Promoting Interfaith Understanding
In New Muslim Cool, Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Pérez pulled himself out of drug dealing and street life 12 years ago and became a Muslim. Now he's moved to the tough north side of Pittsburgh to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family and reach out to his neighborhood with the message that faith is a better response than crime to poverty and injustice.
Below are some actions you could take to ensure that people in your community have accurate information about all the groups of people represented in the film.
- Use New Muslim Cool as the basis for inter-generational dialogue about social justice and working together to improve your community.
- Hamza says, "I think we can teach Muslim youth how to deal with this anger they have built up inside through writing and poetry." Create a poetry writing workshop for young people in your community. Challenge participants to think about what their religious or ethnic identity means to them and where it provides opportunities to find common ground with others. Like Carol in the film, organize a poetry festival or publication based on an interfaith theme.
- Work with Muslims in your community to convene a public teach-in or Webinar on Muslims in the United States. Invite speakers to address stereotypes and provide accurate information. Follow up with meetings with local news directors and newspaper editors to ensure accurate coverage of Muslims.
- To increase interfaith understanding, work with your local council of churches (or similar religious organization) to create a series of open houses at mosques, synagogues, temples, churches and other religious institutions around your community.
- Groups that are interested in planning events or group dialogues specifically devoted to building interfaith or inter-ethnic understanding can refer to Active Voice's Crossover Conversations Toolkit, which includes tips for event framing, a planning checklist, interfaith dialogue suggestions and more.
- Investigate opportunities for outreach promoting interfaith understanding to inmates in jails and/or prisons.
- Support or create efforts to track discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities in your community, state or region. Publicize hate crimes with public statements or demonstrations indicating that actions based on prejudice or hate are unacceptable in your community.
- Carefully study the USA Patriot Act and laws governing profiling. Meet with elected officials and law enforcement to let them know how you want them to enforce or change existing policies.
Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.
New Muslim Cool, a feature-length (90-minute) documentary, follows Hamza Pérez over three years as he attempts to find spiritual fulfillment and real-world success as a father, husband and community leader. It takes viewers to both familiar and surprising places in an America that never stops changing. As an outreach tool, the film offers models of reconciliation and provides an excellent springboard for people interested in reaching across traditional divides.
This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film New Muslim Cool, which follows the day-to-day life of a Muslim family living in Pittsburgh, Pa. Classrooms can use this program to help students increase their understanding of Muslim culture in the United States.
This multimedia resource list includes books, films and other materials related to the issues presented in New Muslim Cool. Learn more about interfaith issues and hip-hop culture, and explore the history of Islam in America.