Amid a strict Muslim rearing and a social life he's never had, Tariq enters college confused. New peers, family and mentors help him find his place, but the 9-11 attacks force him to face his past and make the biggest decisions of his life.
Amid a strict Muslim rearing and a social life he's never had, Tariq (Evan Ross) enters college confused. New peers, family and mentors help him find his place, but the 9-11 attacks force him to face his past and make the biggest decisions of his life. Written by
Today is September 11, 2011, a propitious time to view this small scale but important film based on a true story by the writer and director Qasim Basir. It presents in a very underplayed manner the Muslim generation who were also part of the tragedy ten years ago. The film is an excellent reminder of how important it is to view America as a true melting pot, the citizenry of peoples of all races, nationalities, religions - every one who is a part of this country was at one time an immigrant and struggled. It is our history and we need to consider it at all times but especially now.
Tariq (played as a young boy by Jonathan Smith and as a young man by Evan Ross - 23 year old son of artist Diana Ross) is from a strict Muslim family: his father Hassan (Roger Guenveur Smith) wears a thobe and taqiyah and is immersed in his religion and culture while his mother Safiyah (Nia Long) wears traditional Muslim hijabs and body covering garments but is not as strict in her beliefs as Hassan, They also have a daughter Taqua (Kimberley Drummond). Hassan forces Tariq leave home study and to go to a Muslim school much against Safiyah's wishes. At the school he is beaten by a cruel instructor and suffers taunting when he finds interest in a Catholic girl. Time flips ahead and Hassan is driving Tariq to college where Hassan has demanded a Muslim roommate for Tariq - Hamza (Kunal Sharma) who is a traditional Muslim but when Tariq requests his privacy and to be called T, Hamza willingly complies. Tariq is clearly in a state of anxious confusion about who he is and how to deal with the demands of his father and the experiences of his Muslim schooling. He attends a class on World Religions taught by professor Jamal (Dorian Missick) who happens to be Muslim and encourages Tariq to embrace his culture: the professor must face the consequences of his religious beliefs with the Dean of the College (Danny Glover). Tariq falls in with an old friend Cedric (Vladimi Versailles) who lives across the hall in his dorm and Cedric introduces Tariq to alcohol and women. At the height of Tariq's dilemma about his training and discovering who he really is, the September 11, 2001 happens and the campus non-Muslims turn against the Muslims and Tariq must forge his new self image as his beliefs are now openly challenged because of the threat of terrorism. How he settles into his new existence is the manner in which the film ends - in a very subtle and touching way.
The cast is strong, particularly Nia Long and Evan Ross who manage to carry the audience into a place where understanding of differences becomes credible and meaningful. There are flaws in the film - the musical score is created on electronic keyboards resulting in a rather 'budget conscious' demeaning style, certain characters are not fleshed out enough to be believable, and other characters (the non-Muslims enraged after 911) are portrayed as stereotypes. But the message is clear and the film helps the viewer understand the difficulty Muslims and other minorities had immediately after 911 ....and still today. As-Salâm Alaikum, wa-laikum as-Salâm.
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