June 10, 2009

The Mosque in Morgantown

June 10, 2009

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Asra Nomani was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal when her friend, Daniel Pearl, a fellow WSJ journalist, was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan.

The execution of Pearl and subsequent discovery that the mosque in her hometown of Morgantown, WV, was preaching intolerance changed her from an objective journalist to an activist.

The Mosque in Morgantown, directed by Brittany Huckabee, is a documentary about her attempt to change the practices in her hometown mosque as well as Islam as practiced in America.

I saw a shortened preview of the film followed by a Q&A session with Ms. Nomani, the director and others at Georgetown University on June 9. I'll be watching the full version when it airs beginning June 15 and recommend it to anyone interested in the Muslim community in America.

The part of the film that I saw dealt primarily with Ms. Nomani's attempt to gain equal treatment for women in the mosque. Women can't enter the Morgantown Mosque through the front door, and they are segregated from the men. "When she returns home to West Virginia to raise her son, she believes she sees warning signs at the local mosque: exclusion of women, intolerance toward non-believers, and suspicion of the West," according to the documentary's website.

I found particularly enlightening her interviews with members of the mosque about what she was doing. The more liberal members thought she was going about it the wrong way. The more conservative members basically told her to keep her trap shut and stop causing trouble.

One elderly woman was concerned that men would be undressing women with their eyes if women were not separated from men in the mosque. I can't see how this could possibly be an issue.

If I wanted to undress a woman with my eyes, a mosque is the last place I would go. Most of the women are covered from head to toe. It would take a lot more imagination than I have to divine what's underneath all that cloth.

All joking aside, the documentary looks like a winner. Check The Mosque in Morgantown website for the exact day and time it's airing in your area. The earliest date on PBS is June 15, 2009. As you would expect from a former Wall Street Journal reporter, the website is very informative. There is also a discussion section if you care to express your thoughts about the documentary.

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