FDL Movie Night: New Muslim Cool
The producers and director of New Muslim Cool filmed their documentary during three years, a highly charged time in the life of the protagonist Hamza Perez, a former drug dealer who discovered Islam. Hamza and his brother Suliman converted from Catholism to Islam, much to the bewilderment of their families, and together they rap as Mujahideen Team, carrying the message of Islam to the street through their music. Hamza also works as youth counselor.
Through a Muslim dating site, Hamza meets a woman on line and they marry, blending their families. They move from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh and join a mosque there. But the FBI raids the mosque, ostensibly on charges relating to a member from Utah. The mosque is raided on a Friday at prayer services, leading to the question
Could this happen on a Sunday at a church?
The raid leads Hamza to delve more deeply into his faith, and he begins to do prison outreach, uniting with Jews and Christians to bring redemption to the incarcerated. But then the county jail revokes the clearances of Muslim clerics, including Hamza, even though the classes he teaches are for either Christians or open to everyone.
Under the Patriot Act, reasons don’t have to be given.
While the awaiting his federal security clearance, Hamza also awaits the birth of his baby with his wife. Along with welcoming his son, His goal is to get back into working with jail, and he throws himself towards that goal with faith and proactive action at home and his community, exploring the idea of opneing an institute to retrain drug dealers. He also hires a lawyer and goes to the ACLU, who reveals that his clearance was revoked by request of the FBI: An interview he did in 2003 with a rap magazine, coupled with the raid on the mosque two years earlier affected his security clearance. Through prayer and action he is reinstated at the jail.
Hamza’s story and his music shows us what it means to be a Muslim activist in post 9/11 America, and puts a face on urban Islam, revealing a deep redemptive faith of strength and beauty, where jihad means struggle, and through struggle comes change and positive growth.