MONA: "All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road."
SEBASTIAN: I don'’t know, it sounds pretty good to me.
[Mona laughing] I mean, I also need you.
MONA: I'’m Mona Haydar.
SEBASTIAN: Woo, Mona, where you going?
MONA: And this is my husband, Sebastian Robins.
SEBASTIAN: Hey, here we come.
MONA: We'’re on the road for three weeks.
Hey, you think of Route 66 you think heartland.
Taking time out of our busy lives as parents, educators... We'’re taking back the narrative... And managing my music career.
JOURNALIST: Bonjour à Mona Haydar!
To follow the Muslim thread woven through the fabric of our country.
EDWARD: Muslims have always been part of America since the colonial era.
MONA: And we'’re reconnecting with each other along the way.
SEBASTIAN: What a miracle it was to meet you and to start our life together.
What should I do?
Kiss you and hug you?
[Mona laughing] MONA: You'’re so awkward.
[Sebastian laughing] MONA: We'’re taking The Great Muslim American Road Trip.
You just put a little fire in my belly.
On this episode... MONA: We have nothing in common.
SADDIQ: This masjid welcomed me, from the beginning!
[crowd cheering] SEBASTIAN: Hey!
ALYA: This is just fresh off the tree.
♪ My, my oh my I know it ♪ EDWARD: You'’re gonna see the sight, of one of the most important Muslim-Americans.
SEBASTIAN: No way.
This is blowing our minds.
♪ I'’m gonna keep on going ♪ [whooshing sounds] [engine revs] ["Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf] ♪ ♪ Get your motor running ♪ ♪ Head out on the highway ♪ ♪ Looking for adventure ♪ ♪ In whatever comes our way ♪ ♪ Yeah, darling gonna make it happen ♪ ♪ Take the world in a love embrace ♪ ♪ Fire all of your guns at once ♪ ♪ And explode into space ♪ ♪ Like a true nature'’s child ♪ ♪ We were born ♪ ♪ Born to be wild ♪ ♪ We can climb so high ♪ ♪ I never wanna die ♪ ♪ [music scrubs to a stop] [trunk closes] [car door closes] [seat belt buckles] ♪ MONA: You all right?
[car drives by] ♪ [road noises] ♪ SEBASTIAN: How you doing today?
MONA: I think I'’ve said enough.
You can do the things and say the things too, Sebastian.
So go ahead, talk about your feelings.
SEBASTIAN: Okay, I feel good.
[Mona laughs] MONA: You'’re such a liar.
[Sebastian laughs] SEBASTIAN: Um, I- first of all, I just love this landscape.
I love... MONA: Those aren'’t feelings.
[laughs] Talk about your dream.
SEBASTIAN: About the two cows?
SEBASTIAN: About buying stuff.
MONA: About me buying stuff.
SEBASTIAN: All right, I, well this is sort of half philosophy and half personal.
MONA: You can just say your dream.
Just say your dream!
SEBASTIAN: No, no I don'’t wanna.
I'’m gonna say something else, first.
MONA: Tell me your dream!
SEBASTIAN: I think traveling, traveling is this sort of revelatory experience.
It reveals your insecurities, right?
And your needs.
I mean I'’m not exactly the minimalist that I want to be, MONA: Mm-hmm.
SEBASTIAN: But I'’m definitely more of a minimalist than you.
MONA: Dude, I am by no means a minimalist.
I am a maximalist.
I am the most Mona.
[laughs] SEBASTIAN: Yeah, and I think it kind of drives me bananas that you even know that about yourself and like, you almost celebrate that.
MONA: But like dude, I'’m prepared!
I'’m prepared for anything.
[Sebastian laughs] SEBASTIAN: That is such a good... MONA: I'’m prepared for rain, I'’m prepared for snow.
I have all the accoutrements.
And you benefit from my preparedness.
SEBASTIAN: I think when I fight with you, I'’m just really fighting against this predicament of- of living in the material world.
And I don'’t think you fight against that as much.
♪ MONA: You'’re trying to say that I'’m not so enlightened, or enlightened at all that, that stuff that doesn'’t bother me.
Of course it bothers me!
SEBASTIAN: I don'’t mean that you just bought in hook, line and sinker and you don'’t care.
♪ MONA: Isn'’t it funny that the story, and like, the reality of me coming up to Lama was with so much stuff?
Like, that was your first impression of me, is that I had too much stuff.
SEBASTIAN: That is really true.
MONA: And you'’re still harping on it.
MONA: I feel like you perceive that difference between us as, like, "We have different values," or something.
You see it as something I need to overcome to be more like you.
♪ I mean honestly, like we basically have nothing in common.
SEBASTIAN: Don'’t say that.
MONA: Like we basically have nothing, we don'’t like the same music, we don'’t like or eat the same foods.
SEBASTIAN: Is that true?
MONA: You love to, like, hike and I would love to just sit in front of a fire with a book.
I like to cook.
You will eat the same thing every day, beans and rice, for your whole life.
[road noises] ♪ SEBASTIAN: Like, I'’m driving a car right now.
That is a challenge to my sense of idealism, but it'’s also like, how we get around right now, you know?
