Omar Regan debuts his all-new entertainment firm Halalywood Entertainment with the Muslim-positive movie American Sharia.
American Sharia is a fast-moving action comedy movie that highlights the risks of Islamophobia, and the discrimination against Muslims. The movie follows the activities of Motor City Police Officer Richardson who profiles every Muslim he sees as a terrorist. Played by veteran actor Eric Roberts, Richardson is a redneck actor that packs all of the stereotypes against Muslims in one to make him the ultimate bad guy.
On the other end of the scale is Mohammed (popularly known as Mo), which is expertly played by Omar Regan. Mo is a fellow police officer with the Motor City Police force. He is an African American Muslim who initially seemed self-assured, but soon turned out to be in a major identity crisis as is evident in his more relaxed approach to Islamism. Although the movie uses no vulgar words, Mo is a hothead who talks before he thinks.
Because the police chief, played by Joshua Salaam, wishes to appease the Muslim community and gain re-election, he puts together a team of Muslim cops to fight the crimes against Muslims. This two-man team of Muslim cops Detective Abdul (Baba Ali) and Mo makes for a buddy cop sub-plot. Mo initially finds Abdul’s more strict religious style unusual and dislikes him, but he soon learns a lot from his fanatical sharia law partner and discovers more about how to best serve his community.
The crime they are about to fight is pretty strange, though – prejudice against the Muslim community. The bulk of this crime is interestingly cramped into officer Robinson rather than being proportionately distilled into the society. The police chief is particularly inconsistent, too, first dismissing complaints against Robinson, then locking him up for his troubles. It is here in prison that Robinson receives proper enlightenment on Islam and its activities.
A “bad guy” is later introduced some time in the movie to give the cops some real crime to solve. This shady figure plots the murder of the Muslim officers and some Islamic activists – for reasons not made clear (perhaps for the simple reason that they are Muslim?). The overarching theme here being that it is random persons ignorantly fermenting trouble in this Muslim community.
Commenting on the movie, Thamin Ahmad of AMUST identifies a hidden message: “don’t be ashamed of practicing Islam, know your rights, and there is always an alternative to violence.” Kimberley (who herself has been target of Islamophobic abuse because she wears a hijab) from Hidden Pearls notes that “while there were a few kinks in the entire movie plot, it is funny, a great movie for Muslims lacking any of the profanities we’ve come to expect from Hollywood, and addressing issues affecting the community even today.”
In all, the movie has a strong dialogue that clears the air on many of the stereotypes against Muslims. It also points to a number of major tragic events perpetuated by non-Muslims as proof. However, it did cramp too many of these issues into one movie, without really focusing on any single one, and seemed to abruptly jump from one issue to the next. The dialogue is also off sometimes as it seems to just find a way to force in too many issues, making for some rather awkward conversations. Omar Regan’s veteran acting career carried the movie, while Eric Roberts did infuse some life into his rather confusing role. Although it was confusing at times, it did have a number of funny scenes which you would expect from an Omar Regan movie.
American Sharia is a bold move by the entertainment industry to cast Muslims in a more positive light, while at the same time providing Muslim families with wholesome content for their consumption. An extremely low-budget movie, it is not too surprising that the cinematography is not up there with the very best, and that the soundtracks did seem off at times. As Omar Regan’s first movie, we can only hope for better ones to come.