A UCF alumna is using comedy to tackle Islamophobia in the new film American Sharia.
Nadine Abu-Jubara, a graduate with a degree in civil engineering, played the character of Shireen in the film, a Palestinian-American store owner from New Orleans who is a victim of racial profiling. Much like Shireen, Abu-Jubara is also a Palestinian-American from New Orleans.
She currently works full time as president of Nadoona Extreme, a health and fitness organization where she works as a personal trainer and youth empowerment coach.
She works on the film alongside Omar Regan, the writer, director and producer of American Sharia. The film seeks to re-educate people about what it means to be a Muslim and help them overcome Islamophobia.
"I'm going to make us some movies. We're always the bad guys and I'm tired of that," Regan said.
Regan started his career as a musician, opening up for artists such as Wu Tang Clan, Proof and Eminem.
He then moved on to stand-up comedy, appearing on E!'s Fight for Fame. As an actor, he acted as a photo double for Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2.
He also appeared in films such as Life is Hot in Cracktown and Internet Dating alongside Katt Williams.
Despite his extensive career in the film arts, Regan decided to leave Hollywood to create Halalywood productions — in hopes of providing Muslims with entertainment they can relate to and giving actors and directors an opportunity to make their movies and tell their own stories.
"We named the movie American Sharia to re-educate people, so the media can stop using scare tactics on the general population using words like Jihad, Sharia, Islam and Muslims," Regan said. In his opinion, no religion ever teaches to hurt others, and religious symbols have been misused by extremists.
The film is about a police chief who wants to get re-elected and, so he partners detectives Mohammed (Omar Regan) and Abdul (Baba Ali) to "speak Muslim to the Muslims," hoping they will go around dispelling stereotypes of Muslims in hopes to escape a discrimination law suit.
"In this film, we are breaking barriers, demystifying Islamic perspective and busting myths that are so prevalent in popular media," according to their Kickstarter page.
Abu-Jubara said the film really gives a clear account of what it is like to grow up as a Muslim in the United States, and she says some of the things her character goes through are actually things she has experienced herself.
"I've had people curse at me not knowing I'm American, telling me, 'Go back to your country,' yet there are some of us who are born and raised here, but have chosen to hold on to our faith," Abu-Jubara said.
This being her first acting gig, Abu-Jubara has enjoyed being part of the cast and attending the U.K. premiere, where she says every single show was sold out.
"I think people glamorize Hollywood. We only see the final product and the red-carpet premieres, but when you are behind the scenes, it's not as glamorous. My scene, as short as it may be, took eight to 10 hours, and there is so much involved in setting up a scene," she said, not counting the month-long efforts that go into writing the script, contacting the actors, producing the work and even marketing and editing.
Regan said money was one of the main challenges. The project was started with $90,000, and they're currently well over $200,000, a lot of which came not only from their Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, but also from private funding.
"I was supported by my current producer, Couni Young ... and she financially supported the completion of this film," Regan said.
The film has currently been released in the U.K. and Australia, and is expected to soon open in theaters in the United States.
For more, check out www.omarregan.com or visit the "American Sharia" Kickstarter page.
Juan David Romero is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.