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Islam in Britain – 5 films on identity, diversity and faith

From the first purpose-built mosque to the diverse British communities of today, Muslims in Britain have a long history and a bright future. Here are five fascinating documentaries that explore Islam in the British Isles.

 

The A-Z of British Islam

The A-Z of British Islam explores the Muslim history and heritage of Britain, and the vibrant present and bright future of British Islam. From little-known Victorian Muslims and Britain’s first purpose-built mosque, to faith schools, converts, charity and fashion, this documentary looks at what it means to be British and Muslim and the importance of being able to both be ourselves and accepted for who we are. From the charity activities of Islamic relief to diversity and belonging and contribution to the economy, this documentary presents a beautiful mosaic of British Muslims in the UK.

The film follows two Muslim students, Aziza and Zainab as they explore what it means to be a Muslim in Britain and how Muslims really feel about living and practising their faith in the UK. They visit first-generation Muslims in the UK, converts, charity workers and school children, discovering aspects of their varied experiences as Muslims in Britain.

Somalinimo

Somalinimo follows four students, documenting their experience of being Black, Muslim, Somali women at Cambridge, in an artistic documentary exploring identity and belonging. 

Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with elite universities under attack for their poor diversity records, Somalinimo celebrates the experiences of four Cambridge University students as they seek positive change and find solidarity with each other in what could otherwise be an isolating and intimidating environment.

Somalinimo is also a love-letter to Somali culture: with a distinctive visual approach, it takes us inside one of the most traditional institutions in the UK as well as a British-Somali home, while inspiring a new generation to navigate their way between the two.

Writer Awa Farah and filmmaker Alice Aedy talk about the making of Somalinimo in an interview about their film, which explores the experience of being Black, Muslim, Somali women at Cambridge.

Blessed are the Strangers

Blessed Are The Strangers tells the very British story of a ragtag bunch of white hippies, their journey to Islam via psychedelics and a quest for social change, and the community they formed together with converts of Afro-Caribbean descent.

Blessed are the Strangers is a documentary special that tells the story of this community of hippies turned Muslim.  In the late 1960’s, a Scottish playwright named Ian Dallas made a life-altering journey to Morocco, where he embraced Islam and adopted the name AbdulQadir, after the renowned 11th century scholar and ascetic AbdulQadir Jelani. After returning to Britain, Dallas began his Da’wah (Invitation to Islam) and soon founded a small community of Anglo-Muslims based in London, all of whom would eventually move to Norfolk to set up the ambitious but short-lived British Muslim village in the 70s.  Fast forward to London a decade later and a group of young converts of Afro-Caribbean descent, fed up with feeling marginalised amongst Muslims of other nationalities, established their own mosques and community hubs in Brixton and other neighbourhoods.

Blessed are the Strangers then tells the story of how these two groups from starkly different cultural origins eventually converged in a synthesis of shared faith which culminated in the Muslim community in the city of Norwich today. Read a more in-depth review of this must-watch documentary here

Black and Muslim in Britain

According to the Muslim Council of Britain, Black Muslims constitute 10% of the British Muslim population. Despite this, Black British Muslims lack visibility in their respective communities. Therefore, on the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month in October 2017, the influential poet, Mohamed Mohamed and multi-talented British Muslim TV presenter and performer, Sakinah Lenoir, made it their mission to address this lack of Black British Muslim representation. 

What they did was to create a wildly entertaining yet informative documentary series, Black and Muslim in Britain. This 13-part series, co-produced by the lifestyle blogger Saraiya Bah, is an excellent introduction to the under-represented and diverse Black British Muslim experience. Read our in-depth review of this binge-worthy series, which explores both poignant and hard-hitting topics from love and marriage, to racism and Islamophobia. 

I Heart Quran

Four British Muslims talk about some of their favourite Quranic verses, what they love about them, and how they are meaningful to them in the documentary I Heart Quran.

Artist Zarah Hussain, Silat practitioner Sohaib Hassan, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace director Justine Huxley, and Icco Pizza director Tamer Kamel talk about Quranic verses they love and how these verses inform their daily lives.

Justine Huxley, the director of St Ethelburga’s centre for reconciliation and peace, works to bring people from different backgrounds together to learn how to collaborate, cooperate and build a better future. In her late twenties she travelled across the Middle East and Northern India. “I was really looking for a spiritual home,” she says. At the shrine of a Sufi saint in Delhi, she heard the Quran recited for the first time. “It was really the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. There was a quality or an energy coming through the words that just seemed to come from a completely different dimension, and it was really the first time I’d experienced that… I was moved to tears, and I just thought, whatever that is, coming through those words, that’s what I want…”

Read our in-depth review of this documentary about verses of the Quran that inspire the way we live our lives. 

For more interesting films and documentaries about Islam in Britain check our Great British Islam collection.

'Ameen' is a hard-hitting Thai action-thriller full of high stakes and suspense, as an Imam, a blind boy and a hitman battle against human trafficking of stateless Rohingya on the Thai-Myanmar border.

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