Consider the images conjured by the phrase "Muslims on television." That phrase has one meaning in today's media marketplace: angry crowds, burning American flags, guns being fired, bombs going off.
For obvious reasons, it's a hard time to be a Muslim living in America. It's that cultural context of anxiety and suspicion, not to mention misunderstanding and ignorance, that inspired Naeem Randhawa, a 36-year-old Dallas native and IT project manager, to undertake what became the documentary American Ramadan.
"I was tired of all the negative stereotypes; I was looking for films dealing with Ramadan and the best I could come up with was a 25-year-old documentary by the BBC," Mr. Randhawa says.
"I wanted something contemporary, that applied to me and other Muslims of my generation, and I realized that since there wasn't a film, I should make one."
So he became a first-time director and started looking for Ramadan stories he could tell. The result is a film that follows five families through the month of fasting and prayer followed by practicing Muslims every year. American Ramadan airs tonight on KERA (Channel 13) at 11.
Watching it as newscasts are brimming with fresh images of angry, flag-burning protests in reaction to comments by Pope Benedict XVI only underscores Mr. Randhawa's motivation for making American Ramadan. In providing diverse portraits - a student, a divorced dad, an interracial couple - the film reflects the diversity of Muslim culture.
"It's a bridge-building exercise. It's a very intimate movie," Mr. Randhawa says. "For Muslims, it's a chance to see people like themselves struggling with fears and problems they share. For non-Muslims, it's an eye-opening experience as they see Muslims as people they can connect with and relate to."