461: Readers Tell Us About … Excitement over breaking down barriers, a mother’s anguish & global connections

Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …


Thank you for kind words on our special Muslim/Arab-American focus, starting Monday with a review and links to “New Muslim Cool,” a PBS documentary that tells the sometimes funny and sometimes deeply moving story of one young family. We also featured a special series this week at OurValues.org, giving you a preview of surprising facts from an upcoming book about Arab Americans.
    Throughout the week, readers expressed strong interest in these stories.
    One note came from Dr. Geri Alumit Zeldes, who teaches at Michigan State University: “Mille Gratzis! I’m prepping for a new course I’m ofering this fall, JRN 408/808 Reporting on Islam. You pointed me to two new resources: Dr. Wayne Baker’s OurValues.org and the documentary New Muslim Cool. Thank you!”
    Another note came from Laurie Wolfe, who leads a Bible-study class in Florida. “I watched the show and I’ll bet a lot of mouths dropped open when you see the main character helping out in prison ministry with Bible study,” she wrote. “I don’t think most Americans know how much Muslims and Christians share in their scriptures.”
    Remember: If you’re involved in a small group or class, PBS offers helpful educational resources about all of its “POV” documentaries. Jump back to our Monday story and you’ll find an easy link to PBS resources.

    AND important news from the filmmakers: Jennifer Taylor from the team producing and distributing this film sent us an update, knowing that a growing number of people want to include “New Muslim Cool” in classes and small groups. Jennifer wrote: The home-viewing DVD with 40 minutes of extra
features is available now for pre-orders on our website. And, the educational version with even more extra features will be ready in the fall. We also are planning a campus and prison screening-and-discussion tour.


We are truly a global family! Thanks to Patrick Ogle of Facets Film in Chicago, we received a stirring email sent from Iran by actress, filmmaker and mother Mania Akbari. Fans of global cinema may recall that she’s the actress who drives the car in the Iranian movie, “Ten.” (The film takes place inside a woman’s car as she drives around Tehran and encounters various challenges of daily life. The emotionally charged opening sequence involves her own son, Amin Maher. The boy appears in “Ten” playing Mania’s son and berates his mother in a sexist way that apparently is all too common in Iran.)
    Well, real life differs from cinema in that Amin actually sides with the more progressive political opposition in Iran these days. He’s now 17 and he took to the streets—and suffered for this brave choice.
    Mania’s note explains what happened and appeals for peace and understanding, based on her own family’s painful experience searching for Amin in the chaos of Tehran.
    She wrote, in part: I found myself in total despair. Amin is only 17 years old and is currently in eleventh grade. … I immediately started to look for him, experiencing very hard and painful moments—moments that neither cinema nor any other kind of art will ever be able to express.
    What I went through and witnessed that night is not easy to describe … I had no idea where they had taken my son to, therefore I started looking in every ambulance, every police station and every hospital in town. I came face to face with other parents looking for their children as well—mothers screaming and calling the names of their sons and daughters. Fathers weeping silently. Terrified kids in police stations awaiting their fate. It was a total nightmare—a nightmare that will remain with all of us for the rest of our lives.

    The next day, she found Amin. The police had beaten him for protesting on behalf of the opposition, then detained him—but he eventually was released. The family is mourning what occurred, but also sending out a strong, personal appeal for peace.
    Her note concluded: Violence is not the answer and freedom will only be attained through respecting the democratic rights of each and every human being. … I as a mother and an artist oppose any violence under any circumstances. Today I would like to take this opportunity to ask my fellow artists, friends and family to participate in promoting a peaceful approach and strongly condemn any kind of violence. Therefore I hope to be able to live in my country Iran, where I will never have to see another club nor another whip.


We love it when our readers keep us alert! Ken Chitwood’s note from South Africa did just that. Thank you, Ken.
    Here’s the background: We’re well aware that we have readers south of the Equator. One of the first congregations in the world to road test the James Bond Bible Study was in New Zealand!
    But, we do tend to aim our coverage mostly at readers in the Northern Hemisphere—and we did miss an obvious point in our popular Spiritual Season column by Stephanie Fenton. We pointed out that Sunday June 21 “marks the beginning of summer!”
    Here’s a link to the current Seasons column—which (Psst! Here’s a tip!) you’re welcome to cut and paste and share with your own readers, if you include a link back to our site.
    BUT, for billions of people around the world, June 21 marks the beginning of winter.
    That’s what Ken pointed out in a friendly way: For your Southern Hemisphere readers, June 21 isn’t the summer solstice. It’s the winter one, our shortest day of the year, and a terrible day for BBQing.
    No worries, I know that your audience is predominantly American, but since one of the prime goals of ReadTheSpirit is to make people aware of diversity, you might throw a bone to us Southern Hemisphere folks always hearing about how June-August is summer and how Christmas is a winter holiday.

    Ken, please count this as more than a bone thrown your way. And, Southern Hemisphere readers—hang in there with us, please! And, Email us anytime.


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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