Expanding the cultural mindset: Upcoming movie gives insight into Muslim culture

Julia Fechter

Some of Georgia Southern’s student organizations have recently shown movies on campus dealing with various social topics, including Hispanic culture and mental health.

The Arabic club, along with the Foreign Languages and Political Science and International Studies departments, will be showing the documentary “Voices of Muslim Women from the U.S. South” Oct. 19 at the Russell Union Theater, starting at 6:00 p.m.

Through the eyes of Muslim women

This documentary takes place at the University of Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It shows the culture of Muslim students attending UA through the perspectives of female Muslim students there.

The movie elaborates on how these women express themselves, given their current geographical and social environment.

Youssef Salhi, the Arabic lecturer at GS, was first inspired to bring this movie to GS after meeting its producer/director about a year ago.

“During our meeting, I had the opportunity to see clips of the documentary and that’s when I had the idea of bringing it to Georgia Southern and the director and producer for a Q and A [session] with our students,” Salhi said.

The director/ producer, Maha Marouan, Ph.D, is a Muslim professor and activist. Marouan teaches African-American Studies and Women Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

In order to bring Marouan and her movie to GS, Salhi had to request CLEC grant. The CLEC grant gives GS student organizations, colleges and departments the monetary means to host activities which may enhance cultural life on campus.

Salhi and the Arabic club were awarded $2,000 and received the grant in March 2016. The club also received the grant in 2014 and 2015.

Why bring the movie to GS?

Salhi asserted that even though GS is a peaceful, mature and multicultural campus, people should still strive to educate themselves and others about cultures.

“The film is to tell our students that we have Muslim students here at Georgia Southern, and this is what they go through every day,” Salhi said.

“Voices of Muslim Women” showcases a variety of Muslim women, including African-American Muslims, those who wear the veil, those who do not and Caucasian Muslims.

“There are stereotypes that people of one ethnicity and religion are all the same,” Jacek Lubecki, Ph.D, an associate professor of Political Science, said. “We’re trying to dispel the stereotype and also humanize people.”

The Arabic club is hosting this movie and Q&A session partially because of the xenophobia (prejudice against people of other nationalities) that exists. On campus, Salhi believes showing the movie will help bring a more balanced rhetoric into the conversation about Muslim Americans.

According to Lubecki, part of what furthers a person’s xenophobia against others is an ignorance about the people one is prejudiced against. Not knowing people can help one maintain their stereotypical views about those people.

Laila Abdi, senior multimedia communications major and president of the Arabic club, thinks that the best way to break those preconceived notions about Muslims is to befriend a Muslim.

“I think it naturally happens by you meeting me, getting to know me and you know I’m Muslim and my background,” Abdi said. “Then you see my personality and who I am. Knowing somebody who’s Muslim will change your views about Muslim people.”

In the course of befriending a Muslim person, one can begin to identify the person by more than their religious label.

“When you get to know people, it doesn’t matter what religion they are,” Salhi said. “It’s like ‘hey, she’s my friend, he’s my friend and we like to go hiking.’”

Getting to know people different from oneself requires an engaged approach that involves venturing outside of one’s comfort zone.

“Don’t Google for answers when it comes to like ‘what are Muslim people like?’ Come out to the events,” Abdi said. “The Arabic club and foreign language department host events for people to come and get that knowledge to understand.”

In addition to the movie showing, the Arabic club also hosts a weekly coffee hour every Tuesday. The club discusses various aspects of Arab culture, including music, food, clothing and religion. The coffee hours are held in Forest Drive building room 1310 starting at 4:00 p.m.