The American filmmaker and professor of political science will screen Mayor Mohamed
Jeffrey Togman, Ph.D., professor of political science and film, as well as director and producer of Mayor Mohammadwill have a screening of the documentary on Thursday 20 October 2022, at 6.30 p.m. as part of the University’s 2022-2023 Diversity Film Series. The event will take place in the Schwartz building, room 113 and the doors will open to sit at 6:15 p.m. The screening is also co-sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development, College of Arts and Sciences, Seton Hall Chapter Scholars for Syriaand the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs.
“The film focuses on Mohamed Khairullah, a Muslim immigrant from Syria who moved to the United States in the 1980s and has served as mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey since 2006,” Professor Togman said. The film won a Special Jury Prize at the Montclair Film Festival and had its world premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Mayor Mohamed also had its international premiere at the Arabisches Filmfestival in Germany, with screenings in Tubingen and Stuttgart.
Khairullah is New Jersey’s longest-serving Muslim lawmaker and the documentary gives audiences insight into the sacrifices and risks he takes to bring humanitarian aid to Syria while simultaneously battling the forces of Islamophobia in the United States. . When accused of imposing ‘Sharia’ by a local politician, who later leads a campaign to overthrow him as mayor, Khairullah must confront these forces of Islamophobia and ask the larger question of what means to be an American.
Gannet | USA TODAY NETWORK reporter Philip DeVencentis spoke with Khairullah and Togman earlier this year when Mayor Mohammad was acquired by a Hollywood-based distributor, Freestyle Digital Mediafor streaming across multiple platforms, including AppleTV+, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and YouTube, among other services.
Excited to bring his documentary to a wider audience, Professor Togman said: “We are also excited about the conversations he will engage in about Islamophobia, Muslim civil rights and other issues he addresses.”
In an interview on All from WNYC with Matt Katz for a previous screening, Khairullah spoke about the Islamophobic opposition he has faced since first running for local office in 2001. “Unfortunately, the tragic events of 9/11 happened in the same year and it is when I was told that I have no chance of winning an election with a name like mine,” Khairullah said. He went on to say, “Because of my community involvement, I think my community saw above the fray, above the stereotypes, above the fearmongering, and elected me to office.”
Originally planned as a film to help document the Syrian civil war, Professor Togman attended a panel of Syrian-American guest speakers at the Congregation Shomrei Emunah synagogue, which included Khairullah, during the pre-production phase of the film. In a interview with Lauren Peacock of the Montclair local, Togman mentioned that he showed up after Khairullah’s speech and “there was an immediate spark”. It was shortly after that Khairullah agreed to become the film’s focal point. “It wasn’t originally a story about Mohamed,” Togman said, “but it was just a fascinating story.”
Togman discussed the obstacles he had to overcome during the filming process. “For myself and the film crew to be invited into the lives of all these people…they’ve been very generous with their time, their privacy, finding people willing to do that is a challenge,” a- he declared.
The screening is free to the University community and the public on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about the film, visit the official Facebook page here and the Twitter account of the documentary here.
For more, see related media coverage on Mayor Mohammed.