How do you find a mate when you don’t date? This intriguing question opens Muslims in Love, a short film by students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which tackles how devout faith and finding true love fit together for today’s young American Muslims. In director Zerina Usmen’s own words, this 26 minute 5-character film is inspired by a theme “…that calls for 1.2 billion stories.”
Set against a backdrop of secular America, where young people date, cohabit and flit between relationships freely. The five characters in Muslims in Love must contend with societal norms on top of the complex issues at the heart of finding a partner within the framework of practicing Islam.
Made in America
Mohammad and Ferdaus meet and marry according the traditional Muslim codes of courting conduct, with the aid of friends, family and…. technology. Michelle, who is a convert to Islam finds her choices somewhat limited when trying to find a Muslim husband. Jameelah, an African-American Muslim is confronted with racial issues and double standards, and Zahra believes that faith and fate will bring Mr. Right to her front door.
Watching the trailer for Muslims in Love, and casting an eye over the website I was struck by some of the challenges the young filmmakers faced in their desire to convey Muslim culture from behind the scenes. Researching and compiling this poignant and important journey into the hearts and minds of young Muslim Americans trying to find their places and partners was no small feat.
A Small Step for Man, A Giant Leap for Muslim Filmmakers
Finding young, men and women that were prepared to reveal their intimate hopes; fears and feelings can’t have been easy. That’s before even attempting to access Muslim parents who were prepare to spill the beans on the trials and tribulations of wanting the best for a son or daughter, and their reputations in a general society that doesn’t (appear to) favor old-school values.
And to top it all, the film was shot during Ramadan!
Muslims in Love hasn’t had a public screening as such – any of you reading this who might like to organize a screening can contact th filmmakers via the film’s website. The reactions it has received from internal screenings have been highly positive. In the words of the director:
“Muslims love it, because it’s so rare to see people on screen that accurately represent their experiences. The characters are finally Muslims they can become invested in and root for. Non-Muslims appreciate the range of voices within the Muslim community on the issue of love, and are always taken aback by the incredibly vocal and articulate Muslim women characters.”
In The End Are There Only More Questions?
She hopes the film will help members of the Muslim community speak more openly and overcome off some ingrained taboos about voicing concerns on love and marriage.
“We can’t do justice to our faith if, for example, racism dominates marriage decisions and if we don’t want to admit how challenging it is to practice Islam in our lifestyles for fear of being labeled a bad Muslim. It would be great to find that the film helps Muslims to be honest, and to be OK with being honest.” She says.
Can faith and modernity go together like a happy couple in today’s world? It’s a big question, and a great comfort to know so many of us are asking it, and a few courageous young filmmakers are attempting to answer it.