Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jesus in Islamic Traditions

Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea (James Tissot 1886-1896)

Jesus said, “Who would build a house on the waves of the sea? This world is that house, so you should not take it as a dwelling.”

(Bihar al Anwar)

It is reported that the disciples were the followers of Jesus. Whenever they were hungry they said, “O Ruh of Allah! We are hungry.” Then Jesus would hit his hands on the ground and he would bring out two loaves of bread for each of them. Whenever they were thirsty they said, “O Ruh of Allah! We are thirsty.” Then Jesus would hit his hands on the ground, and brought out water and they drank from it. They asked, “O Ruh of Allah! Who is better than we? Whenever we want we are given food, and whenever we want water is given to us. We have faith in you and follow you.” Jesus said, “Better than you are those who work with their hands and eat from what they earn.” After this incident the disciples washed clothes by the stream and ate from their wages.”

(Bihar al Anwar)

The Apostles said to Jesus ‘O Ruh of Allah! With whom should we keep company?’ He said, "The one who the sight of whom reminds you of Allah, the speech of whom increases your knowledge, and the works of whom make you desirous of the next world.”

(Al Kafi)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Muslim Inmate Project: Chicago Update

photo by: Faiz Zuberi

I just completed 5 days of shooting in the notorious South side of Chicago for my current film on Muslims in the US prison system. Running camera for our 5 day shoot was Dillon Schneider of Reel Big Films and Matthew Rivera who did a great job at working on their feet. The main focus of my filming was around a transitional house (a house where ex-offenders live after prison but before completely re-entering society) and a job training program for Muslim ex-offenders. The transitional house coined “Project Restore” was initiated by a Muslim led community organization called the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Project Restore is an effort to quell the high recidivism rate of mostly black males in Chicago whose daily struggles tempt them right back into prison. The program starts with a focus on faith and self discipline for those who qualify for the program while they are finishing their sentences.

video still: Matthew Justin Rivera

I had the honor to spend time with Rafi Peterson, one of the project's founders who currently lives in the small three bedroom house. The Project Restore house offers an environment that adheres to an Islamic lifestyle complete with a designated prayer room and a no tolerance policy for alcohol, drugs, profanity, and sexual promiscuity. Project Restore residents are encouraged to serve the community of the South side and to become leaders in disarming the areas various gangs through an organization called Cease Fire. The Project Restore house's basement has become a space where the residents have organized local gang interventions to stop the violence between what they call the neighborhoods' “warring tribes.”

video still: Matthew Justin Rivera

Each resident is given a full time job working for “Project Green Re-entry” which trains those in the program in green home construction and renovation. From sustainable and recycled building materials, to energy efficient appliances and plumbing, the crew of Project Green Re-entry are learning the newest construction practices for job skills that are in high demand. Currently the project is busy in renovating a home that will serve as a second home for more Project Restore residents, which will be a living space for 6.

photo by: Faiz Zuberi

The current residents of the Project Restore house, Hassan and Taqi, will serve as the new administrators of the second house. Everyone I met affiliated with the program were truly inspiring people and in my opinion are some of the greatest examples of Muslims in America. Their sincere desire to help others like them and those in their community is nothing short of amazing. After living their lives behind bars they are eager to return to the same dangerous neighborhoods from which they came in order to dismantle the structures and the pressures that lead them to crime.
photo by: Faiz Zuberi

I am not exaggerating when I say I have never seen so many funeral homes in the same 5 mile radius in my life. We were told that the area sees a multitude of violent crimes everyday and we witnessed the result of funerals almost on every block. This year alone we were told that over 10 Chicago police officers have been killed and in some cases directly targeted by the violence in the area.

photo by: Faiz Zuberi

As a part of the project, I am collecting video messages from Muslim ex-offenders that I meet on the outside and I hope to share these messages with those I am in contact with on the inside, building a support system between the two.

photo by: Dillon Schneider

The community of Muslim ex-offenders we spoke to at projects Restore and Green Re-entry are people I will never forget and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to document their unique story for my current project.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Assorted Pakistan Photos

Shopping for wifie

Murad rockin the Pashtun hat

The SABA girls work on their reading every morning.

Murad and Liaqat, AKA Pindi's Speed Demon

Planting trees in the SABA Homes garden

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Saba Girls

It has been a blessing to spend time with the orphan girls here who have made me dance for them on many occasions. They seem to enjoy making Murad sing Indian songs he remembers from his childhood and insisting we learn their own style of patty-cake. In the way that they are cared for here, it is hard to call these girls orphans. The 26 girls live in a beautiful building with a large courtyard, library, multiple classrooms, as well as a "pray and play" room. Their two room mothers look over each room of 6 that is furnished with unique bedding for each girl. The girls attend private school about ten minutes away from their home but receive private tutoring sessions after school from teachers who come to SABA Homes.

These are a few portraits we took of the girls.

Monday, October 04, 2010

SABA Girls Karate Class

We filmed the SABA Girls last week during their karate class. The 26 orphan girls practice Shotokan karate and even get taught how to use the staff and train with a pair of really hard metal nunchucks.

They may look cute but they will not hesitate to knock you out. ;)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Flooded Village (Continued)

We were led through the interior of the village after nightfall. Many of the residents are living in tents and structures with dirt floors. These images are all stills taken from HD video on a netbook so the choice of video frames is fairly arbitrary.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Flooded Village

These are photos and video stills from the village of Deldar Gundri on the bank of the Kabul river. Their village was devastated by the flooding. Many of the homes were destroyed, along with their school. We visited last week to film Saba Trust handing out food supplies and clothing. Along for the ride were a few people from the Church of Latter-day Saints who were doing research on flood effected areas as well as evaluating the need of organizations serving flood victims.

Kids were rushing the van for food and clothes. We had to drive into a walled area to unload the food supplies so there would be less crowding.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pakistan in Photos (so far)

Filming the SABA orphan girls at a park in Islamabad.

A baby enjoying the monkey show.
SABA girls watching the monkey show in the park.

In a bus on the way to Friday prayer.. game faces on.

Homie selling corn in Rawalpindi.

Lady with baby in a poor rural area an hour outside of Islamabad.

Murad with the kids at Wisdom House school in Channan, Pakistan.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On the Way to Islamabad

We're in Dubai for a 2 hour layover on the way to Pakistan. We'll be flying to Islamabad to produce a short film on a girls school and orphanage in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I'm traveling with fellow filmmaker Murad Yunus for the next 2 weeks.

We'll be posting photos from Pakistan in the days to come. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


"To say 'Hamdulillah' is to be grateful for what one has.

The images of the past decades have cast a veil on our identity as a people. We, as international brothers and sisters, are now witness to injustice in real time. We watch our Wars in HD. Injustice is played in real time.

It is time for us to claim our faces back.

This video is a global collaborative effort by 10 photographers- from London to Lebanon, Cairo To Canada, Abu Dhabi to America- to create a portrait of the New Global Citizens. They are DJs, MCs, poets, architects, teachers, doctors, parents and children. Most of all they are people."

-Excerpt of YouTube description

Video directed by Ridwan Adhami

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Namaze Eid

via Wikipedia

...the holiday [Eid] celebrates the conclusion of the thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan... Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, community centers, etc or at mosques. No adhan (Call to Prayer) or iqama (call) is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two rakaʿāt (units of prayer). The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication (dua) asking for God's forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world.

Photos of Eid prayer, Islamic Education Center of Orange County 9/10/2010