I believe in the power of storytelling to change minds and pre-conceived notions and to grow an understanding of the world around us.
The topic of Islam and Muslims in America is fraught with emotions, fueled by the post 9/11 media frenzy and the negative stereotyping of Muslims, both in the news and in entertainment in general. In contrast, Abraham’s Children gives a non judgmental, apolitical presentation of real stories of Muslim children in America.
When I set out in the fall of 2007 to learn about the lives of Muslim children in America, I knew almost nothing about Islam, whether in America, in the world over, or my own backyard in Central Harlem. I also had little idea of what it meant to grow up in America. I was born and raised in Switzerland and didn’t come to this country until I was in college.
What I did understand was the feeling of displacement, which I felt very much myself, even as a Western-European-Christian with a reasonable command of English transplanted to New York. How much more intense must it be for an adolescent coming to America, like Kasem, with an Eastern-Yemeni-Islamic upbringing.
I also knew that Muslims got the short end of the stick in the media, especially after 9/11. I was curious to find out why Muslims were not speaking up. Where were the leaders and the Muslims that fought the injustice and ignorance about their religion, culture and way of life?
Many of these questions are still unanswered. I had to learn that one documentary can harbor only so many angles and stories, but in the end Abraham’s Children became a study on Islam in America from a youth’s point of view.
I feel very passionate and protective of the kids in Abraham’s Children and I think it comes through in the film. All the families were incredibly courageous to let us into their lives. We are extremely appreciative of the way they spoke to use, gave us access to their homes, schools, and workplaces and also graciously hosted us during the shoot days. This film represents a true collaborative effort from production, to crew and talent.
I discovered that this generation of Muslim-Americans growing up in a post 9/11 era are the future leaders and spokespersons of Islam in America. I very much look forward to seeing what they will be up to in years to come.