Here is an interview I did about Muslim Media on the “What’s Up Wit’ That Show?” in Mountain View, CA:
Archive for Media
I interviewed actor Rizwan Manji from NBC’s “Outsourced” for ILLUME Magazine (www.IllumeMag.com).
He talked about what its like to be Muslim in Hollywood and the importance of ‘good Muslim’ roles.
How did you get the part of Rajiv Gidwani on NBC’s “Outsourced” ?
I was sent the script for the Pilot and thought it was hilarious. As an Indian, I could relate to some of the characters who share the same culture as me, and this was the first time that I have heard of a major TV sitcom about South Asian culture. I initially was called in to audition for the role of Gupta (played by Parvesh Cheena) and did not get the role, but after the producers could not find a suitable actor for the role of Rajiv, they called me in again and I got the part.
Many people who watched the pilot episode, felt the show was filled with too many stereotypes and was not really a funny show. How do you respond?
The pilot episode was basically a quick introduction to all the eight main characters. We basically have 22 minutes to introduce each person and you don’t really have much time to go into that much detail of each character. It is a pretty standard set-up as most TV sitcoms and if you have seen other shows such as Friends, etc. you will see that in the beginning they quickly introduce each character and you see how each character is on the surface (i.e. so and so is the dumb character, etc.). The main goal of any sitcom is to entertain and establish an audience who is willing to come back to watch again.
Will the TV show go into the different religions of the characters or stay focused on the culture of India?
Currently there is one call center worker, Samina, who is a Muslim women who wears Hijab (played by a Non-Muslim) and she does interact with my character (my character is Hindu) in a future episode, but at this point in time the TV series is not focusing on religion and when references are made it is mostly the Hindu religion.
As a Muslim of South Asian descent, you are familiar with the tradition of parents limiting their children’s field of study to medicine or engineering. How did your parents react to your decision to get into acting and were they supportive of you?
I was pretty lucky, because my family was very supportive of me. At first my parents did not really understand why I wanted to be an actor and also how I would be able to make a living out of it, since they came from a background, like most South Asian parents, of leaving their homeland (Tanzania), going to another country (Canada) and working hard to allow their children to go to a good university so they can become a doctor or lawyer, etc. My parents never told me no for acting, but they did encourage me to go to school and get a degree as a back-up plan. I did go to school in Alberta for one year, but afterwards decided that I want to study acting at the “American Musical and Dramatic Academy” in the United States. It was difficult to get in and also I didn’t have any money to pay for tuition, so I obviously had to ask my parents for help. I thank my sister, who really was able to sit down with my parents and convince them that this is what I really wanted to do. Now, my father is really excited about the whole acting thing and whenever he spots an opportunity for a South Asian role, he tells me to apply for it and kinda acts like my manager!
As a Muslim, do you think it is important for more Muslims to get involved with acting in TV and Films?
Definitely. Muslims need to be involved and active. TV is watched all over the world, especially TV which is produced here in America. It is the most visible platform we have now. If majority of the world sees only evil Muslim characters and roles on TV, that is detrimental to everyone, not just Muslims. There needs to be a greater presence of Muslims on TV.
Were you offered any negative roles in terms of portrayal of Muslims and how did you respond?
Yes, I received many offers which portrayed Muslims in the stereotypical manner of just killing someone and yelling something in Arabic. I turned down many of these roles. But some of them I did debate whether to take them or not. For example, I was offered several roles to be a terrorist on the series “24”, which I turned down, but in the last season, they had several characters who were “good guy” Muslims (such as Anil Kapoor’s character). So when I was offered a job to play a small role of a bad guy, I accepted it, since I saw that a major character was portraying a “good brown Muslim person”, so it wasn’t a one sided thing, where all the muslim characters are bad. But I do struggle with these roles and turn down something if it makes me feel uncomfortable.
What advice do you have for young Muslims who are interested in becoming actors?
If it’s your passion, then go for it. But don’t think that you will become rich quick. It’s a struggle and is not easy work. I have been working in this business for 15 years now, and had to do a lot of side jobs along the way. There is very little money in the beginning. But if you like it and have a passion for it, then do it!
