The Muslim Voices of Philadelphia film premiere

Preparing for the Muslim Voices of Philadelphia premiere. Image via Scribe.org; photo by Lori Waselchuk.

Launched three years ago, Scribe Video Center’s Muslim Voices of Philadelphia project explores the history and current experience of Muslim communities in our region. I attended the kick-off event in 2010 and wrote about it for PhilanTopic.

At that time, there was bitter opposition to the development of an Islamic center near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Then-director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Moein Khawaja, explained the group’s interest in the Scribe project: “Muslim Americans feel so muted today....We have to be proactive and produce our own media that's more representative of our experiences: media that's more positive; that shows the multitude of Islamic voices."

Building on the model of Scribe’s Community Visions and Precious Places projects, which provide training and technical assistance in video production to community groups, Muslim Voices of Philadelphia is a more ambitious initiative, adding an oral-history component and archival research support, and envisioning a feature-length documentary engaging local scholars. A website offers details on the project and will complement the film core with media, interviews, and study guides.

Muslim immigrants have been arriving in Philadelphia since the late 1800s, with more than 50 Islamic centers in the region now. Scribe has been working on video production with nine groups — religious and cultural centers — as well as the Muslim Student Association at the University of Pennsylvania, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

On June 24, the first films produced through Muslim Voices of Philadelphia will premiere at International House Philadelphia.

According to Zein Nakhoda, Muslim Voices Project Coordinator at Scribe, the final lineup of films will offer a variety of perspectives and examples of the Muslim presence in the Delaware Valley.

The evening will feature screenings of several films, including The Mosque is the Heart of the Fellowship
, produced by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship and Mosque, which explores the history and mystical inspiration of the first community-built Sufi Mosque in Pennsylvania, and Maidservants of Allah: Muslim Women in Perspective
, by Lajna Ima’illah, the women’s auxiliary of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, telling personal stories of Muslim women. Lost No More, by the New Africa Center in Philadelphia, focuses on the transition and evolution of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, from a Black consciousness/social protest/religious movement to a faith practice.

There will be a discussion after the screening, attended by the Muslim groups involved in the project.

Scribe Video Center’s Muslim Voices of Philadelphia film premiere is coming to International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, on June 24 at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Scribe or Muslim Voices of Philadelphia online; to reserve a seat, click here.