SHU professor featured in documentary

We look and we see people. We see dark, fair and freckled skin. We may see the expressive articles on their bodies: clothing, headscarves, makeup, bindis, crosses and yamakas. We think not of what these appearances may express, only how they are estranged from our sense of normal. We are all victims and perpetrators of prejudice.

Such prejudice against Islam is the topic of Khalif Watkins’ documentary “The Test of Freedom: Muslim Americans and the Struggle Against Prejudice.” Emmy-winning Seton Hall documentary film professor Anisa Mehdi found herself on the other side of the camera as a subject of the film, which highlights the diversity of Muslim Americans.

“I was a subject in the film, which is an interesting switch for me – typically I am the director, writer or producer,” Mehdi said.

Mehdi’s own documentary projects, “Muslims” and “Inside Mecca,” echo the sentiments of Watkins’ work, serving to reveal that there is no one such thing as a Muslim.

“The premise of the documentary is close to my heart, making the case as I did to show that there is a wide variety of people who are Muslim,” Mehdi said.

Mehdi is used as an example of a hard-working broadcast journalist whose work contributes to breaking down the walls of stereotypes.

Mehdi is not the only Seton Hall community member in the film; the crew filmed during one of Mehdi’s classes, capturing footage of her students.

The film will premiere on campus Nov. 6. Although there are great lessons to be learned, Mehdi does not believe anything will come as a shock to students.

“Seton Hall already has a student body I would stereotype as curious, open-minded and inquiring,” Mehdi said. “This will serve, I hope, to encourage and affirm that kind of curiosity of the world, to [urge them to] go forward and continue to keep their eyes and minds open.”

Although a world without prejudice is a utopian thought, as Mehdi said, there is hope for every race.

“[Prejudice] changes over time and we can see that historically in our nation with the things we have come through like [discriminating against] people of color and enemy nations,” Mehdi said. “I wonder who will be the next victim people begin to bash.”

Michelle Foti can be reached at

Author: Michelle Foti

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