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Entries from May 2008

May 27, 2008

Carrier Screening and Discussion Events in Everett and Bremerton

This week, KCTS 9 presents two public screenings and discussions around the new reality series Carrier. Join us Wednesday, May 28, at 7 p.m., at the Everett Performing Arts Center, and Thursday, May 29, at Bremerton's Admiral Theatre, also at 7 p.m.

Enrique Cerna, host of The New KCTS 9 Connects and Executive Director of Production for the station, will moderate the event in Everett. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their own experiences, especially about families in military deployment or life on an aircraft carrier. Light refreshments will be served.

Carrier shows life aboard the USS Nimitz as it traveled from Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, Guam, Kuala Lumpur, Bahrain, Perth and Australia, and to combat duty in the Middle East. The 10-part series, which premiered in April to strong ratings among Northwest viewers, will return to air beginning Wednesday, June 25, at 10:00 p.m., and will air weekly through the summer.

These events are free to the public. RSVP today to 1.800.362.6463 if possible, or just drop by--we will see you there!

May 17, 2008

About Us: On a Wing and a Prayer--full interview with Monem and Iman Salam

Next up on About Us is On a Wing and a Prayer, the story of what happens when an American Muslim living in a college town decides to get his pilot's license. We had the opportunity to speak with Monem and Iman Salam, who are living, working and raising a family in Bellingham, about their experiences with flight school and filmmaking.

The extended interview appears below. Tune in on Tuesday, 5/20, at 10 p.m. to experience it as it happened for the Salam family.

How did you end up living in Bellingham?

Monem: We were living in Dallas after we got married and moved for work reasons. I was working for Morgan Stanley but sought out the position in Islamic investing. Saturna Capital, which offers Amana Funds, is the largest mutual funds in the country, with reps in Chicago and New York, but I'm the only Muslim employee in Bellingham.

How long have you lived in

It'll be five years in June. We were both born and raised in the States, Monem in Dallas and Iman in San Francisco.

How did you meet?

Iman: We met at an Islamic conference. Monem was the speaker; he gave motivational speeches for youth, and I emceed his speech. Afterwards, we exchanged numbers and stayed in touch long-distance between Dallas and San Francisco, and got to know each other long-distance.

I read in the Bellingham Herald that you estimate about 30-40 Muslim families live in Whatcom county—that's not a big number. Is that enough to have a mosque?

Monem: Not really. We rent an apartment as a small place for prayer and have Friday prayers at the library. There are by far larger Muslim communities in San Francisco and Dallas – Iman's family alone is a larger community of Muslims than in Whatcom County!

Did you think of yourself as an ambassador?

I knew there was a lot of potential for education on what Islamic investing was; unofficially became an ambassador. It's not where you say "that's what I want to do"—it's more that you become a de facto ambassador. When people want to write about Muslim traditions or activities, they call you. When we arrived, Ramadan was in first nine months after we moved there and they wanted to write about it for the community section of the paper—you get forced into that position.

When did you decide to get your pilot's license?

I always wanted to get my license & become a commercial pilot. I didn't end up going to the Air Force Academy because of my ear, then I moved on—living in large cities, I got caught up in life. One trip, I happened to land in Bellingham and saw a sign for flight lessons with a phone number—and I thought I'd give it a try.

I thought about flying, went home and told Iman, and she thought it was a crazy idea. Everyone I talked to was divided: All the non-Muslims thought it was a great idea; Muslims said "It's a crazy idea, you'll get on the no-fly list." Max Kaiser [the film producer/director] was working with us [at Saturna]; I told him what everyone was saying and that I wanted to get my license locally; he encouraged me to do it. Max thought I should be able to get my license no matter who you are, and we decided to film the process.

What was your family's reaction when you told them you were going to do this?

Iman: We have three kids, but they were all little; didn't ask or tell them about it. Abdallah, our oldest, thought it was cool. It's really cute now; when they watched the movie, their response was: Wow, my dad can fly planes! I think it's great that they will have this DVD to watch when they get older and possibly to pass along to their kids. They're really excited about him being on TV.

Monem: A few weeks ago I was on CNBC to talk about Islamic investing, and our daughter Serene saw it and said she wants to be on TV too. It's kind of nice to be able to tell her she will be!

So, when you went to one flight school, I understand you were turned down for admission. What reason did they give for turning you down?

Monem: Max and I decided we needed to let the flight school know what we were doing, that we were planning on filming. There are two flight schools in Bellingham, one really nice, the other not as nice – so we went to the nice one first. They met with us in a conference room, sat us down, asked a bunch of questions and said, "We'll get back to you." We waited and weeks dragged out to a month, we didn't hear anything… We tried calling back but still got no response.

So, we went to the second school. They thought it was a really awesome idea, welcomed us with open arms and were really excited about it. We filled out all the paperwork. The day after, the FBI showed up at the flight school. They checked out all my documents, said "okay, thank you," and left… When we came back with more paperwork, that's when the school told them the FBI had showed up. It turned out the other flight school had contacted the FBI.

Did you ever hear from the FBI after that or do you think your name just went in a file?

