Professor premieres Arab-American documentary

Diversity and the discussion of diversity especially of the immigrant experience can turn into a story of multiculturalism which  has led Seton Hall’s very own professors to produce and direct a documentary on immigrants.

“A Thousand and One Journeys: The Arab Americans” made its New Jersey debut at SHU on Jan. 31 in the Jubilee Auditorium. The event was hosted by The Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, and the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs of the College of Arts and Sciences.

This documentary shares the story of immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf and their Arab-American experience. The film is shown through the eyes of everyday people as well as celebrities including the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid.

The film was co-produced by Professor Emeritus Philip Kayal who taught sociology at Seton Hall for 40 years and was chair of the department three times. Kayal and Seton Hall alumnus Abe Kasbo who is the director and producer, said that they worked very hard on making this documentary a success.

Kayal said that he was inspired by passion and politics and that there was a need to correct stereotypes, especially now during the Syrian refugee crisis.

Kayal also has a special connection to this project. “I am child of Syrian Arab Catholic parents. My specialty in sociology was religion, and ethnicity, and assimilation,” he said.

So far, audiences have been emotionally supportive and many say ‘it is about time,’ Kayal said.

With Seton Hall’s emphasis on diversity, this film fits right in with the university’s secular perspectives.

“SHU students are pretty sophisticated. I remember students telling me how multicultural SHU was, to their surprise. They have many Muslim and Arab friends and it is obvious the university is committed to diversity,” Kayal added.

“I do think that Seton Hall is accepting of Muslim students. I never felt discriminated against by any of the faculty or professors, despite SHU being a Catholic institution,” Halimah Elmariah, a sophomore diplomacy and international relations major, said.

“The school provided us with a prayer room, albeit a small, it’s still useful, nonetheless. Not to mention the Muslim Student Association (MSA) also hosts a Friday prayer every Friday that allows Muslim students to congregate and practice their faith,” Elmariah added.

Elmariah said that the MSA does a wonderful job at hosting events that are greatly informative on Islam and spread awareness, but the issue is that more SHU students who aren’t Muslim need to attend these events to learn more about Islam.

“The film was just finished a few months ago and premiered in Washington DC in November, and NYC in December, and now N.J. in January,” Kayal said. “There was “no real delay, it was just scheduling and preparation issues that required waiting till now.”

“Kasbo was a student of mine, and that is how we connected on the ethnic front. We share a common history and easily got along with one another.” Kayal said.

Sarah Auerbach can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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