Overview: THE EDUCATION OF MOHAMMAD HUSSEIN takes a look at a tightly knit Muslim community in the economically depressed Detroit-Hamtramck neighborhood, focusing on the children who attend a traditional Islamic school. The film captures a year where the kids and their neighborhood have an unwelcome visitor, notorious Koran-burning Florida preacher Terry Jones, who arrives to provoke them with hateful rhetoric and anti-Muslim demonstrations. The community’s reaction to this challenge lies at the heart of the film, which gives a quietly searing view of a post-9/11 America that is struggling to live up to its promise of tolerance and civil justice for all.
One of the focal characters is ten-year-old Mohammad Hussein. He attends one of those Islamic schools, the Al-Ikhlas Academy. He is a part of the largest Muslim population in the U. S. He and others talk about and prepare to be harassed and discriminated against as the mentioned protests about their presence escalate.
Expectations: Again, this is one of those documentaries where HBO.com had a full synopsis available but I chose to ignore it in order to let the documentary tell its story. So, I have little to go on as regards to how this film approaches its topic. However, based on what I know this is what I expect. Just by the title alone I can run with the idea that this is an education, and not just for Mohammad but for the viewer. We will see the youngster’s life in his neighborhood and in his Muslim school. We will see how he learns the Koran and other teachings. We will hopefully also see him being educated on what others in America think of his religion’s presence here and, clearly, we will see that some will not take to it kindly even though Mohammad and his people are American citizens. It may just prove an eye opening educational experience for him and the viewer both. Here’s the trailer.
Gut Reaction: At a quick thirty-eight minutes this documentary touches on some of what I was looking for, but I felt that I wasn’t educated enough on the topic. I felt more should have been explored. It was interesting to witness Mohammad Hussein and learn something about his life and beliefs but his education was not the strong focal point here. To me, this short subject film was to explore the feelings and opinions about one isolated incident of a Christian pastor, one Terry Jones, and his protest in the heart of Detroit about Muslims in America and to illustrate that those of the Islamic faith have a stressful struggle living here. Though the camera was able to address that incident, including behind-the-scenes access of the pastor’s preparation for the protest, the issue is a larger story that could have been examined. Young Mr. Hussein, and the few other school students interviewed, were merely the devise to get us into the story and to put a innocent face to the story. Again, this angle proved interesting, but not as impactful as I would have hoped.
In Conclusion: In the end I felt that it is a frightful problem of prejudice, paranoia and misunderstandings. All Muslims carry a stigma that is hard to erase from the minds of many. I would have preferred a larger examination of the scope of that fact in the city of Detroit and perhaps elsewhere across the country. The filmmakers were able to capture the climate of the Muslim community before, during and after that singular protest but now leaves this viewer asking about what is next. Maybe, another HBO documentary will continue the Muslims in America story.
Other HBO play dates include 01.09 at 7:45am & 7:45pm; 01.12 at 1:15pm; 01.17 at 3:15pm, 01.20 at 11:00am; 01.23 at 4:30pm and 01.26 at 5:35am. It also appears on HBO2 and HBOGo.