No, we didn't hear from them again.

How did your flight training go from there?

I got a lot of opinions on what it would be like, what to expect. Max has his license and got it over one summer, going twice a day for two months. But I'm married with three kids, working full time—I did that schedule for the first day. When I got back down on the ground that night, it was information overload, I had a headache, I could barely do it three times a week. So we did it whenever we could—we ended up scheduling 1 hour/day, but it turned out to be 1-2 hours a week. It was a great experience. In retrospect, it was pretty hard; I didn't realize how stressed out I got. I can go to the film and see now how stressed out I was then.


Monem prepares for flight.

Do you get to fly often now? What's it like?

I got my license July 2, 2007; between then and November, I flew 3 times. During winter there was no flying. But the other day, one of my friends from Bellingham moved away, so before he left I offered, "Why don't I take you up and see Bellingham from a bird's eye view?" Most people don't get to see that so it was a pretty cool experience. That was at the beginning of March.

Does your family fly with you? Iman, do you want to fly with Monem?

No, I don't want to go up! Right after he took the test, I went up – for one take off and landing. I have no desire to fly with Monem unless it's in an Alaskan Airlines Flight to San Francisco.

What was it like to have filmmakers documenting you?

Monem: It almost got to the point where I didn't even realize the camera was there. On the plane itself, the only time I realized the camera was there was when I turned it on. Often we'd be so engrossed that after turning it on, we'd forget the camera—land, walk away from the plane and have to go back to get it.

Iman: I was fine with it. … I didn't mind it all. We knew Max, we knew everyone in the house
—we had to keep reminding the kids to pretend the camera's not there. They were being real, looking in the camera. The one time it started to get on my nerves—this scene is in the movie—the kids are sick, Monem is out of town, I was getting sick. Max called that day and heard and he immediately asked if he could come over—he insisted, "This is real life, it won't take long!". My response was "Oh my god, you're kidding, right?" I got the kids up, dressed, he came over, it was fast. Otherwise, it was fun.

Monem: We tried to make it real as possible—in parts it was more real than I'd like. There are parts that I'm uncomfortable with, the really personal scenes—I tried to convince the producers to cut some scenes that they kept.

What do you think of the media representations of Muslims? Do you watch Little Mosque on the Prairie?

Iman: I love it, I want to be on that show. I think it's great— it's like The Cosby Show, profiled an African American family that wasn't the stereotypes on TV—father is a doctor, successful kids. In Little Mosque the daughter is a doctor, wears a headscarf and jeans … She's like me, I wear the scarf, I'm into the latest trends, I got totally into the last season of American Idol. I wish they'd show it in America. We need to see more of that; I'm surprised that it's taken this long.

Note: Little Mosque on the Prairie is a CBC series available to Western Washington viewers on Comcast and other cable systems.


Iman and Serene.

Any last thoughts?

Monem and Iman: We're really excited to have people give opinions / impressions of what it's like to be Muslim in America—we want to have more conversations. I think it's sad that it's taken this long. In some small way, if we make a positive impact on people's thinking, then great. We showed the movie at a local community college and gathered feedback. There's a scene at the end of the movie where Iman reads a poem; one person's response was that "it was very emotional to see her with an emotion, when before, I didn't think Muslims had any." There were some middle-aged students in that group; to read that was shocking.

Related links

Learn more about Monem Salam, Amana Funds and Islamic investing:

Amana Funds invests according to Islamic principles by Melissa Allison, Seattle Times

His dreams soar despite distrust
by Danny Westneat, Seattle Times

Marketplace Money, March 7, 2008
Read or listen online: Islamic mutual funds

His dreams soar despite the distrust by Danny Westneat in The Seattle Times

Film chronicles local Muslim man’s quest for pilot’s license by Dean Kahn in The Bellingham Herald

May 11, 2008

About Us: Island Roots and My Friends Behind Barbed Wire

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, and we have a number of great shows to celebrate. This week, About Us has two short films focused on the Japanese American experience during World War Two, when of course every individual from Japan living on the west coast was exiled from their land, homes and businesses and sent to live in internment camps inland. These two films focus on the response of those who didn’t have to leave their homes behind—the honorable efforts they made.

My Friends Behind Barbed Wire features Brooks Andrews, son of the white pastor of the Seattle Japanese Baptist Church, telling the story of his father’s decision to take his family to Camp Minidoka along with the Japanese families in his congregation.

In Island Roots, we learn about the Filipinos and Alaskans who tended the strawberry farms on Bainbridge Island owned by Japanese Americans. In the owners' absence, they tended the farms, selling the berries and paying the taxes, so these Japanese families were able to return home to land and work.

As you may have read, the recently passed and approved “Wild Sky Wilderness” bill, AKA the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, S. 2739, includes authorization to add an 8-acre Japanese American Memorial on Bainbridge Island to the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Idaho.

We are proud to honor the contributions of the many diverse cultures that make life in the Pacific Northwest unique. Tune in Tuesday night at 11 for Island Roots and My Friends Behind Barbed Wire.

For more info on the filmmakers, visit stourwater.com and islandwood.org.