And to like live in opposition... MONA: Yeah, I mean, until you buy a horse, SEBASTIAN: Right.
MONA: Don'’t talk to me about my clothes!
[road noises] ♪ You haven'’t fully accepted me, yet, after all these years.
♪ [wind wisps] ["Mass In B Minor" by Kyrie Eleison] ♪ [chorus sings] [chorus sings] [chorus sings] [chorus sings] [chorus sings] ["Dirty Paws" by Of Monsters and Men] ♪ ♪ Jumping up and down the floor ♪ ♪ My head is an animal ♪ ♪ And once there was an animal ♪ ♪ It had a son that mowed the lawn ♪ ♪ The son was an okay guy ♪ ♪ They had a pet dragonfly ♪ ♪ The dragonfly it ran away ♪ ♪ But it came back with a story to say ♪ ♪ La la la ♪ ♪ La la la la ♪ ♪ La la la ♪ ♪ La la la la ♪ [train noises] ♪ ♪ SEBASTIAN: Appreciated our conversation earlier.
♪ SEBASTIAN: And I just want you to know, I accept you for who you are, Mona.
♪ MONA: We do have a lot in common.
SEBASTIAN: Thank you.
I know we do!
MONA: You know what it is?
SEBASTIAN: What'’s that?
MONA: We want each other to be better.
MONA: We want to be better for each other.
MONA: We each want the other person to grow.
We both want that.
SEBASTIAN: We saw the Grand Canyon today!
That was amazing!
♪ "Instead of insight, "maybe all a man gets is strength to wander for a while.
"Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire, "to know nothing for certain.
An inheritance of wonder and nothing more."
♪ [whooshing sounds] ["Snug as a Bug" by Heinz Kiessling] [whooshing sounds] [clicking sounds] ♪ MONA: We hit some detours on 66 that are rerouting us through Las Vegas.
♪ ♪ ♪ Ooh, Gordon Ramsay'’s restaurant!
SEBASTIAN: Can you get a picture of that?
MONA: [laughs] Yeah.
MONA: Oh, the Venetian.
That'’s a famous one too.
SEBASTIAN: Oh Mona, look, the Sahara.
MONA: You know what'’s funny?
Is that'’s the world'’s largest gift shop.
"The city of Las Vegas thanks you."
SEBASTIAN: You know what?
[Mona laughs] ♪ [road noises] [footsteps] MAN: Thank you, brother.
SEBASTIAN: You'’re welcome.
MAN: God bless you.
SEBASTIAN: So, we'’re heading toward a mosque outside of town.
MONA: Yeah I mean it'’s called the "Muslim Village," like, we can'’t not stop there.
SEBASTIAN: I understand they do a food distribution program, and prison reentry work.
MONA: There'’s an amazing woman there, they call her "Mama" Nisaa.
She'’s one of the founders of the community, and she'’s apparently just this mother of the community, and has fostered a real familial vibe there.
♪ Look at your shoes!
[Mona laughs] NISAA: Oh, these old things?
[laughs] MONA: They are so cute!
Those are spicy!
NISAA: Thank you!
[both laughing] MONA: I love it!
NISAA: Thank you!
NISAA: So, over 20 years ago, my husband and I and some of the other believers, Abdul Aziz and his family, we started feeding the homeless.
NISAA: We started serving out of the back of the car.
And we did that for a good while.
And from that, when we were blessed with the building, alhamdulillah, Mike Tyson donated to this building to being built, may God bless him, we were then able to feed the homeless on site.
At one point, we had a health clinic.
And this was during the time when people didn'’t have insurance.
We did that for years, having free services.
If you came and you needed further testing, you could go to the doctors'’ clinics or to their labs for a dollar, or $10.
♪ So, the farmers'’ market was an idea we came up with, because there are farmers'’ markets totally surrounding this impoverished area.
MONA: In the White communities and then in the Black community, there'’s none.
NISAA: So, we decided that we would do a free farmers'’ market!
And the neighbors are welcome to come and get whatever they need.
♪ MUSTAFA: What you see taking place now, this gift of giving has always been a part of Africa.
The Africans shared at the same table, the same plate.
They shared from the same hunt.
SEBASTIAN: I just wanted to go back to something you were saying before.
That there was something that was familiar in Islam.
The way you described it sounded much more like an indigenous homecoming.
MUSTAFA: I remind our young students that unlike the movies, those Africans that they brought here were not living in jungles.
Some were librarians.
They were teachers.
Some of those Africans who were brought over were Muslims.
They were Imams, they spoke Arabic, they were bilingual, in terms of having their language and also the Arabic language.
Although some lost it completely, remnants remain that some of the older people.
The way they prayed, SEBASTIAN: Mm.
Interesting MUSTAFA: I saw my grandfather one time pray, like Muslims pray.
But he never... SEBASTIAN: Mm.
But he wasn'’t Muslim?
MUSTAFA: He was not Muslim.
And he never referenced it.
SEBASTIAN: Ah, interesting.
♪ MUSTAFA: I grew up in- in the um, '’60s and '’70s, I remember talking to my friends about Buddhism, I remember talking about Judaism, um, we'’d have those kinds of conversations.
Then we found out our jazz favorites, some of them were Muslims!
And that others were also following this- this tradition.
Then, coming across the news we had the image of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader.
We discussed him as well.
[crowd cheers] And of course, Malcolm X.
And then all of a sudden, something that swayed many of us was Muhammad Ali.
REPORTER: Clay would beat Liston and become world champion.
And then stunned the world the following day by announcing that he had become a follower of Elijah Muhammad.
MUSTAFA: Not just that he declared himself to be a Muslim after winning the title, but his whole level of courage, in standing up for something.
All of that was a kind of dialogue that existed in the Black neighborhoods.
MUSTAFA: And that kind of dialogue steered us in the direction of Islam.
♪ MUSTAFA: The Qur'’an explains that God created people of the tribes, not to hate one another, but to learn all these wonderful differences that exist within the human family.
MUSTAFA: And to revel in these differences, not to weaponize them.
The Prophet clearly stated that a Black is not better than a White, a White not better than a Black.
The one thing that makes you better, or equal to each other is your piety, your faith in God.
[indistinct chatter] NISAA: So, my hope is to see us as Muslims come together... MONA: Yeah.
NISAA: And make the difference in America.
♪ NISAA: Hi cutie pie!
How are you doing?
I was so happy, I just saw the text!
NISAA: This is sister Shaheen.
She... MONA: Masha'’allah.
NISAA: Helps us immensely.
NISAA: I tell you, the community is amazing.
I think you created a good energy bubble, and everybody just wants to be in your bubble.
NISAA: Well, and you know, because I'’m so much older, they call me "Mama" Nisaa.
We'’re helping the community in any way possible.
We have a prison service program.
When they come home, they can'’t find jobs, so we make jobs.
SULEIMAN: My name is Suleiman.
they call me "Big C" around here.
My brother, Fateen, he showed me much- so much love.
Sister Nisaa has showed me so much love.
That'’s my mama, I call her Mama and that'’s my brother right here, you know what I'’m saying?
I came a long way.
SADDIQ: I'’d been in prison 20 years.
So, to come here, to this masjid right here, this masjid welcomed me.
From the beginning to the end!
[getting emotional] It opened up, they opened up!
This brother, his wife, opened up to me.
LATIF: I got outta prison less than a year ago.
I became Muslim in prison.
And uh, I was able to get my children back, I was able to be part of something bigger than what I was.
This is Emma Rain.
This is, my firstborn daughter.
LATIF: Most of my family is in New York, so, for a long time I felt very alone.
LATIF: But my daughter knows what it'’s like to have a family, and a real one.
LATIF: There'’s nothing that these men and women wouldn'’t do for my daughter.
MAN OVER LOUDSPEAKER: Allahu akbar!
LATIF: It'’s what the Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, came to deliver.
Manners, conduct, character, morals, loyalty, respect for mankind, respect for your individuals, our children, our future.
Without these things, you can'’t be successful, beyond what the social aspects are, beyond what your color is, your race, your creed.
What'’s important is what we'’re doing for each other.
[wind wisps] MONA: Some people call Las Vegas "Sin City," but we found so much goodness here, too.
After our visit with the mosque, we'’re headed on a walk down the Strip.
We weren'’t expecting to meet any more Muslims, but I'’m always glad to be surprised.
[crowd cheers and applauds] ♪ ♪ SEBASTIAN: Whoa!
♪ MONA: Woo!
[applauds] SEBASTIAN: Wooo!
[crowd applauds] ♪ That was totally amazing.
That was... YOUSSEF: Thank you.
[speaking in foreign language] I appreciate it.
YOUSSEF: After 30 years?
SEBASTIAN: How long?
YOUSSEF: 30 years.
10, 11 years just with Cirque du Soleil.
Is that what brought you to Vegas?
MONA: And it'’s mostly the headspinning or it'’s... YOUSSEF: They hired me just for that.
Because I'’m Guinness World Record and all of that, for that movement, for the headspinning.
SEBASTIAN: Wait, so you hold the Guinness Book of World Records for headspinning?
YOUSSEF: The most headspin in one minute.
SEBASTIAN: Which is how many?
YOUSSEF: Which is 137.
[laughs] SEBASTIAN: In one minute?
MONA: That'’s amazing.
YOUSSEF: In one minute, yeah.
YOUSSEF: I know.
HOST: One, two, three, go Youssef!
[audience cheering] I don'’t know how he does this.
CROWD: Youssef, Youssef, Youssef!
[audience cheering] MONA: You don'’t get dizzy?
YOUSSEF: The secret is, don'’t focus on what'’s around you.
I always focus on my balance.
MONA: You remind me of an upside-down dervish.
YOUSSEF: The dervish?
SEBASTIAN: It'’s true!
YOUSSEF: They connect spiritually, right?
The spinning... MONA: Yes!
YOUSSEF: That'’s what I was doing actually!
MONA: It'’s connection to the divine.
YOUSSEF: Exactly, yeah yeah yeah.
In my case, in the beginning, I wasn'’t that grounded to Islam... SEBASTIAN: Okay.
YOUSSEF: As I am today.
I'’ve been practicing, but I wanted to know always more.
And, why are you here on Earth?
It doesn'’t matter where you are on Earth, MONA: Yeah.
YOUSSEF: But why are you here on Earth?
MONA: Did you find a teacher or... YOUSSEF: Not really, no.
YOUSSEF: I take from everything.
MONA: Yeah of course!
So do we.
YOUSSEF: I take from everything MONA: So do we.
MONA: I have lots of teachers.
[laughs] YOUSSEF: Exactly!
MONA: You- you learn it from a man on the street, you learn it from a- a scholar, it doesn'’t matter.
YOUSSEF: You know, I travel.
YOUSSEF: That helps a lot, because that allows you to be open-minded, and you need that to be more spiritually understanding.
MONA and SEBASTIAN: Mm.
YOUSSEF: Breakdancing will kind of destroy you, SEBASTIAN: Huh.
YOUSSEF: You never get better and better over time.
You will be reduced and more limited with- with time.
SEBASTIAN: We have these limited bodies.
YOUSSEF: You will not be able to do that as long.
But in a spirituality, again, you find enjoyment and happiness in it.
♪ In my case, it was always increasing.
[whooshing sound] ♪ When we talk about the Guinness World, when I achieved that, I was happy.
But the happiness that I get from within, in my spirituality, that doesn'’t have a limit.
[whooshing sound] ♪ Thank you, thank you.
MONA and SEBASTIAN: Salaam alaikum.
YOUSSEF: Thank you, thank you, salaam alaikum.
MONA: He was so amazing, masha'’allah!
What a sweet guy.
♪ [whooshing sound] ♪ [whooshing sound] [clicking sounds] ♪ [car engine revs] ♪ MONA: Back in our first week of the trip, we heard about a Muslim from around the time of the Civil War, who was beloved by his contemporaries and is still remembered today.
We'’re taking another detour to investigate.
♪ EDWARD: You'’re going to see where Hadji Ali, I don'’t know how much you know about Hadji Ali.
MONA: My sister told me about "Hi Jolly."
SEBASTIAN: "Hi Jolly" right.
It- it'’s an old... MONA: I didn'’t know what she was talking about!
EDWARD: It'’s an old folk song!
MONA: Oh okay.
EDWARD: Yeah... ♪ Hey jolly, hi jolly ♪ [Edward vocalizing] ♪ By golly, 20 miles before the day is through ♪ [all laugh] EDWARD: Yeah!
Actually, Hadji Ali'’s story, the camel driver, he- there have been two major motion pictures made... MONA: Come on.
EDWARD: I'’m not kidding you.
And one of them is called "Hawmps."
[indistinct] [all laugh] So yeah, "Hi Jolly," came from the Middle East hired by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, yes.
EDWARD: The same man who became the President of the Confederacy.
To use the camels, and to establish camels as a means of transportation in the American Southwest, which the- the United States had just recently acquired.
Dozens of camels.
They thought it would be, because you know, it'’s rocky down there?
SEBASTIAN: Right, similar terrain.
EDWARD: So, as you'’re going down there, you'’re gonna see the site of really one of the most important Muslim Americans, Hadji Ali.
♪ SEBASTIAN: Well, here we are.
"The last camp of Hi Jolly.
"Born somewhere in Syria about 1828.
"Died at Quartzsite, December 16th, 1902.
"Came to this country February 10th, 1856.
Camel driver, packer, scout, over 30 years."
♪ MATT: How are you doing?
SEBASTIAN: You guys met with him?
MONA: Just now!
SEBASTIAN: This is my wife, Mona.
MONA: Nice to meet you.
You know, he is the reason it became a historical community here.
And he is another reason, that people came and started living in this town.
SEBASTIAN: They come here to sort of pay homage.
But look at it this way.
Today, I'’m here, with you, because of him.
♪ MONA: How did you end up finding out about Hadji Ali?
MATT: Well, I had a job in Vegas, and I like sometime losing my way in the driving, you know to get to new places.
MATT: And I end up here in this town.
And I was like, "What is this doing here?"
MATT: So I started researching.
Hi Jolly'’s family was Orthodox Christian.
But I believe after his military service in Algeria, something happened, and then he decided to be Muslim.
So he went to Mecca, and got his name, "Hadji Ali."
SEBASTIAN: Hadji Ali.
SEBASTIAN: And "Hadji" is a honorific.
It'’s a title of respect for someone who'’s gone on Hajj.
You do the process in Mecca, then you get that title on your front of your name, yeah.
♪ SEBASTIAN: My understanding is that he was hired by the Army, pre-Civil War, [whooshing sound] through this experiment in using camels to help develop and explore the West.
SEBASTIAN: So he was an employee of the US government.
MATT: Maybe the first official Muslim hired by this country.
LYNN: They accepted him as a Muslim, and many times he was called back to the Army, to help them.
And when the camel expedition was over, he found the terrain was better for mules, and he stayed here in this part of the country.
And he liked it here and ended up staying here.
SEBASTIAN: What happened next?
[whooshing sound] MATT: After the Civil War, another idea is finding directions for the new roads.
[whooshing sound] So Hi Jolly was ordered to find the best road to get to California.
And that road became Route 66.
♪ SEBASTIAN: So let me get this straight.
Hi Jolly is hired by the US government to survey the best route from here, and that route ended up becoming the last section of Route 66?
SEBASTIAN: No way!
SEBASTIAN: This is blowing our minds!
[Mona laughs] ♪ LYNN: When they were paving the highway, the crew talked to the governor and said, "We would like to build a monument to Hadji Ali."
They did it on their own time.
♪ He was an important person.
He was just a nice man and people liked him a lot.
LYNN: And they just wanted it noted by the state that the monument was there.
♪ MATT: So Hi Jolly was the camel driver that find a great route.
♪ [whooshing sound] ♪ [whooshing sound] [clicking sounds] ♪ MONA: After all that talk about camels in the desert, we are literally on the road to Mecca...
[car drives by] ♪ SEBASTIAN: We met Hadji Ali yesterday, and now here we are at Mecca.
MONA: And now we'’re at Mecca.
♪ MONA: So why is this area called Mecca?
ALYA: Date trees were brought back from the Middle East in the 1900s and people associated dates with the Middle East.
And this area I think, just sort of adopted some of those aspects of the culture.
In fact, I believe some of the local schools also had mascots that had sort of Arabian names in- in- in the early days.
SEBASTIAN: We passed a whole neighborhood that was Damascus Street, Baghdad Street... ALYA: Yeah.
Those influences came from- from the fact that the date offshoots were brought from these countries.
♪ SEBASTIAN: Palm trees are such a iconic part of Southern California landscape and mythology.
I mean it- it really does feel like this is an indigenous plant.
But you'’re saying this has only been around the last hundred years or so in this part of the country?
Yes, yeah you'’re right!
I think, while it'’s been an ancient fruit, it'’s also part of Southern California.
In fact, 95% of the dates that are consumed in America are grown in Coachella Valley, so... SEBASTIAN: Really!
Right here, that'’s so cool.
ALYA: A lot of people consider it an American fruit now.
It'’s obviously eaten all around the world.
I mean dates have always been a part of my diet in- in my culture.
So I'’m Muslim, we fast during Ramadan.
And, the preferable way is to break your fast with dates.
So for as long as I can remember, it'’s been something that we eat whole, and also put into you know, desserts and, and use them in other ways.
MONA: I saw date cheesecake.
That looked very interesting to me.
ALYA: That does.
[laughs] ♪ So you actually came at a really exciting time.
We are harvesting!
Our crew'’s been on the trees working since January, from de-thorning to pollinating and then putting those- those bags to protect them.
And so now we'’re finally at the harvest stage, so we literally get to, you know, reap the benefit of our hard work.
They'’re gonna be shaking the bags, and whatever falls to the bottom of the bag is ready to be harvested.
♪ MONA: It reminds me of the story of Mary, in the Qur'’an, when she'’s sitting under the tree and she was in labor!
God says to her, "Shake the tree, and it will fall upon you.
The dates will fall upon you."
And she eats and it'’s like, comforting for her.
♪ What made you wanna get into farming and specifically dates?
That'’s so interesting!
ALYA: Yeah I think it was the quality of the dates from this area.
I feel like growing up I sort of just took '’em for granted.
I thought, "Well, you know, there'’s nice dates that grow in Arabia somewhere in the Gulf."
But realizing that something so pure and beautiful grows so close to my own home, MONA: Yeah.
ALYA: It just inspired me to- to- to see if I could make something out of this.
You know, starting a business in something that you have no experience in, is- is quite scary.
I had to build up the courage to take that step.
ALYA: So this is just fresh off the tree.
ALYA: They'’re a little dusty, but you can... MONA: Wow.
SEBASTIAN: Wow, thank you so much.
♪ SEBASTIAN: And how old are these trees?
ALYA: These trees are probably about 40 years old.
♪ MONA: Have you ever climbed the trees?
They won'’t let me.
[laughs] SEBASTIAN: Oh really?
ALYA: Every time I try to they, they'’re like, "No no no!
We'’ll do it!"
SEBASTIAN: Give it a couple more years, you'’ll be up there.
♪ MONA: She'’s just so inspiring, the fact that she just changed her life completely and was like, SEBASTIAN: Yeah.
MONA: "I wanna be a date farmer."
[Sebastian laughs] People are so cool.
♪ [wind gusting] ♪ SEBASTIAN: I wanted to read you this excerpt from Grapes of Wrath.
[road noises] "Highway 66 is the main migrant road.
"66, the long, concrete path across the country, "waving gently up and down on the map, "over the red lands and the gray lands, "twisting up into the mountains, [road noises] "crossing the Divide and down "into the bright and terrible desert, [road noises] "and across the desert to the mountains again, "and into the rich California valleys."
"66 is the mother road, the road of people in flight."
[indistinct chatter] "And here'’s a story you can hardly believe, "but it'’s true, and it'’s funny, and it'’s beautiful.
♪ "There was a family of 12 "and they were forced off the land, "they had no car.
"They built a trailer out of junk "and loaded it with their possessions.
"They pulled it to the side of 66 and waited, "and pretty soon a sedan picked them up.
"They got to California in two jumps.
"The man who pulled them fed them, and that'’s true.
"But how can such courage be, "and such faith in your own species?
"Very few things would teach such faith.
♪ "Strange things happened to the people in flight, "some bitterly cruel, and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever."
♪ ♪ MONA: We are in the home stretch!
But there'’s still such a richness to the landscape and the people here that we don'’t wanna rush it.
♪ There'’s a free clinic in San Bernardino that we decided to visit.
This is one of many Muslim free clinics around the US, and I'’m especially excited to see it because of my dad'’s legacy.
TALAT: Welcome to our clinic.
The name "Al Shifa" means healing in Islam.
We started in 1999.
We serve about 500 patients a month, uh 5,000 a year.
And I think up to now we have seen about 80,000 patients so far.
MONA: I grew up with a parent who was a doctor, and I know it'’s not an easy life.
But in all of that life and busyness, you still managed to create something that was about community and building something for the future.
[knocks on door] WOMAN: The volunteers are here.
TALAT: Oh great.
I wanted you to meet our volunteers who work for our clinic.
[speaking indistinctly] SEBASTIAN: As-salamu alaikum.
GROUP: As-salamu alaikum.
SEBASTIAN: We'’re taking this road trip and we heard about this clinic and we'’re just curious about the kind of work you all are doing here.
MAYA: I grew up in a medically underserved community.
And so, you know, growing up with people in my family as well who have had chronic illnesses, you really have an intimate relationship with the disparities in healthcare in the United States.
So one of the reasons I wanted to get into medicine in the first place was because I wanted to be a part of changing that.
SEBASTIAN: What kind of doctor do you wanna be?
MAYA: Um, I want to be a surgeon in the future.
SEBASTIAN: Surgeon, wow.
SEBASTIAN: Any other surgeons on the track?
MIRIAM: I wanna go to neurosurgery.
I'’m actually a Pre-P.A.
I just graduated UCSD.
SEBASTIAN: I think American Muslims have almost this desperation to have their stories told and to be seen for who they are!
MIRIAM: Something I wanna do is emphasize health education.
Both my parents came here from Lebanon and they don'’t realize the importance of getting checkups.
So I wanna make sure that underserved communities especially, go see doctors.
OMAR: You know, for me personally, I never wanted to be in medicine.
But, in our faith, in our faith tradition, it is important to give back to people, right?
OMAR: I just wanted to help people who, you know, for whatever reason can'’t afford a checkup, right?
SOHAIB: There'’s a verse in the Qur'’an, that saving a life is as if you'’re saving all of humanity.
♪ YUNUS: It'’s just a nice opportunity to potentially save all of humanity with just one person, you know?
Even just one person.
♪ OMAR: Ultimately, one of the biggest problems is accessibility.
The old system of putting brick and mortar, right, to build a hospital in a low-income area is just a obstacle.
But technology provides a great method of circumventing that obstacle.
OHAFI: Ever since I was a little kid, I'’ve wanted to be a scientist.
And because of robotics, I'’ve kind of found a passion for building and engineering, so I wanna get into that field and just, like, innovate the next generation of science and technology.
MAYA: A lot of people in the United States are struggling, especially when it comes to healthcare.
And the main goal is to support our communities.
NISAA: My hope is to see us, as Muslims, come together and make the difference in America.
MAYA: I think everybody can also agree with the idea that, um, you know, as great as a free clinic is and as helpful as it is to the community, there- they shouldn'’t have to exist.
The end goal is to create a system that allows people to seek health care without worrying about if they can even afford to walk out of the hospital.
SEBASTIAN: As we drove in, we were talking about, I forget who said this, but, that most people don'’t understand how expensive it is to be poor.
That to be poor in this country, you actually pay more money for things.
You pay more for rent, you pay more for your laundry because you'’re renting your apartment, you'’re paying per load.
MONA: Per- per item of food versus bulk.
SEBASTIAN: And you'’re talking about these systemic forces, not just, you know, that there'’s a value to saving one life, but there'’s also a value to seeing the system that you all are, you know, working under and working in.
♪ I think at times, when we'’ve met these different people, like, I feel kind of out of my league a little bit.
So I'’ve been appreciating the way you can kind of step up and fill that gap, to like, do good work in this life, you know?
Almost everybody we met has seen past some limitation.
[road noise] ♪ Maya Angelou said, "Human beings are more alike than unalike, "and what is true anywhere is true everywhere."
[whooshing sounds] It'’s been a long trip with lots to chew on.
♪ While I take some down time under the palm trees, Sebastian somehow has the energy to chaperone a kids'’ hike in the woods.
♪ I'’m also catching up with an old friend who I'’ve wanted to hug in person for a long time.
Here she comes...
MONA: Layla, Layla!
LAYLA: Oh my goodness!
MONA: Oh my God.
LAYLA: How are you?
MONA: So good to see you.
LAYLA: Oh my gosh.
♪ SEBASTIAN: Okay guys, I missed the lesson about the rattlesnake.
What are you supposed to do if you see a rattlesnake?
Do you remember?
SEBASTIAN: Tell me.
HUSNA: Do not go close to it.
SEBASTIAN: "Do not go close to it."
Do I hug it?
SEBASTIAN: Do I give it a high five?
SEBASTIAN: Do I kiss it?
HUSNA: No, it will bite you.
Let'’s catch up with these guys.
MONA: We'’ve been following each other for so long now and I feel like we'’ve never actually got a chance to sit down together.
LAYLA: No, we literally are either on the same productions or we'’re like, on Instagram.
LAYLA: How'’s the trip been?
It'’s been really, really good.
It'’s really the first time Sebastian and I have had a chance to spend time together since we got married and had kids, you know how that is.
LAYLA: What'’s been your favorite part?
MONA: You know what?
Honestly, like meeting the beautiful people along the way, like, just meeting sincere people who have a desire to make the world more beautiful.
♪ [splash] SEBASTIAN: Whoa!
Ooh nice throw!
[splash] Hey-ohhh, nice!
SYMA: The kids that we have here today are refugees from Afghanistan.
I don'’t know what they'’ve seen, and one of the young boys was telling me, "I don'’t have my parents.
"And so, you know, it doesn'’t matter what I do."
And it kind of shakes me a little bit.
SYMA: It ju- Yeah!
It makes me think about what we have and how blessed we are.
LAYLA: You and I both came to age during September 11th.
LAYLA: We are part of the community of women who rejected the narrative... MONA: Word.
LAYLA: That was cast upon us, and didn'’t represent a rapper, didn'’t represent somebody who'’s into skateboarding or fashion or technology.
And when we think about how much the landscape has shifted and how unextraordinary, at least I can speak for myself, I am now relative to the perception 10 years ago.
It'’s actually great to see!
[footsteps] ♪ SANA: Make a big semi -circle around me.
[child grunts] Bigger, bigger, bigger!
High-five, too slow!
Are we all good?
KHADEEJA: These kids have come from a war-torn country.
♪ Having them in a space where they feel comfortable, where they can sort of just be themselves, and to know that America is their home.
That we believe in them, and more important, we wanted to make sure that they all believe in themselves.
♪ LAYLA: I'’m a designer.
I'’m a product person, and I love it.
I love what I do!
It is the most challenging, incredible thing.
And probably eight years ago now, I met these fellows, these guys at MIT, and we started researching together, working on the mission of the perfect delivery, right?
So how do you use artificial intelligence, machine learning, to really automate scheduling for goods and services across the world?
How do you use historical data, real-time data to make these delivery processes perfect?
Logistics is the lifeblood of the city, right?
So these are really interesting problems and the impact of not solving them is like inefficiency, extra big carbon footprint.
MONA: And who does that fall on?
Marginalized, underserved communities.
LAYLA: There you go!
So, you guys raised how much for your startup?
MONA: Yeah, just 23- casual 23 million!
LAYLA: And now we have about 90 folks working on this problem.
KHADEEJA: Each one of these kids carries a dream.
SANA: What do you wanna do when you grow older?
HUSNA: I wanna do doctor!
SEBASTIAN: Awesome, what kinda doctor?
You wanna work with kids?
HUSNA: Every doctor!
SEBASTIAN: Every kind of medicine!
Tell me about yourself.
ANAHITA: Business girl.
SEBASTIAN: Business girl!
Tell me what kind of business you'’d like to have?
ANAHITA: I like to sell cars.
Do you like cars?
SEBASTIAN: I love cars too, yeah.
HENA: I want to do artist things.
SANA: Oh nice.
SEBASTIAN: You'’re in the perfect group to do artist things.
How about you?
SANA: That'’s what I used to wanna do when I was little.
Let'’s see this, flip it over.
So you have to flip it over and you have to smack my hands.
That'’s what you have to do, okay?
That'’s the game.
KHADEEJA: A big part is them feeling that this is home for them.
That they belong.
SANA: Too slow.
KHADEEJA: And that whatever they contribute is going to be valued.
♪ LAYLA: Why I'’m so compelled by your music and you, is because in many ways it'’s a reflection of me.
You'’re unapologetically Muslim, you'’re unapologetically American, you'’re unapologetically all of it.
You'’re like, "I'’m Mona Haydar.
"This is a talent I have.
"It'’s an interest of mine and I'’m going to pursue it."
MONA: I get messages, I get DMs all the time from women all over the world, saying, "Thank you."
I mean, I'’m gonna start crying, but that'’s all I can ever dream for, is somebody to look at me and say, "Oh, I can do that too."
MONA: You know?
And that sister-journey is all I have ever wanted.
♪ ♪ You got a body ♪ ♪ Where it'’s at ♪ ♪ It'’s a good body ♪ ♪ Believe that ♪ ♪ The body need love ♪ ♪ Now run it back ♪ ♪ Everybody a good body ♪ ♪ And that'’s facts ♪ ♪ You got a big body ♪ ♪ Small body ♪ ♪ You got a tall body, hairy body ♪ ♪ Brown body ♪ MONA: We'’re almost to LA, and of course, our last meet-up is with an actor.
AMIR: I didn'’t know where Floyd was staying at.
He was staying in Chicago, sometimes he was staying here, then he was staying over there, next time he be staying around the corner somewhere.
MAN: I told him wouldn'’t matter too much.
Seeing as how he weren'’t home.
AMIR: Welcome to A Noise Within theatre in Pasadena!
[all laugh] SEBASTIAN: Thank you!
AMIR: I rehearsed that like five times before I said it.
MONA: Oh my god.
[Sebastian laughs] SEBASTIAN: Thanks for having us.
MONA: That was like, legit.
SEBASTIAN: Thanks for meeting with us.
AMIR: Well thanks for being here.
SEBASTIAN: So what are you doing right now?
AMIR: So right now, I'’m in rehearsals for a show called Seven Guitars, by August Wilson.
August Wilson is a venerable American playwright.
His plays are often about Black people looking for self-determination and trying to further themselves to get to the next level.
But there'’s always something that'’s holding the characters back.
Seven Guitars takes place in the 1940s.
My particular character is the steadying force in the show that tries to provide perspective to the lead, who has huge aspirations, huge dreams, that ultimately take him down a dark path.
Now, I'’m trying to pull him back to the straighter path.
[whooshing sound] I was just thinking the same thing.
He almost make it where you wanna die, just to have somebody talk over you like that.
MAN: Sounds like he reading from the Bible even though he ain'’t?
I told him... AMIR: There'’s certain things that seem to inform August Wilson'’s works.
What strikes me as a throughline throughout all of his work, is that theme of self- determination for Black people.
In having your own and being able to elevate your own to the next level.
And the African-American Muslim experience is a push-pull whether you want it to be or not.
The world ends up trying to define who you are and what you are, what you'’re supposed to be.
My name, Amir Abdullah...
It sneaks up on some people.
♪ There was a time in my career when it was suggested to me to change my name.
♪ AMIR: Islam is extremely important to me, not to be flaunting it or flouting it.
It'’s- the small things for me are the things that I hope that people would notice as Muslim or define as being Islamic.
It'’s not huge sweeping gestures.
Uniquely in the theater, there'’s very little presence that gets a full-featured representation of Islam on the stage.
SEBASTIAN: And what is out there is pretty problematic.
And, that'’s what all of us as Muslim artists are up against on the external.
But from the internal, even harder!
You ask yourself, who am I?
And, as an African- American Muslim, your Muslimness gets questioned, your Blackness gets questioned, your Americanness gets questioned.
It comes from everywhere.
MONA: You'’re never enough.
AMIR: You'’re never enough!
You'’re never enough.
And I was thinking about myself, you know, and- and the people who have come before us, how we'’re really just, like, standing on their shoulders.
Like, I grew up listening to Native Deen.
I don'’t know.
AMIR: We all did, of course!
♪ Come on ♪ ♪ This is my faith, my voice ♪ ♪ My faith, my voice ♪ MONA: I mean, just listening to them rap about being Muslim, like I'’m- I feel like I'’m truly standing on their shoulders.
You know, like they- they bore such a huge brunt of what it was to be a Muslim artist.
And so many of these young kids just want a mentor.
They just want somebody to connect with, somebody who maybe looks at them with an eye of understanding or compassion.
We just need to be affirming and saying, like, "You'’re good!
Because the whole world is out here telling them they'’re bad, they'’re terrorists, they'’re this, they'’re that.
As a parent, I know that if I don'’t use my voice, if I don'’t do that work, then it falls to the next generation.
We need all hands on deck.
We need everybody doing their absolute best, stepping into their utmost purpose.
AMIR: That'’s what I hope for you.
I hope you get to continue to define what you want to be.
And that other people are inspired by that, because just you is always going to be enough.
AMIR: That'’s it.
♪ I hope you have a wonderful rest of your journey and find all of the things that you'’re looking for.
SEBASTIAN: Santa Monica, end of the trail!
AMIR: I hope that you'’ve learned something.
AMIR: And that you'’re taking something away to continue to do what you already have been doing.
SEBASTIAN: We'’ve just been shown such generosity.
And that generosity makes me want to be more generous.
It is easy to put up barriers.
♪ So I'’m feeling inspired to be better, and be more kind.
♪ MONA: Wooo!
♪ One time somebody asked me about, "What is it to be enlightened in your religion."
This trip has taught me that it'’s actually the mundane.
If you can meet every moment fully present with gratitude, ♪ [Mona shouts] grateful for what you do, grateful to have a job, a career, something that feeds you, something that nourishes your spirit, your soul, and also serves your community.
[Mona shouts] For me, that'’s enlightenment.
That'’s really showing up with true gratitude and saying, "Every breath is a gift.
Every moment is a gift."
♪ I'’m here for it.
♪ ["American Dream" by Steeltown] ♪ ♪ Woo ♪ ♪ ♪ I found a place in a little old town ♪ ♪ Just off of Highway 19 ♪ ♪ My pride and joy is parked in the yard ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ Yeah, and I'’ve worked real hard ♪ ♪ Since I was 17 ♪ ♪ And this is where the good times start ♪ ♪ Living the American ♪ ♪ Living the American ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ The American dream ♪ ♪ ♪ The American dream ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ The American dream ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ Oh yeah, the American dream ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ Ooh yeah, the American dream ♪ ♪ Living the American dream ♪ ♪ Oh yeah ♪ [vehicle engine rumbles] ♪ MONA: To order The Great Muslim American Road Trip on DVD, visit shopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.