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Growing Up Muslim In America: ‘Jinn’ Film Explores Black Muslim Identity

  • Should I wear my hijab during dance routines?
  • What are the rules of dating? What about my love of pepperoni?

These are questions Summer Jennings, a carefree Black teenager, starts asking herself after her mother converts to Islam in Jinn  feature film

WASHINGTON, DC – Inspired by an African American writer and director’s  own upbringing within a thriving Black Muslim community in San Francisco, a new film “Jinn” examines how identity is formed by religion, family, and relationships, Essence reported on November 14.

“As I became a teenager, I started to be exposed to different ideas that seemed to be in direct conflict with my early beliefs,” says Nijla Mu’min, a prominent Black American Muslim author.

“I wanted to be able to negotiate and navigate all the different worlds that I was a part of.”

When Mu’min premiered the movie at this year’s SXSW Festival in March, it won a Special Jury Recognition for Writing. Then in June, she received the Jury Award for Best Screenplay from the American Black Film Festival.

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“We very rarely see a story about the coming of age of a young Black girl told in a way that isn’t framed around abuse or violence or something tragic,” says Simone Missick, who appears in Luke Cage and The Defenders and plays Summer’s mother.

The film’s presentation of a different narrative about Black girls and Islam motivated Missick to sign on as an executive producer.

Also, the actress Zoe Renee who stared as ‘Summer’ or more correctly ‘Samar’, expressed that Jinn gave her “a new perspective on the nuances of religious ritual.”

“It was my first time being in the masjid and seeing the people, smelling the smells,” she reflects.

“It was life-changing for me because I was able to observe the religion in its purest form. I was able to see it in such a beautiful and soft light, and I think that’s very rare when we’re talking about Islam.”

#BeingBlackandMuslim: Celebrating Black History & Looking to The Future

Mu’min hopes the picture of her film, which arrives in select theaters on November 15 and will be available on demand November 16, will resonate with many people, not just Black Muslims.

“I’m really proud I stuck with my story,” she says. “Often, people are surprised that a personal story is the one that will connect to a large audience, but we should always trust that instinct to tell our story.”

Historically, between 15 and 30% of enslaved Africans brought to the Americas were Muslims, but most of these Africans were converted to Christianity during the era of American slavery.

During the 20th century, some African Americans converted to Islam, mainly through the influence of black, nationalist groups that preached with distinctive Islamic practices.

African American Muslims constitute 20% of the total US Muslim population. The Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan has a membership ranging from 20,000–50,000 members.

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