prefer the term used by the late Dr. Edward Said, Orientalism, because it describes a type of bigotry informed by colonialist misrepresentations of huge sections of Asia and Africa that were once called ‘the Orient’ by so-called specialists whose pedigree included service to the European colonial mission.
In this sense, I have chosen as the topic of my next film a study of the Islamic faith in the Ocean State titled ISLAM IN RHODE ISLAND. Featuring local figures such as Imam Farid Ansari and his wife Na’ima, Drs. Richard and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, and RIFuture’s own Steve Ahlquist, my goal is to discuss and heighten awareness of a rich and varied history that dates back to the colonial era.
Some of these points will include:
- The role of slavery in bringing Islam to America
- Newport’s role in the so-called Barbary Wars, the first time the United States dealt with Islam as a political and military force
- How the Nation of Islam and the teachings of Malcolm X impacted the civil rights struggle of the 1950’s and 1960’s in Rhode Island, with a particular discussion of the problematic media narrative regarding the later years of the group’s founder, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad
- A dissection of the socio-economic demographics of the community and how migration from Africa and Asia since the 1960’s has impacted it
- Where the community is going in the light of 9/11, the War on Terror, and our continued foreign policies in Muslim-majority states
Right now the project is in the fundraising stage. It is my hope this holiday season to solicit donations to establish a preliminary budget before applying for funding in the new year. I know this holiday season is tight already, but if folks are interested in supporting this project, please click the Patreon button below to support the project. Unfortunately this is not a tax-deductible donation but any help would be greatly appreciated.