Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Mosque in Morgantown
In a small town called Morgantown in West Virginia, a new mosque was built. It's supposed to be the most progressive mosque in America, but that depends on on who you ask.
Asra Nomani is a feminist Muslim who is a single mom out of her wed lock. That doesn't prevent her from challenging the mosque — she wants to pray side by side with men in the mosque, instead of being in the back of the room. That stirs a big controversy when CNN comes into this small town to cover the story. Brittany Huckabee's new documentary "The Mosque in Morgantown" (USA 2009 | 75 min.) follows the development of the conflict between Asra Nomani and the mosque, and gives us a rare look at the life inside the mosque in America.
After 9/11, Islam takes some heat from the American public. But how much do people actually know about Islam, or Muslims in America? What's the teaching of Islam? How should we understand the conflicts between the Islamic culture and the social norm in the western society? Should America Muslims follow the Islamic rules rigorously, such as how and where men and women should pray in a mosque, or should they bend the rules to accommodate the social norm in the America?
Although this film will not answer all of these questions, but it tells an interesting story with these inquires in the background, and the film is thought provoking if nothing else.
Is praying next to a man that important to Asra Nomani? Or is she just using this issue as a breaking point to challenge the mosque? Or is she using this for publicity to sell her book as many mosque members accuse of her? Different people will come up different answers after viewing this film, which makes this film even more fascinating.
However, whether we should apply social norm to a religious practice will be even a bigger and harder question to ponder. Viewing this film could be a starting point to explore this subject.
Director Brittany Huckabee and journalist Asra Nomani will appear in person for Q&A at the the screenings at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF).