Muslim communities in the United States, especially in the post-9.11 era, have figured prominently in studies on the Islamic diaspora – those of the big cities of the East and West coasts, that is. The subjects who have been all but excluded from this rich field of study are those Muslims living in the Mountain West region. Spearheaded by the Center for Asian Studies and the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the “Muslims in the Mountain West” project is an attempt to address this underrepresentation and examine these communities as they shed light on the identities of largely moderate Muslims in the Mountain West region as they seek to find a space in which they can be both Muslim and American, an aspiration that is made largely impossible by the demonization of Islam in mainstream America. This project, then, is “a humble attempt to re-orient the debate on Islam in this country by chronicling the life of Muslims as integral thread in the cultural tapestry of the Rocky Mountains.”
As part of this project, the Center for Asian Studies and the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture will organize numerous lectures and other public events focusing on the variety and substance of the Muslim experience in the Mountain West. In Fall 2012, the inaugural year of this project, CU hosted a three-day conference entitled “Muslim Voices in the Heartland,” which included lectures, the personal testimony of Muslim living in the Mountain West, a film viewing and theatre production followed by question and answer sessions with the directors, and a slam poetry session. These events were well-attended and offered thought-provoking insight into the lives of Muslim-Americans in this region.
As this project continues to grow and develop in the years to come, we anticipate many more events offering the same diversity and quality that was present in “Muslim Voices in the Heartland.” We eagerly await seeing the work that is currently underway as part of this project, particularly the documentary that members of the “Muslims in the Mountain West” project are making. They are shooting footage in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico and anticipate its release at the end of 2014. We are confident that this and other projects will give cause to re-examine the current portrayal of Muslims in this region and in America as a whole and to better integrate peoples of diverse backgrounds into our communities.