'Mooz-Lum' depicts attitudes, prejudices toward Muslim Americans

Qasim Basir, writer and director of the 2010 film "Mooz-Lum," answers audience questions after a screening of the film in the UConn Student Union Theater in Storrs, Connecticut on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (Grant Zitomer/The Daily Campus)

The 2010 film “Mooz-Lum,” a story about Muslim-Americans before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, was shown Monday night at the UConn Student Union. Writer and director Qasim Basir answered questions about the film in light of recent instances of Islamophobia in the United States and Europe.

The protagonist of the movie is Tariq, a Muslim-American man who flashes back between his childhood and his current university life as he enters the fall 2001 semester. He recalls his childhood, in which his more moderate mother often butts heads with his more religious father, the latter of which sends Tariq to a Muslim academy, which in concept is similar to Schechter schools used by people of Judaic faith.

However, with a headmaster of questionable moral fiber, Tariq ultimately compounds his experience with how he was taunted in middle school for his faith, resulting in Tariq being remarkably conflicted on the status of his faith.

In college, he attends a world religions class, where he meets both fellow Muslim-Americans, and uninformed Islamophobes. Things become dramatic when 9/11 is broadcast on television, and hate crimes against Muslims begin to be executed on Tariq’s campus, especially after the university dean (played by Danny Glover) sends out a university-wide email framing all the Muslim students under the fearful perspective of security.

Students who watched the film reported that they would recommend the film to others, especially to those that may otherwise possess apathy or a lack of sympathy for how Muslim-Americans have been unfairly treated since the attacks of September 11. In a scene early in the film, a young Tariq attends prayer at his local mosque, and his imam is speaking of forgiveness and kindness.

It illustrates the point of the film as a work of art that fights fear with sympathy – and hatred with love. In fact, immediately after the screening Basir, spoke about modern ignorance, and how even in an age of easily-accessible information, some people remain ignorant to an immensely deleterious degree.

After the screening, Basir hosted a question-and-answer session with the audience. When asked about the inspiration for the film, Qasim said the film was an autobiography. “Tariq is basically me,” Qasim said.

He also spoke of his personal experiences after 9/11, saying that “It was a horrible time for me.”

Ultimately, Qasim had some encouraging words to offer to the mostly student audience, assuring them they have the ability to change the world.

“I’m encouraging you, as the future, as the now,” Qasim proclaimed.


Max Engel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at max.engel@uconn.edu.