Hate crimes against Muslims occur with unfortunate frequency these days, but in 1994 when the first American mosque was destroyed by an act of arson in Yuba City, Calif., they were a rarity. In his new documentary, An American Mosque, director David Washburn chronicles the building of that mosque, its destruction, and the community’s response to the crime.
Washburn initially brought the film to festivals in 2012, but is showing a longer version of the documentary at community screenings this year, including at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC) this Saturday.
The depiction of the Yuba City Muslim American farming community shown in the film is a departure from mainstream media portrayals of Muslims, which often focus on their foreignness. For example, Khalid Saeed, who donated five acres of his farmland for the mosque, is a longtime farmer whose family immigrated to California from Pakistan in the 1950s. “It’s a very sympathetic and important portrayal of a really interesting California community,” said Raeshma Razvi, the director of the arts and culture program at ICCNC who organized the screening.