This is How an Inspiring American Filmmaker Started Breaking Stereotypes Everywhere

This is Iman Zawahry, a hijabi Muslim American filmmaker. Not only is Iman an outspoken filmmaker, she is also a college professor, zumba instructor, full-time mom, wife, and daughter, who tries to break down all the stereotypes a xenophobic person would have to say about her.

Between correcting papers for her Islam, Media and Pop Culture class and running the first American-Muslim film grant, Iman is also currently working on directing a feature film based on the critically acclaimed play, Dirty Paki Lingerie, with writer and actor Aizzah Fatima. Zawahry stated that, in a perfect world, she would like Tom Hanks to produce the film.

Iman’s film Tough Crowd won a Student Emmy Award and was a finalist for the NBC Comedy Short Cuts. Her movie Undercover won her the prestigious Princess Grace Award.

Zawahry recently spoke out in the Washington Post, where they discussed the American Muslim Storyteller Grant (ASG). Iman talked about the xenophobia in America and Hollywood, from her perspective, of being a Muslim filmmaker in the United States.

Mvslim reached her for comment to learn more about her, the Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF), and the ASG.

Iman is the co-creator and Grant Director of the ISF National Film Grant (NFG). She has been trying to raise money for this grant for years. She stated in our interview that “It is very hard to raise money for this and I don’t know why.”

Michael Mogensen, a Jewish filmmaker, was appalled after President Trump signed an Executive Order banning Muslims from seven countries.  Following this “Muslim Ban”, he was looking for a way to support the Muslim community in the U.S. So, that is when Michael reached out to the Islamic Scholarship Fund, and the American Muslim Storyteller Grant (ASG) was born. This grant is still a part of the ISF, and Iman is the judge. The ASG is very new.

“It specifically aims to facilitate and support Muslims entering the world of film, who intend to create artistic, engaging, and positive stories about Muslims.”

As Muslims, we grew up in a society where the only way to be considered successful was to be a doctor, lawyer, etc. Iman is one of the people who paved the way for  others in our generation to be taken seriously as filmmakers or artists.  

So why are we, as Muslims, not supporting more people like her? People like Iman create a path for others to see Muslims as humans, not as barbarians or terrorists. Iman stated that she wants to “humanize Muslims.” The ASG grant and the NFG gives people the chance to change the more-often-than-not derogatory narrative of how Muslims are displayed in the media and film industry.

We always get upset with how we are depicted in the media and in Hollywood, yet we have the option to support somebody who has the power to change the way the rest of the world sees us.. The ISF gives us a direct place to do this; all one has to do is donate.

It was easier for her to receive support from non-muslims than from the Muslim community. Let us try and change that, Iman said.

Find out more about the American Muslim Storyteller Grant here.

Written by Kaya Gravitter

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Kaya is 23-year old, reverted to Islam and from the United States. She is currently working on video blogging, writing poetry, and freelance writing. Kaya has a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and International Studies. She has a passion to make a change in the world, even if it is small.