By Amer Taleb
The Islamic Center of Tucson recently began showing movies on Friday and Saturday nights after Isha Prayer. Jamil Anouti, ICT President, spoke about the purpose of showing the films.
What’s the purpose of showing movies in the Masjid?
To give the youth something to do on Friday and Saturday nights when there’s nothing to do in Tucson except party or club. We’re giving them a halal option to take their minds off of what’s going on out there. That expansion room is for students. I want to make it a student lounge, a place where they can always go. Having movies, discussion groups…it makes it feel like a safe place.
When are the films shown?
Friday and Saturday and I’m pushing for documentary Thursday. There’s a show called the Little Mosque on the Prairie that I want to show during the week.
How many movies have you shown?
Just the Star Wars trilogy as an icebreaker. We’re going to show Malcolm X, Inception, Rissalah and Islamic documentaries. During the pinnacle of Islamic civilization, arts flourished and I think we’re seeing a resurgence of that in the media. It’s important that kids know we have a tradition beyond what they think we have. There’s a great movie called Fordson and Insha Allah we want to screen that here.
You have everything from Inception to Rissalah, there doesn’t seem to be a focus on a genre. What are the requirements you have before showing a movie?
We see if it’s appropriate for the Masjid. It’s mainly PG and educational movies.
Do you expect attendance to pick up?
Absolutely. A lot of people told me they’d start coming. Success is even one person coming and avoiding something haram. These films are a preventative action. There’s so much haram out there, even something small like showing a movie gets friendships and bonds going between the Muslim community. This is just the stepping stone to the other projects I’d like to bring to the Masjid.
The ICT has a reputation of starting projects and not finishing them, how will you prevent that from happening here?
That’s one of the biggest reasons people don’t come, our reputation. Me being here, making it my personal project and not handing it off to anyone, I’m going to see it to the end Insha Allah. If it fails, it won’t because of lack of effort.
How can people contact you if they have suggestions or requests?
firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re still taking requests from the community for what movies they want to see. We’d love to screen movies made by the youth and highlight the creative side of our community. With this new expansion room, there’s a lot of stuff we can do. If you know how to sew and you think we should be teaching that, we’ll help you set it up.
I always give an explanation as to why we’ve selected a film before we show it. I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community and I hope they continue to have faith in me. You can’t judge it if you never come, stop by and check it out for yourself.