Although not a follower of football, I am the first to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of football in this here United States of America. So I was honored to attend a sneak preview of the film and special Q and A session with the cast and crew of Fordson, a documentary film that follows high school football players in Dearborn, Michigan during the last ten days of Ramadan as they prepare to play their rival high school. The film, which will be in theaters in 11 cities beginning September 9, 2011, has the potential to touch the hearts of every single person in this country, football fans or not, as it is an epic story about a community in America striving to achieve the American dream.
The documentary was filmed in 2009, eight years after the events of 9/11. The young men featured are a part of America’s largest Arab-American community. Their lives and even their decisions to play high school football have been shaped by the compelling history of the generations before them. That history includes the arrival of Arab immigrants to Michigan in as early as the 1930s to work in the Ford automobile factories. It also includes the legacy of a tight-knit community that has a strong sense of Arab and Muslim American identity.
I was struck by the devotion and dedication of these young men to their faith and to the holy month of Ramadan. High school culture is not easy and football practice on top of Ramadan fasting is even more difficult. But I think what struck me most was that these young men were able to defy the stereotypes of the irrational, rebellious, stubborn teenager. Their discipline and ability to rise above and beyond what many expected out of them was gripping and inspirational.
This is a film to be shared with our diverse neighbors, classmates and co-workers. It is a snapshot of what American Muslims are really about. If this high school experience can serve as a microcosm of what is found in the universe, their actions reflect the macro picture of a community that is seeking to rise above and beyond the hate and struggles that it has been facing since 9/11. Muslim community viewers may be familiar with such stories. Our fellow Americans, though, will now also be able to witness our commitment and dedication to a country we all call home.
The film stars football players, Bilal Abu-Omarah, Ail Baidoun, Hassan Houssaiky, Baquer Sayed, and Fouad Zaban, and their former principal, Imad Fadlallah. It is directed by Rashid Ghazi, and produced by Ash-har Quraishi and Basma Babar Quraishi.
Fordson will be released in AMC theaters, in select cities this weekend. Check out http://www.fordsonthemovie.com
Shazia Kamal is an Associate Editor at AltMuslimah