AN AMERICAN MOSQUE – Documentary
An American Mosque is a half-hour documentary about religious freedom and the struggle against intolerance set in a rural California town. Sparked by the destruction of a mosque, we witness how a community responds to hate through painful but ultimately positive discussions about the perception of Islam in America and our responsibility to defend everyone’s Constitutional right to worship.
Muslims have been farming the orchards surrounding Yuba City, California, for nearly a century. Yet not until the 1980s, did the area’s Muslims consider building a local mosque. Rather than convert an existing building, they decided to construct a beautiful mosque with a large dome and towering minaret. The president, a farmer with roots in California dating back to 1906, donated five acres of his orchard for the sanctuary’s site. By the early-1990s, the fruit trees were cleared, a foundation was poured, and building began. From its inception, the site was considered holy. Prayer services were held even while construction took place. Then on the night of August 31, 1994, intruders entered the mosque, doused rolled-up carpeting with gasoline, and set the building on fire. By the next morning the entire structure was razed. The community was devastated by the crime. In shock, everyone asked: Why would someone attack a community’s house of worship?
The film’s narrative unfolds through a series of storylines: the building of the Islamic Center, the arson and investigation, the media reaction, the subsequent interfaith dialogue, and mosque’s rebuilding. We hear characters share their personal stories, speaking passionately about hard work and anticipation, heartbreak and fear, triumph and hope. Members of other faiths echo their words, expressing compassion, support, and a shared desire for justice in the wake of the arson. Although deeply saddened, the community’s spirit was not shaken. They wanted to show that all Americans, including Muslims, are entitled to a religious sanctuary and the right to practice their faith openly. An American Mosque concludes by showing the Islamic Center as both a place and an idea that represents the commitment of Yuba City’s Muslims to find a religious home in the United States.