Combating Islamophobia, one scene at a time

Adrian Arnaboldi, Staff Writer

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The new Multicultural Center (MC) hosted a screening of “A Jihad for Love” and a discussion afterwards led by the Interfaith Network last Friday regarding persecution of homosexuals in Islamic countries. The event was the first hosted by the MC, a space that will continue to hold similar discussions about issues surrounding social justice, diversity, identity, and religion.

“The Interfaith Network brings together people of different faiths to have dialogue sessions and conferences, among other events,” Co-president Roey Nornberg (12) said. The club has been working with Seeds of Peace, a notable nonprofit organization that works to foster peace building and empathy.

The club has also formed a partnership with Al-Noor, an Islamic school in Brooklyn, Co-president Diana Shaari (12) said. Members of the Interfaith Network have had dialogue sessions with Al-Noor students and have visited some classes at their school. “The movie focused on the lives of gay Muslims and how they reconcile their religion with their sexuality,” Nornberg said.

A few notable moments in the film resonated with some of the audience members. Stella Shah (10) was struck by the relationships between child and parent. “Almost every single character called their mom at some point during the movie,” Shah said. “It was really powerful because regardless of everything that was happening in their lives, family came first.” Shah is already looking forward to attending future events in the Multicultural Center.

Multiple moments in the film led Yana Gitelman (11) to reflect on the treatment and persecution members of the LGBTQ+ community face, she said. “In one scene, a Muslim scholar told a gay man that he should either pray to god to make him straight or see a psychologist.”

This scene prompted Gitelman to think about the treatment of homosexuals in America and how homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a standard used by the American Psychiatric Association, until the late 20th century, she said.

The Multicultural Center gave the Interfaith Network an opportunity to share part of what their club does with all interested students. Aside from a couple of dialogue workshops and school visits, the work of the Interfaith Network goes largely unnoticed by the community, Shaari said.

“We wanted to promote a movie screening in the Multicultural Center because we thought it would be a good way to increase appreciation for the cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity of HM students,” Nornberg said. Nornberg called the Multicultural Center a “great new resource.
After receiving positive reviews from attendees of their first movie screening, the Interfaith Network aspires to have monthly screenings in the Multicultural Center, Shaari said.

Dean of Students Micheal Dalo hopes that the Multicultural Center will continue to spur conversations about social justice, diversity, and identity among students, faculty, and administrators, he said.