"Too often when we think of Muslims in America we think only of the immigrant experience," said Zaheer Ali, a doctoral student at Columbia University who studies America's indigenous, primarily African-American and Latino, converts to Islam. "Islam is no stranger to black art…Islam is not 'foreign' to hip hop."
Ali served as an advisor for "New Muslim Cool," a thought-provoking documentary that tells the story of Puerto-Rican Muslim convert Hamza Perez and his hip-hop group, The Mujahideen Team. The documentary was screened on Thursday, January 14, in front of an audience of approximately 100 students, professors, and members of the general public at Columbia's Altschul Auditorium.
Sherene Razack, Professor of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, prefaced the screening with a keynote address entitled, "Western Responses to the Torture of Muslims." While the documentary provided a powerful reminder of how religious practice can be a means to confront prejudice, drug abuse, and gang activity in the inner-city, Razack's divisive lecture belied the more conciliatory themes of the film.