ILLUME magazine in assocation with the South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA) Media Committee, CAIR-SFBA, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC) present a special 2 -day In-Depth workshop for students of Media and Journalism as well as others who are interested in learning the art and techniques of professional story telling in the Digital Age. The weekend seminar will take place on April 17th and 18th, 2010 in the S.F. Bay Area. There is also a FREE panel discussion on the Importance of Local Media Activism with Several Muslim Media Professionals (see below for details) which will be held at SBIA Downtown Center on Friday April 16th from 7pm to 9pm.
Students who take the weekend seminar (April 17th-18th, 2010) will learn:
Entitled: “Digital Journalism in the Age of Multi-Media Story Telling” the seminar will be taught by
Farzad W, Executive Producer of 14th Road Productions. Farzad is an Emmy award-winning director with more than 10 years of production and teaching experience.He has directed and edited more than a dozen independent videos & documentaries, and produced more than 400 interactive media applications for publishers and businesses. His scholarly works have been published internationally while his films have been screened locally and overseas. Marquis Who’s Who in America of 2010 selected Farzad Wafapoor as one of 95,000 of America’s “most noteworthy people”.Farzad earned his Master’s degree in Mass Media from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Additional Instruction will also be provided by:
Muhammad Sajid, Editor-in-Chief of ILLUME
Muhammad Sajid is an award-winning journalist and graphic designer. He received an Edward R. Murrow award and has been named the Society of Professional Journalist 2004 Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year. He worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years before switching to broadcast. Muhammad Sajid received a BA in Journalism and a second BA in Graphic Design from San Francisco State University. He is currently pursuing a JD.
Anser Hassan, Executive Producer of ILLUME
Anser has worked both on-air and behind the scenes at several news stations across the country, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. His career began at CTV30, an award-winning cable station in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a reporter and news anchor, plus hosted two of his own shows. He also reported for the New York Times broadcast division at WQAD-TV. He has also reported at KRON4-TV/Channel 4 in San Francisco. Currently, he is an assignment editor at CBS5/Channel 5 in San Francisco. He was recognized as an up and coming reporter from the national branch of the Asian American Journalist Association, being featured on the “Men of AAJA DVD.” He was also the recipient of the national New York Times Reporter Trainee award and selected into the prestigious New York Times L.E.A.P. program, a company wide leadership program. Anser is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of San Francisco State University, with degrees in TV/Radio News and International Relations, with a Middle East regional concentration and an emphasis on Islamic political movements and Islamic feminism.
The costs for the seminar is $25.00 for Students (ID Required) and $75 for Professionals before April 16th and $50 Students/$100 Professionals afterwards.
For more information and/or to register for the class click here.
Media Panel (FREE Admittance on Friday April 16th, 2010) Topic: “The Importance of Local Media Activism“
Wajahat Ali is a playwright, journalist, attorney, humorist and consultant. His play, “The Domestic Crusaders”, is one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience originally premiering at the Thrust Stage of the Tony award winning Berkeley Repertory Theater to universal acclaim in 2005 and making its New York premiere on 9-11-09 at the world famous Nuyorican Theater. He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Counterpunch and Chowk.
Farzad W is an Emmy award-winning director with more than 10 years of production and teaching experience. He has directed and edited more than a dozen independent videos & documentaries, and produced more than 400 interactive media applications for publishers and businesses. His scholarly works have been published internationally while his films have been screened locally and overseas. Marquis Who’s Who in America of 2010 selected Farzad Wafapoor as one of 95,000 of America’s “most noteworthy people”. Farzad earned his Master’s degree in Mass Media from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Carma Hassan is a journalist and story planning editor with a KTVU Ch. 2 News in Oakland, CA. She is actively working to bring a stronger Muslim presence to mainstream media.
