Selected Media Coverage & Reviews
Video from The Mosque in Morgantown Washington, DC preview event: Speaking Truth to Power
Director Brittany Huckabee and film subject Asra Nomani join Washington Post political reporter Dana Milbank and Georgetown University associate dean of journalism Barbara Feinman Todd to discuss the line between journalism and activism at this event that sheds a different light on the film and its themes. Panel discussion is preceded by a 16-minute preview of the film. (Video courtesy of the PBS/NPR Forum Network.)
"The Mosque in Morgantown is an important film for our troubled times," Alicia Izharuddin writes. "As a Muslim feminist who supports [Asra Nomani's] cause, but not her method, I would like to see this film making it across the world. Its narrative has a place in America's message of change and in the feminist movement that is gaining momentum in many predominantly Muslim countries." (8/16/09)
In this piece of analysis, Altmuslimah's Uddin tackles the ever-controversial line between conservatism and extremism. "As long as speech is not directly connected with imminent, violent action," she writes, "for those who sincerely believe that what they are preaching is part of their faith, having to curtail it for no other reason than the threat of prosecution is an infringement of their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion." (8/7/09)
"Like all good documentaries," Asma Uddin writes,"The Mosque in Morgantown not only takes the audience into a world they may not be familiar with, but also casts a spotlight on certain aspects of this world that may have otherwise been overlooked or taken for granted." (7/17/09)
"(Director) Huckabee was 10 when the Church of Christ in Bayfield was undergoing conflict between conservative and moderate factions. [...] There is a message to be learned both from her personal experiences and Nomani's, Huckabee said. "We really are, across all the groups, more alike than different. Not just in the good things, like love, faith and grace, but in the bad things, like hatred and intolerance.'" (6/21/09)
"The Mosque in Morgantown is a fascinating movie, made so especially by Huckabee's refusal to paint the struggle in black-and-white terms," Mark Gabrish Conlan writes. "The protest of some of the conservatives in the movie against their being equated with the 9/11 terrorists and Daniel Pearl's murderers rings true. [...] [It] should be required viewing for people in this country who are continually calling on the Muslim world to 'moderate' itself and vastly underestimating the difficulties involved." (06/18/09)
Hoppy is the local radio host who interviews Asra in the opening scene of the film, setting up its operative question: "What is the heart of Islam?" Here he writes: "Anyone who has spent considerable time as a member of a church of any religion will be able to relate to The Mosque in Morgantown. [...] The significance and meaning of faith commands that beliefs are deeply held. It's difficult for the religious to negotiate compromise as though beliefs are bargaining chips that can be exchanged. And so conflict can be as much a part of the religious experience as more benevolent aspects." (06/17/09)
"I find it revealing that while Asra's publicity-generating actions are being harshly criticized by Muslims," this Muslimah blogger writes, "the much more high-profile (and more financially profitable) leadership careers of certain well-known North American Muslim men seem to attract little comment [...] Perhaps their relative immunity from the kind of criticism that Nomani faces is that much of what they say is what their audiences want to hear." (06/17/09)
This piece at a blog called The New Agenda includes a quote from Asra Nomani: "just by breathing in that space, I'm physically changing the collective consciousness and that is critical and vital for us to redefine the way Islam is expressed in the world. ... I just feel like individually, we can make historic changes." (06/16/09)
"That's the beauty of freedom," Asra tells David Ian Miller when asked about other Muslim women who embrace gender separation. "You have that choice to be separate, but give us the choice to be integrated as well."
