I ran into a Muslim friend the other day who was eager to tell me the good news about her son who, like me, is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism (the world's oldest and best J-school, by the way) -- he quite recently, me a couple of centuries ago.
Her son had just landed a TV reporting job in a medium-sized Midwestern city and now seems to be on his way to making his mark in the world.
Her happy story reminded me of this recent report on Beliefnet.com, which reported on Muslims doing quite well in the American entertainment industry, especially Hollywood. (One of those Muslims is Said Taghmaoui, pictured here. He appears in the movie "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.")
Now, I have to confess that I know precious little about anyone in Hollywood, whether Muslim or not. So only one or two of the names of the people on the Beliefnet list meant anything to me. And even most of the TV shows or movies they've been in are ones I've never seen or even heard of. But that's just me. Pop culture and I aren't much on speaking terms.
The good thing about such a list is that it shows that people outside historical the religious mainstream in America (meaning Christianity and Judaism) are beginning to find their way in our culture. Once that happens, it's harder and harder for them to be looked at as outsiders or as "the other."
Something similar to this started to happen decades ago in racial terms as African-Americans finally began to find positions in industries that previously were closed to them -- including the Major League Baseball industry. That didn't solve all the racial problems, for sure, but eventually it made possible the presidency of Barack Obama, just as the Muslim integration into our culture eventually made possible the election of Muslims to high office, including the U.S. House of Representatives.
So finding Muslims gaining fame in our entertainment industry is a sign of health in our society. Let's hope this movement doesn't get blocked by mindless religious prejudice.
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A 'RELIGION' WINS IN COURT
Is Scientology a religion? Well, whatever it is, it has just won a court case in Europe against Russia, which has refused to list it among "religious organizations" under provisions of its "Religions Act." I've never been sure quite how to categorize Scientology, but generally am willing to accept the self-understanding, or self-designation, of followers of any path as long as there aren't negative human rights consequences and as long as such a designation isn't absurd on its face (like calling the Kansas City Chiefs a football team this year).