Javed Ali is the founder and publisher of the world-class, award-winning media organization, ILLUME. He is a seasoned technology expert and entrepreneur, who previously founded Digital Pad in 2003, a technology consulting company. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Network and Communications Management and consults with non-profits in the areas of media and technology.
Anser Hassan has worked both on-air and behind the scenes at several news stations across the country, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. His career began at CTV30, an award-winning cable station in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a reporter and news anchor, plus hosted two of his own shows. He also reported for the New York Times broadcast division at WQAD-TV. He has also reported at KRON4-TV/Channel 4 in San Francisco. Currently, he is an assignment editor at CBS5/Channel 5 in San Francisco.
Irfan Rydhan is a “Multi-Media” Activist who lives in the Bay Area. His background includes non-profit management, film/video production and graphic art/design. He is co-founder of “Jam-Productions: An International Video/Film Company” and Executive Producer of “The Muslim Round Table Television Show” which currently airs on Comcast Ch. 15 in San Jose and streams live on Sundays at 12:30pm on www.CreaTVsj.org He is one of the founding members of the SBIA Media Committee, which conducts training programs and classes on how to effectively interact with the media in it’s coverage of issues relating to Islam and Muslims. Read his blog about Architecture, Islamic Art and Media Activism: Al Mihrab: The Place of War
I was just a college freshman then, as I sat face to face with Br. Abdul Sattar Rydhan, marhoom – Sattar Uncle, as I called him – at his home in San Jose. Tape recorder, notebook and pencil in hand, I was ready to begin my first interview for an assignment I had taken on in Dr. Hatem Bazian’s course on the development of Islam in America. It was mid Spring 2004 and like all the other lazy Muslim kids in Dr. Bazian’s class who opt for what they think will be an easy way out of UC Berkeley’s American Cultures requirement, I, as usual, had started months later than I should have. As the deadline loomed, I worried about not yet having enough material for my write-up. But after spending just a few hours in Sattar Uncle’s living room, my worry took a new twist: How would I fit all of this into one paper?
His story – full of creativity and action – began with the 1970s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where Sattar Uncle was studying engineering and participated in the activities of the campus Muslim Student Association. From there I would hear about the transformation of student associations into community associations as single students turned into parents, and started worrying about raising children with strong Islamic values.
At the time, the nearest masjid to the South Bay was in San Francisco. There were no Sunday Islamic schools. Not a single Islamic advocacy organization.
As he spoke, I thought of how lucky I am to have grown up years after the first steps had been taken by Sattar Uncle and others like him. I thought back on my classes at the South Bay Islamic Association on Sundays. Those were a regular part of my weekly schedule as I grew up, and although I drove with my mom to school each week, I would rarely give thought to the people that had first made Islamic school a reality.
Three decades after masjids like the South Bay Islamic Association were first built; our community boasts numbers in the tens of thousands, countless organizations that advocate on behalf of Muslims, another countless set of Islamic service organizations, and dozens of masjids and halal meat stores.
It’s safe to say that much of these blessings are a result of the tireless work of our dear Sattar Uncle. Many in the community have already heard about his work in kickstarting Bay Area Media Watch – the precursor to the Islamic Networks Group, which a little more than 15 years back began teaching objectively about Islam and Muslims in local schools. We have also heard about his efforts in developing the American Muslim Alliance, which aims to bring the voice and concerns of Muslims in the United States to the mainstream political arena. He also put energy behind community outreach efforts and building strength in the news media, supporting such causes as the American Muslim Voice and a media outreach committee at the South Bay Islamic Association.
Although seeing these groups and participating in them as a young Muslim have always given me a sense of pride, I am even more grateful for the smaller, unrecognized efforts of Uncle Sattar.
I can remember back to my youth group class at Sunday School when my teacher took leave – Sattar Uncle came to fill the void. Alongside calmly covering difficult topics like tahara and the deeper meaning of the six fundamental beliefs, which often Muslim teens can struggle to comprehend, I remember enjoying him lightly poke fun at me and my classmates – and making the masjid a fun environment to join. I can also think back to the rare instances when I have arrived early to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for Eid prayer, and seen Sattar Uncle and family running from one corner to the other to make sure all arrangements are in order for everyone else. And who can forget the idea of halal Kentucky Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at Juma each Thanksgiving?