"The problem of being defined by others is hinted at in the first moments of The Mosque in Morgantown [...] the very notion of 'sides' is the problem here, as neither is able to hear the other. To its credit, Huckabee's film doesn't resolve these complications, but rather highlights them. [...] Even if debate doesn't lead directly to agreement, the process pushes forward, involving more individuals, expanding the community. (06/15/09)
"Putting aside the question of if a woman should pray next to a man and if a woman can lead prayer," writes Dilshad Ali, "the larger issue put forth by the PBS program is how Muslims should pursue change in their mosques and communities: Through a complete rejection of conservative (or extremist, as Nomani sees it) Muslim leadership, or, as the moderates in Morgantown believed, trying to see some good in conservative Muslims and appeal to base decency to bring about change. It's an issue that remains vital to the growth of the American Muslim community today ..." (06/15/09)
"Huckabee's The Mosque in Morgantown engages its audience and has the potential to both empower and enrage, depending on one's opinions," says Seema Jilani. "Either way, it will prompt an intense dialogue and, hopefully, advance the conversation on these issues." (6/15/09)
"Questioning authority is a great American and Islamic tradition. The schools of thought and jurisprudence we find in classical Islamic law today are the product of those who dared to challenge the authority and the status quo of their time and place. Nomani is certainly one such challenger but by imposing her approach on others who share her views, Nomani seems to undercut her own objective and isolate herself as an outlier in the community." (6/15/09)
"I hated the documentary because it highlighted all the things I hated about how Asra Nomani did this entire 'campaign.' Long-lasting change does not happen unilaterally or without dialogue, and there is no dialogue when no one else's viewpoint counts except Nomani's." (6/15/09)
"Changes do come to the mosque in Morgantown, but the viewer is left to decide whether they are due to Nomani's activism, the quiet persistence of moderates or both." (06/15/09)
"The Mosque in Morgantown takes the viewer inside a religious community that's in the midst of a simmering battle between progressives and traditionalists. We see how Nomani's prophetic tactics of direct action alienate the moderates and horrify the traditionalists. We see the struggle for power that should be familiar to anyone who's ever served on a parish council or vestry. We see the creative responses that emerge from the community as it is forced to deal with change." (06/12/09)
Asra tells IPT News: "The notion that the tolerant have to be tolerant of the intolerant is a nice philosophy. But in practice, you just end up being defeated by the hard core and they dominate. You can get denied your rights. I'm not ashamed of being intolerant of the intolerant." (06/11/09)
"More than anything else, 'The Mosque in Morgantown' reveals that Islam is understood in widely divergent ways, even within the same community. It is impossible to give everyone the Islam they want. As one mosque member says with some exasperation, there are just so many strands of thought and they have just one mosque trying to accommodate everyone." (06/10/09)
See item #4. (06/10/09)
Special episode of the West Virginia Public Television public affairs series Outlook focusing on The Mosque in Morgantown and featuring interviews with film subject Asra Nomani, Islamic Center of Morgantown imam Sohail Chaudhry and filmmaker Brittany Huckabee.
"The community had always been struggling to resolve these kind of issues and problems. I think [the film] gives a little bit of credit to Asra, where I think other people who worked really hard to bring about positive things to the mosque were not shown and they were not given the due credit they deserved."
"It's really a matter of interpretation on the part of the viewer as to who deserves credit for [the changes at the mosque]. I'm not trying to provide an answer to that, and I don't think the answer is clear cut."
Watch extended interview with Asra Nomani» (06/09/09)
"From what I understand there is an effort to integrate women into the leadership roles. But really, I believe it's still a men's club. The pressure is on women to remain subordinate in order to be good girls. Because I'm the bad girl so look how popular I am, right? Nobody wants that for themselves."
"This was very much about fighting traditions that were imported from other cultures," Asra says. "We've confused all these traditions with religion, and if you dare to say that this isn't the way it has to be, you get tarnished as challenging the faith itself. But I'm proud to be intolerant of intolerance." (06/03/09)
Video part 1» (05/20/09)
Video part 2» (05/22/09)
Asra Nomani interviewed on The Book Studio (05/20/09)
According the jury,“This film demonstrated an exceptional skill with camera, editing and the ability to objectively respect — rather than objectify — its subject.” Read more» (03/19/09)
“Huckabee does an excellent job of giving all sides their say and makes Morgantown a place you might want to visit — even live in.” (03/18/09)
“The Mosque in Morgantown definitely got a wonderful, enlightening, holistically-discomforting conversation going between myself and a co-worker who has also seen it.” … “Although the issues addressed in The Mosque in Morgantown relate specifically to the American Muslim community, they are paralleled in other religious communities and non-religious communities across the U.S., Canada, and the world.” (03/11/09)
“What you think is going to be a cut and dry story about women's rights turns into a messy tale about the ways in which we interact inside our ethnic and religious communities in America” … it “[sheds] light on the complexities of being South Asian American in ways that I felt haven't been explored before. It wasn't just about the difficulty of assimilation, but the difficulty of our identities in a shifting global world.” (03/11/09)
“A very smart documentary, expertly dissecting a complicated subject matter — gender and Islam — while not taking sides.” (03/07/09)