To Stop Trump, We Need To Change Hearts. Here's How We Can Create More Empathy.

To give money directly to storytellers articulating the American Muslim experience, visit our crowdfunding campaign.

Just days into Trump’s presidency, I watched in shock as his executive order, targeted at Muslims, banned entry for refugees and citizens of seven countries. I’m not Muslim, but the news hit me hard, watching the swift border blockade reverberate through the world, separating families and spreading fear among Muslims everywhere. Against the executive power of the president, many of us felt like helpless bystanders. It felt, and still feels, like the world is unraveling.

President Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric has captured our attention, but it is a culmination of decades of vitriol directed against Muslim Americans, especially since 9/11. As writer Wajahat Ali says in an NY Times Op-Ed, “The days look bleak right now. [This is] going to be a war on Islam.”

Creating Empathy

Hena Ashraf, 2016 Islamic Scholarship Fund grant recipient
Hena Ashraf, 2016 Islamic Scholarship Fund grant recipient

Immediately after the election, I witnessed many conversations about how to move the needle on empathy and protecting civil rights. Most people wanted to do something and didn’t know what. The consensus I heard was that we would form alliances and be ready, and when the time came we would know the way forward.

As a filmmaker and storyteller, I’ve been looking for ways to use video to create empathy. It is a tremendously powerful tool: movies, television, and viral videos shape and define the narrative of our world. For example, a video of a woman walking through New York can go viral and provoke a national discussion. I attribute much of our success in achieving gay marriage to media which told stories of gay characters, starting with Will & Grace in the late ‘90s.

And the stories that must be told now are the stories of American Muslims. For empathy to be created, it is important to amplify their voices so they can be heard as they speak of their joys and struggles.

Our grant

Iman Zawahry, winner of the Student Emmy, who collaborated with the Islamic Scholarship Fund to start their first grant
Iman Zawahry, winner of the Student Emmy, who collaborated with the Islamic Scholarship Fund to start their first grant

To uplift these voices, a group of friends (Muslim and non-Muslim) and the Islamic Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit with the mission to increase American Muslim representation in media and politics, have created a crowdfunding campaign connected to a series of grants, from $1-4k, to people telling American Muslim Stories.

Imagine that one of these videos costs $1k to make and is viewed 50,000 times. This means that your donation of $20 will result in 1,000 people watching the personal message of a Muslim filmmaker. That’s an incredible amount of leverage. Dollars go directly from you to a filmmaker, to eyeballs.

The money will be collected by the Islamic Scholarship Fund and applications will be judged by a panel of judges including Dana Harris, the editor of Indiewire, and Caroline von Kuh, the Director of Artist Development at the San Francisco Film Society. No prior experience is necessary and the grant will be awarded to amateurs and professionals alike. The only criteria is that your film captures the essence of the Muslim American experience in all its beauty and struggle.

Being an Ally

I believe that in order to be an effective ally, it is essential to support the voices of groups which need supporting, and not to take up space in the conversation. We need to hear these Muslim voices, and we hope you agree.

If you’d like to contribute to our Indiegogo campaign, you can donate here.

And if you’d like to apply to the grant, you can apply here.

Our grant crowdfunding video:

An example of a video, by Karim Metwaly, which went viral and has the potential to change minds:

More about Islamic Scholarship Fund. You will be supporting filmmakers like these:

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