Although while a child, all I knew of Sattar Uncle was that he told me to “wait a minute” to hear announcements after Maghrib prayers at Family Night on the first Friday of the month – announcements about moon sighting seem to be the most memorable – I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to appreciate the many different colors of the man as I grew older.
In the months before his passing, he even gave me a basic economics lesson: “Cash is king,” he said, with his hand movements amplifying each statement he made. “Buy low, sell high. Like that 1970s disco song, what goes up, must come down. And remember, money talks, everything else walks.” He was again poking fun – this time for my decision to take some economics courses. “You know what they say about the economist. . . He can only predict what has already passed,” he said with a grin on his face. He got quite a few chuckles out of me, as he spoke, and everyone else who decided to listen in.
Years earlier, I recall running into him unexpectedly atop the hills of UC Santa Cruz. It was the summer after my sophomore year of high school and I was just beginning a yearbook camp there. Uncle had come to drop off his daughter, Sana, for the development residency. Upon seeing the two of them and exchanging salaams, I remember feeling my respect for Sattar Uncle shoot up even higher. In that moment, I saw not only a father taking time out of his weekday afternoon to be a part of his family’s activities, but an uncle from my community who had the foresight and trust to allow his daughter to explore on her own. This was an exemplary leader who didn’t simply pay lip service to the need for media activism or women’s empowerment; I thought to myself – rather, he helped to instill these values in his own children.
It is with the blessings of Allah subhanawata’ala that more than a year since our dear Sattar Uncle left us; his legacy and our joyful memory of him still shine.
He touched lives wherever he walked – as I’m sure you can guess, in writing this article, I could have talked to at least a hundred people about Sattar Uncle’s impact on them personally. The fact is: he helped to build leaders. Alhamdulillah, each organization I mentioned earlier, to this day, works with the same unwavering spirit that Sattar Uncle carried.
Sadly, I don’t ever remember thanking him. Not once. And realizing that now really makes me wish I had.
Now, all I can do is pray for him, and his family. And I can tell others about my mistake. Let it serve as a reminder for all of us to thank the many other brothers and sisters who have toiled to build the Ummah we know today. The list of their names could not fit on these pages. Two probably just stood next to you during Juma prayer.
Let that be the suggestion I leave you with: Make du’a for Sattar Uncle and his family and his community after your next prayer today, and the next time you see someone you know has done great things for your community, thank them. Right there and then. You’ll be glad you did.
More importantly, put yourself to work. No harm in repeating the old adage: Your community is as good as you make it. Uncle’s family will need your help putting out the prayer mats on Eid day. The school principal will always be in need of a teacher. The community will need a voice in the media. The list can go on. As his active elder son, Irfan, reminded us all a year ago at the khatam for Sattar Uncle, “There is a lot of work we need to get done.” He said we could start by pitching in for a new sound system at the masjid as the old one had broken.
In the history Sattar Uncle began relating to me in his living room some five years ago, there was no ending. We need to build libraries, institutes of higher learning, where Muslims and non-Muslims alike come to study and read books about history and algebra and science, and the contributions of Muslims in these fields, he said. Not just about Qur’an and Sunnah.
Simply put, he was a visionary. A man ahead of his time. And he’s left us with a project – We owe it to him to get it done.
For Those of you who live in San Jose/Campbell, CA – Be sure to check out the interviews I conducted a few weeks ago of American Muslim Activists in the S.F. Bay Area to get their views and opinions on Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency of the United States of America. This unscripted and special edition of the “Muslim Round Table Television” program will air on Friday Feb. 27th, 2009 at 3:30pm on Comcast Channel 15 which airs in San Jose and Campbell, CA.
For those of you not in the San Jose area – you can still watch the video (Split into 3 parts) on our YouTube page, under the name: “jam1productions”
Below is the Part 1 of the interviews:
Check it out and leave us a comment!