Muslims Seek Greater Understanding From Hollywood Through Iftar Event

Hollywood Iftar speakers - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of MOST

Thursday night the Writers Guild Foundation and Muslims on Screen & TV resource center invited Muslims and non-Muslims alike to share the sacred meal at the West Hollywood London hotel.

The Writers Guild Foundation teamed up with the Muslims on Screen & TV organization and Unity Productions Foundation to host an iftar Thursday night at the London hotel in West Hollywood for those (Muslim and not) within the entertainment industry. Iftar is the name of the meal that Muslims eat to break their fast during Ramadan, a month during which they refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset.

The purpose of the evening was to give writers and producers a chance to meet and learn from members of the Islamic community so that they could create a more accurate and sensitive portrayal of Islam on film and TV.

TV producers like Howard Gordon and David Grae mixed and mingled with imams and other members of Hollywood’s Muslim community.

Gordon, who has produced several shows like 24 and Tyrant that feature Muslim characters and countries, has worked for years with MOST.

He spoke with THR on how the organization has given him a greater awareness of not just Islam but all underrepresented communities he portrays on his shows.

“I’ll speak as a middle-aged white male who has been made aware that though I knew that it was different or challenging to be black in America or a woman in the workplace, I thought I understood. I thought I had an idea, but now I only have an idea of how little an idea I have of other people’s lives,” he said.

The Hollywood iftar was started after the Trump administration broke with 20 years of tradition and stopped hosting iftars at the White House and State Department.

The program featured several speakers that discussed the role of Islam in both media and society, including Maryum Ali, the daughter of the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. She told the audience how being a practicing Muslim impacted her father’s life.

“I watched my father strive to make decisions according to the overarching human purpose," she said. "Whether he was having his position on civil rights or human rights, he had a certain consciousness, called 'taqwa' in Islam, and I watched him make informed decisions based on his God consciousness ... his kindness, compassion and empathy for people — especially people who are less fortunate — and his desire to do charity wherever he was at.”

The evening also featured a hilarious stand-up comedy set by Palestinian comic Mohammed Amer, who joked about issues like the difficulties of traveling the world on a refugee passport.

After sunset and a traditional call to prayer, guests broke the fast together with a traditional snack of dates and water, followed by a buffet-style meal that included glazed cod, baked chicken and risotto.

Guests were encouraged to sit together and ask each other questions about the culture and practice of Islam as lively conversations could be heard throughout the ballroom.