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Muslims in America

A film by Graham Judd and Dina Hossain

A landmark documentary series telling the untold story of Islam in America, from the 16th century to the present day

Muslims in America [w/t] is the first in-depth documentary series to explore the historical roots of Islam in the United States, and reveal the many ways that American Muslims have shaped the nation.

Over the course of three compelling hours, Muslims in America will tell a surprising story played out against the backdrop of American history, and changing attitudes towards race, religion and citizenship in the U.S.

The series will begin with the first Muslims to arrive in North America as slaves and settlers, and trace the waves of migration and conversion that have made the Muslim population in the U.S. today the most diverse in the world.

Interweaving past and present, the series will tell an epic narrative through the stories of remarkable individuals – both famous and less well known – told using their own words, and brought to life through interviews, location shooting, archival footage and animation. Approached cinematically, the series will have no host, and minimum narration.

Supported by an ambitious engagement campaign, Muslims in America will leave its audience with a clear understanding of how Islam is part of America’s shared history, while raising timely questions about what it means to be American, and the kind of society America should be.

Proposed Episode Structure:

  1. ARRIVAL: The first recorded Muslims in North America were African slaves. We explore how they struggled to maintain their Islamic identity against overwhelming odds, and reveal the unexpected ways that enslaved Muslims helped shape American music, history and culture. The episode includes stories of the first Muslims to migrate here voluntarily, from the 17th century to the early 20th, and the vibrant communities that Muslims, especially from the Middle East, established across the country.
  2. GROWTH: Today, one in five American Muslims is African American. Starting in the 1920s, we discover how Islam spread rapidly through black communities nationwide, and explore the role that African American Muslims played in the struggle for Civil Rights. We tell the story of how other American Muslim communities developed, especially in the mid-West. And we reveal how changes to immigration laws in the mid-1960s opened the door for a new wave of Muslim immigrants, many from South Asia.
  3. CONTRIBUTION & CONFLICT: This final film contrasts the significant contributions that American Muslims have made to almost every area of American society, with the challenges they have faced post-9/11, and the suspicion and hostility many currently experience from their fellow citizens. The story plays out over the last 50 years, against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution and Arab-Israeli conflict, the War on Terror, domestic terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam, and the resurgence of Islamophobia that surrounded the 2016 Presidential election.

Creative Team includes:

Producer, Dina Hossain is a Bangladeshi American filmmaker with over 20 years experience making documentaries. She started her career at PBS’ flagship station Thirteen/WNET where she received an Emmy for her work as co-producer on Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note. Dina has co-produced films for New York Times Television, BBC, Discovery, PBS Frontline and ABC News Nightline. She was a co-producer of the acclaimed feature film, The Clay Bird.

Producer, Graham Judd has over 25 years experience creating award-winning documentaries for the BBC, ITV, ABC, Discovery and History. For PBS, he has developed and delivered many critically acclaimed projects, including African American Lives with Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Graham began his career at the BBC, before moving to New York to work on Muslims, a PBS Frontline and ABC News co-production, exploring the diversity of Muslim experience around the world.

Producer, Llewellyn Smith has contributed to several landmark PBS series, including Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years; as series editor for the PBS history series American Experience, he played a key role in the origination, development, and acquisition of more than 70 programs on American history. Smith was project director for the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series Africans In America: America’s Journey Through Slavery, and was a producer on the PBS series RACE: The Power Of An Illusion.

Consulting Producer, Lynn Novick has been making documentaries about American history for nearly 25 years. A director and producer, she has been a principal collaborator of Ken Burns since the early 1990s and together they have been responsible for more than 60 hours of programming, including some of the most critically acclaimed and top-rated documentary films that have aired on PBS. Most recently, Novick directed and produced — with Burns — The Vietnam War, an 18-hour series about the history and meaning of the conflict.

Consulting Editor, Sam Pollard is an award-winning feature film and television video editor, documentary producer/director, and professor whose career spans almost 30 years. His documentaries have appeared on HBO and PBS American Experience among many others. He has co- produced documentaries with Spike Lee and edited a number of his feature films. He has won multiple Emmy awards and the George Foster Peabody award. Most recently, Sam served as consulting editor on Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro.

Project Status: We have recently received an enthusiastic letter of support from PBS, and are working to raise $250k to complete the foundational research and development to demonstrate proof of concept in the form of scripts and edited sample scenes.

Associated Members

Graham Judd, Independent Filmmaker