|NY DAILY NEWS|
American views about Islam often are fueled by terrorism that's routinely in the news, leading to a stereotypical view of Muslims that's reflected in everything from political rhetoric to pop culture.
That's why it's up to individual Muslims to take steps to overcome those stereotypes, and one way to do that is through stories, says Fadel Al Mheiri, an Emirati filmmaker (www.tentpic.com) and author.
"Throughout history, people have used stories to share their culture, to make others understand them, to find common ground," Al Mheiri says. "That is something I try to do, both with film and the written word."
Al Mheiri was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, a place he describes as a beacon of hope and prosperity that serves as a counterpoint to the extremist and violent acts committed in the name of Islam around the world.
He became enamored with filmmaking at an early age, but didn't leap right into it as a career. Instead, he made films on the side while earning a paycheck through more traditional employment. But he couldn't stand his oil company job so he gave it up.
In 2013, Al Mheiri founded Tent Pictures Productions, and his feature film "Abood Kandaishan" premiered in December 2014 at the Dubai International Film Festival.
More recently, Al Mheiri turned novelist, publishing "Kingdom of Peacocks: Mists of Time," the first in a projected trilogy. The novel is about a Portuguese invasion of an imaginary kingdom in the Persian Gulf in the early 1500s.
"The political, social and religious events that take place nowadays in our region are a mirror and continuation of what occurred in the past," he says. "My novel serves as an allegory of what's happening with extremist groups today."
Al Mheiri has advice for others pursuing dreams or overcoming stereotypes:
· Don't ignore what you're passionate about.Often people have a dream, but they worry about taking risks. "If you have a passion for something, pursue it," Al Mheiri says. "Otherwise, you'll look back and wonder what might have been."
· Don't let others define you.Through film, Al Mheiri tells stories of the Muslim people as he knows them, often using humor. "I know when some people see me they make judgments based on stereotypes," he says. "But I'm an individual as well as a Muslim."
· Don't fear rejection.Anytime you're doing something creative you face the possibility of rejection and Al Mheiri has seen his share. "That just comes with the territory," he says. "You can't let it stop you from pursuing your dreams."
"One of my hopes is that, by sharing stories, we open up the possibility of having conversations," Al Mheiri says. "Then we can begin to truly learn about each other and see past the stereotypes."
About Fadel Al Mheiri
Fadel Al Mheiri (www.tentpic.com) is an Emirati filmmaker and author of the historical novel, "Kingdom of Peacocks – Mists of Time," the first of a trilogy about the Portuguese invasion of an imaginary kingdom in the Persian Gulf in the early 1500s. He graduated from the American University of Sharjah. He founded his own film production company, Tent Pictures Productions, in 2013 at the Abu Dhabi Media free zone Twofour54.
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