Described as “spellbinding” by the San Francisco Chronicle, the new documentary New Muslim Cool by San Francisco filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor tells the story of Puerto Rican American Hamza Pérez, who quit drug dealing 12 years ago and became a new Muslim. Living in Pittsburgh’s working class North Side neighborhood, Perez struggles to build a new Muslim community and introduce his faith to other young people caught up in the lifestyles he used to have. Oh, and he’s also a rapper – part of the hip-hop duo M-Team – and a single dad to two kids.
New Muslim Cool explores a world that few Muslims are aware of, a streetwise scene filled with mixed cultures, economic hardships, and hip hop. The hip hop angle, in particular, is most interesting, as scores of documentaries could be made on the burgeoning hip hop scenes hidden from view worldwide. As with most exceptional documentaries, real life provides the best stories. The FBI raids Perez’s mosque, leaving Hamza to make some tough decisions about his identity and faith, as well as his place in a multicultural and multireligious American society.
New Muslim Cool is in limited release in San Francisco, with a screening at the Kabuki Theatre on May 4th. After that, it is scheduled to open PBS’ POV series on June 23 at 10 PM.
Zahed Amanullah is associate editor of altmuslim. He is based in London, England.