You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Jan 26, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

"New Muslim Cool" film at University of Michigan International Institute

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

When disparate cultures come together in surprising ways, we can sometimes learn more than when we only know about “the traditional way.”

I love seeing the creative ways that people adapt traditions and cultures, transforming them in the process. Sometimes I worry that my innocent suburban experiences here with my nice high-achieving kids and nice academic friends are hopelessly naïve.

Luckily, there are cool independent filmmakers to bring the rest of the world to us here in our small town, helping to bring together the many ethnic communities across the country, to generate a new conversation.

This just came across my desk from a friend at the University of Michigan:

The Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies Presents the Film: “New Muslim Cool” Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 3:00-4:30 PM, Room 1636, International Institute, 1080 South University, Ann Arbor, MI

New Muslim Cool” Takes an Inside Look at Fusion of Islam and Hip-Hop
Former Drug Dealer Struggles to Transform Himself and His Community Through His Faith and His Music
Produced in Association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) And the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

“New Muslim Cool transcends race, ethnicity, class and religion. Like hip-hop culture, the film is all about irrepressible social transformation and empowerment.”
--Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network

New Muslim Cool is Islam as you have never seen it. It is also hip-hop as you have probably never heard it. This film, which opened the 22nd season of P.O.V., PBS’s award-winning nonfiction film series, gives audiences an insider’s view of a little-known cultural fusion between Muslims and street beats that has been developing since the very beginnings of hip-hop culture. The result is a surprising challenge to stereotypes of both Muslims and urban youth in America that encourages viewers to look critically at the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Pérez pulled himself out of drug dealing and street life 12 years ago and became a Muslim. Now he's moved to Pittsburgh's tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family and take his message of faith to other young people through hard-hitting hip-hop music.

But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-911 world and himself. New Muslim Cool takes viewers on Hamza's ride through streets, slums and jail cells — following his spiritual journey to some surprising places in an America that never stops changing.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at