Throughout history, the art of film has been used as a tool to ignite meaningful discussions about social topics that would otherwise be ignored. While a lot of issues that affect Muslims around the world are still brushed to the side in the mainstream due to multiple external factors (*cough* racism *cough*), the film industry helps give them the attention that they deserve in order to get people to empathise with those who are suffering. And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a finger-pointing contest at people outside of the community, especially when Muslims themselves are unaware of all the circumstances in which our Ummah live.
Platforms like USHUB shed light on stories from our community so we can have those meaningful conversations in order to bring about change. It’s all about making space for all of our voices regardless of our race, ethnicity or background so that we can raise awareness for those in need.
So, with that being said, we’ve compiled a list of 8 films that everyone needs to watch to help us better understand the struggles of Muslims around the world.
Up first, we have 3000 Nights.
Based on real-life events, this 1 hour and 35-minute movie tells the heart-wrenching story of a Palestinian newlywed wrongly accused of aiding a teenage boy who allegedly carried out a lethal attack on a military checkpoint. However, when she refused to aid the authorities in giving him a harsher punishment, she found herself slammed with an 8-year prison sentence. Little did she know, she was pregnant at the time. The film depicts her turmoils as a political prisoner while raising a baby boy within the walls of a cage.
The Palestinian struggle is one that has been in and out of mainstream news for almost a decade now. With Israeli forces constantly upping the violence used against unarmed civilians, it’s no surprise that prominent activists have spent a big portion of their time raising awareness on the issue.
Harrowing. Moving. Painful. You’ll need a few tissues for this one.
Watch it on USHUB today. Click here to have a look.
Another film that advocates for the Palestinian plight is The Present.
The Present tells the story of Yusef and his young daughter who set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift on their wedding anniversary but between dealing with Israeli soldiers and military checkpoints, even completing simple tasks becomes the ultimate mission.
Not only does Farah Nabulsi, the director of this short, raise awareness for the Palestinian cause through her creative work, but she is also the founder of Oceans of Injustice, which helps to deconstruct the Israeli military occupation of Palestine in a way that has never been done before. Through media tools and educational resources, it paints an accurate picture of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime.
Powerful and informative, The Present aims to shed light on the Palestinian struggle in a subtle way.
Click here to watch it on USHUB today!
Next, we have Life Without Basketball.
Hijab in sports has slowly become a trending topic of discussion within and outside of the community. With countries like France banning hijabs for those competing in sporting events due to pathetic excuses like “secularism” and “health and safety”, it seems as though the law is being utilised to exclude Muslim women from their passions.
Life Without Basketball is the perfect example of this as it explores one woman’s journey to breaking barriers in the first division. When a controversial ban on religious headgear ends her chances at playing professionally, she is forced to re-examine her faith and identity as a Muslim American. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir lost her dream of playing professional basketball because of the ban – but now, because of her, millions of girls in Muslim majority countries can play basketball too.
And of course, The Honest Struggle, which raises some important questions about discrimination within our Ummah.
The Honest Struggle tells the story of an ex-offender and his mission to benefit the lives of Muslim converts transitioning out of incarceration by giving them job skills and transforming them into leaders of the community.
Watching the documentary, we’re transported to the Southside of Chicago where we meet Sadiq Davis, a Muslim convert struggling to come to terms with life outside of prison walls. But by the grace of God, he manages to do it and help others in the process. Faith and determination are key factors throughout his journey and those two ideas are also reiterated through the cinematography.
Films such as this one bring to light the ongoing issue of racism and discrimination against the Black community, specifically Black Muslims. Despite Islam preaching tolerance and equality, it seems as though some people have forgotten those teachings and in the wider world, the system continues to oppress our Black brothers and sisters through multiple different societal aspects such as the justice system, police brutality and immigration.
The Honest Struggle puts real identities to what would otherwise remain only as statistics.
Watch it on USHUB today.
A cause we refuse to forget about no matter how much the West normalises it is the Syrian one. Let’s first talk about From A Distance.
From A Distance, which is available to watch on USHUB, tells the story of Syrian-American siblings reflecting on the impact of the refugee crisis during a visit to Lebanon. There, they uncover the catastrophic effect that it has had on their family even on the other side of the world.
While a massive portion of the West has somewhat normalised conflict in Syria, we as an Ummah should refuse to follow suit. Over 4.8 million Syrians have fled what used to be a safe haven for Muslim-majority populations, but now, resembles nothing of the sort. Using Middle Eastern countries as a playground has had tragic consequences on every generation of Syrians and this vicious cycle of war and terror needs to be removed from their lives so that they may flourish like we have had the opportunity to.
Films like From A Distance remind us that even with miles between us, the shockwaves of those said consequences affect each and every one of us. The director, Akram Shibly, shines a light on the voiceless and uses the power of film to narrate refugees’ stories authentically and passionately, without the blood-stained fingers of the West tainting it.
Watch the full piece here.
Then we also have Salam Neighbor.
Similar to the authenticity of From A Distance, Salam Neighbor also aims to shed light on Syrian lives from the exact point of chaos. Chris and Zach were given a tent in Za’atari refugee camp. Living alongside displaced families, both directors were given the rare opportunity to get a never before seen look into the world’s most pressing crisis.
Their experiences uncovered the overwhelming trauma of some of the refugees but also the potential for growth and healing with the right support. Salam Neighbor treats its subjects with the dignity they deserve and gives the outside world depth within each individual story.
Have a look at it on USHUB today!
USHUB also gives a platform to films like Separation and Mosul 980, which give us an insight into the Yazidi persecution.
Now, for those of you that might not be aware, the Yazidis are a group of Muslims residing primarily in northern Iraq who have been a target for possible genocide throughout the past decade due to their unique beliefs. According to National Geographic, “the Yazidi religion is often misunderstood, as it does not fit neatly into Iraq’s sectarian mosaic. Yazidism is an ancient faith, with a rich oral tradition that integrates some Islamic beliefs with elements of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion, and Mithraism, a mystery religion originating in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
But for this reason, they have been the target of extremist groups such as Islamic State, who have pushed the minority group into rural territory in the Sinjar mountains.
Separation tells the story of those thousands of Yazidi Kurds at the top of the Shingal mountain after their area was taken over by ISIS.
“Faced with no other choice, three men leave to seek sustenance for their families, unaware that an almost safe passage to Kurdistan has been recently opened. The wives and children, who reached the refugee camp, remain anxiously awaiting news of their husbands while learning to adapt to their new life.”
Based on a similar premise, Mosul 980 also tells the story of the Yazidi plight, focussing on one woman’s harrowing story of terror and heartache.
“Disguised as an ISIS fighter, a young woman emerges from the trunk of a car. She is one of 3000 Yazidi women kidnapped from Mosul by the Islamic State in 2014. Now she is on the run, trying to find her way between ruins and corpses. Major hostilities seem to be over, but the situation remains dangerous. Single shots can be heard, along with detonations and radioed instructions – her persecutors are still on her heels.”