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Everyday Worship, Islam

Faith, Fasting, Football: The story of the Fordson High School football team

Skokie is a suburb north of Chicago that is known for having a large Jewish population. But on this September 11th evening, I hopped in my car and headed to a movie theatre in Skokie – one of only three in Chicago – that is playing a movie about a Muslim community. The movie was called: “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football.”

It was worth the drive.

When I entered the theater, I was early, and the theater was empty. I wondered if it would remain empty. After all, I, who am always on the lookout for interesting perspectives on faith, had just heard about the movie a few days ago. I wondered if others had heard of it. It is playing only in AMC theaters, in a few select theaters, from September 9th through September 15th.

The theater filled up – with a multi-racial group of people – many who appeared to be Muslim, myself, an elderly Caucasian lady, and a few families with children – of various races. By the time the lights went down and the previews started,there was a pretty hearty group of people in the theater.

The movie’s website describes the movie this way: “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football follows a predominantly Arab-American high school football team from a working-class Detroit suburb as they practice for their big cross-town rivalry game during Ramadan, revealing a community holding onto its Islamic faith and the American Dream while struggling to gain acceptance in post 9/11 America.”

After a day watching 9-11 tributes on the news, and contemplating the terrible things that can happen when religion is wielded as a weapon, it was, for me, a fine way to end this September 11th , remembering that good people of all faiths have the right to live life in peace, and not have their lives tainted by a small minority of those who would be considered to be evil, no matter what religion they profess.

Having the opportunity to peek into the daily lives of Arab-Americans, living in Dearborn, Michigan, elicited a number of emotions from me. There was the thrill of athletic competition, the heart wrenching stories of unwarranted discrimination and racism, and the devotion of those Americas who just want to have the opportunity to live their lives, protect their family, live the American Dream, and play a little football.

Although the movie was about Fordson High, I thought that one especially moving portion of the movie came when we saw the football team Fordson’s cross-town rival, Dearborn High pray before the game. First, the Muslim players recited the al-Fâtiha prayer…then their Christian teammates recited the Lord’s prayer. As each group prayed, those that did not practice that religion stood silently, respectfully. I imagine that some team members chose to say neither. But that portion of the movie showed how we can stand shoulder to shoulder, with different beliefs, and respect each other, if we so choose.

After the movie, as I stood outside the theater texting a few friends that I thought would enjoy the movie, I saw a reporter from a local paper interviewing some young Muslim teenagers who had just seen the movie. I listened as a young girl, who looked to be about twelve or thirteen, talked about how she and her friends had waited patiently to see the movie.  She spoke with conviction, as her parents looked on proudly, sharing that she is active in her community and that she and her friends were happy to finally see a movie that “had a positive message about her community.”

I thought that was fantastic.

Below is the trailer for the movie. I highly recommend it.

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