Everyday Islam in ‘My Name is Khan’

Why Every American Should See “My Name is Khan”By Adeel ZebChaplain and Imam, American University Bollywood and Hollywood movies have … Continued

Why Every American Should See “My Name is Khan”
By Adeel Zeb
Chaplain and Imam, American University

Bollywood and Hollywood movies have both had their fair share of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments. I have long watched moving and compassionate stories of the struggles of such communities as African, Jewish, Irish, and Italian not just in the states but globally as well. Such stories of oppression and injustice deeply sadden me.
Throughout my public school tenure, I was called names like “Sand N word”, “Camel jockey”, “Habib”, “Towel head” etc. I myself was almost beaten with a metal bat because a group of high school kids thought I was Jewish. I was physically and psychologically abused because maybe I was Muslim, or my name was Adeel instead of Adam, or because my hair is black, or my skin is brown, or because my grandmother could not speak English. The women in my family have also been victims of even worse atrocities and hate crimes then I have.

I took a stand and never looked back. I stood up to all of these injustices by working with national civil rights organizations, top tier universities, and members of our U.S. Congress in order to bring about change, respect, and safety to the Muslim, South Asian, and eastern communities. But I had yet to see a movie, an actual mainstream movie in a cinema that portrays the pain that these communities have faced until “My Name is Khan.”

The movie depicts and autistic Muslim American from India who has impeccable morals, who is a community servant, a man of his word, and a compassionate individual. The movie shows what a true Muslim should be if he/she practiced the religion according to its proper understanding.

I am very proud of Mr. Shah Rukh Khan. He used his clout, power, and money to produce the best film that I have ever seen. It portrayed the trials of every Muslim/South Asian/ Arab American since 9/11 including the civil rights violations, the scholastic abuse, and the pressure to look less “Muslim” at work amongst other things. The movie also showed that there are Muslims and non-Muslims alike who will work for the greater good and stop injustices, and like minded communities should and can work together to stop these transgressions.

“I am Khan” embodies not only the spiritual aspects of Islam, but also the call of community service. The Qur’an states “And those who believe and do righteous good deeds, they are dwellers or paradise, they will dwell therein forever.”

There were moments in this movie where I had to hold back tears because of the raw energy and realism displayed by the director. Perhaps through this medium the number of increasing hate crimes against citizens of color will be reduced and the aforementioned communities can once again be treated with liberty and justice as our constitution states. If we are truly to be a nation of all men that are created equal, then we should work tirelessly until that goal is achieved.

We are all Americans and as such we should stand together to preserve the foundations that this country was built on. I too have a dream, that one day again we can all be treated equally regardless, race, religion, or creed. Let freedom ring.

Adeel Zeb is the Muslim Chaplain and Imam for the Washington-based American University.

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  • Reader61

    I appreciate the effort to defend our American Muslim community; we truly need this sort of presence. My suggestion, however, is to avoid overstating your point and speaking in cliches where you could instead say something of more substance. And, quite frankly, you should find better symbols of social issues in Islam than Bollywood movies.This piece is well-intentioned, but I find it’s mostly fluff. For example, let’s look at the language that’s used. What does “everyday Islam” mean? You mean to tell me Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan depict “everyday Islam”? You also say that this movie portrays the trials of “every Muslim/South Asian/Arab-American since 9/11”. Again, a gross generalization, as a Muslim-American myself , I can say that neither I nor most people I know have faced “hate crimes and atrocities” following 9/11. Finally, the closing of the piece: “I too have a dream, that one day again we can all be treated equally regardless, race, religion, or creed. Let freedom ring.” Are you really quoting MLK, as if to imply that the situation faced by Muslim-Americans is anything close to the struggles faced by African-Americans during segregation? I understand as a rising imam and civic leader, you want to feel you are at a turning point in history, but if you continue to write without substance, what separates you from the other Muslim pseudo-intellectuals (such as Reza Aslan, for example)?Now, I don’t say this merely to criticize. I think if you re-orient some of your focus, your work and writing would be better for it. How is this done? It comes with studying the religion, reading the work of intelligent thought leaders, and meeting with and exchanging ideas with deep thinking people on issues related to Islam. Think critically, write insightfully, and avoid pandering to a certain audience. Then, you can truly benefit our Muslim-American community. I would suggest starting with the work of someone like Tariq Ramadan.