Thursday, September 11, 2008

If You Can Spare 10 Seconds & $10

Please help us support a Muslim professional in the area of film-making.  Lena Khan, the Producer of "A Land Called Paradise," needs financial support in carrying out her next project targeted towards a series of Obama political commercials based on the popular Get a Mac ads.

Many filmmakers have given up early in their careers due to lack of support and funding. If we want to have Muslims in film and in the media, it is important to invest now in their careers.

How You Can Help:  1) Lena still needs approximately $1500. If 150 give $10 (or 75 give $20) we'll have that amount in no time. Of course, given that donations have been sparse, any amount you would like to donate would certainly be appreciated. 

Ways To Donate:  1) Either PayPal the amount to or 2) email stating your pledge amount and requesting mailing instructions.

For further details about Lena's accomplishments and a personal email from her about the project, please feel free to read her email below.  


  • Grand Prize winner of the "One Nation, Many Voices" film contest for the film, "A Land Called Paradise." The film has been seen by over 500,000 people online, licensed by the State Department, and distributed to over 20 foreign embassies. It has affected thousands, helped heal rifts in families, and stimulated discussion across the world.
  • Featured in USA Today, The Riverside Press Enterprise, The State Department journal, and other news outlets.
  • Graduated top of her class at UCLA Film school and graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with degrees in political science and history
  • Winner of CAIR's "Activist of the Year" award, honored as the "Emerging Filmmaker to Watch" at MPAC's 2008 Hollywood Bureau Media Awards, winner of Sony Entertainment Television's South Asian Excellence Award in Entertainment.
  • Previously worked at Valhalla Motion Pictures and Participant Productions on Oscar-winning feature films
  • To read a feature article about Lena: Telling America's Story

From: Lena Khan [

As-salamu `alaykum.

Not too long after the immense success--by the support of the Muslim community and the grace of God--of my film, "A Land Called Paradise," I am now hoping for your help on a new project. 

The new project is a set of 10-12 Obama commercials, modeled after the immensely successful and entertaining "Mac vs. PC" commercials. The series will be released approximately the first week of October and requires $3,000.

The commercials will help give me the training and exposure (effective and entertaining political videos spread virally online and have often been given exposure on major television networks) needed to further my career. They allow me a quality project with which to put in my reel/portfolio.

I have dedicated my entire career to making films about social issues and injustices that need exposure. Many inspired filmmakers have seen their careers fail because of lack of money to continue their training and career path. If the Muslim community wants to have Muslims in film, we ask for donors like you to invest in our careers.

On a personal note, I continually pray for everyone who has thus far helped me in my career as I cannot proceed without it. May you be rewarded for your support.

Jazakum Allahu khayran,

Lena Khan


Anonymous said...

man, werent the emails enough...?

Zahra Billoo said...

No, the emails weren't enough. :)

This sister is working on furthering a career that will directly benefit the Ummah. That's bigger than a career that will directly benefit individuals or herself - her work will help all of us.

This is us being proactive. :)

Anonymous said...

she wants training and exposure, she wants to further HER career. well golly, she should earn money to further it herself. i don't go around asking people to help put me through school or help pay for training for my job.

Affad Shaikh said...

its not "being PROACTIVE" i call it slacktivism. This sence that i can sit back and read something and then with a click of the mouse "change the world" yeh, really being proactive.

Granted its better then the apathy from the 90's up to aaah, i dont know maybe a couple years ago, it still is a very selfish sense of having done something when in fact its quite close to nothing...

And I agree with anonymous #2

Marya Bangee said...


No, I agree with Zahra.

The power that videos such as these have is enormous. "A Land Called Paradise" was an amazing tool inside and outside the Muslim community.

Just like we would donate to other daw`ah or pr efforts (like CAIR, or WhyIslam's NYC effort), this is an opportunity for us to support another intiative that will bring the community benefit - a Muslim film maker. It costs money to make films, ecspecially those of high quality.

We've got to start thinking outside the box. :)

Affad Shaikh said... you think thinking outside the box is something that should be done on the expense of other people's wallets?

I mean, this isnt a big thing for me. I like her videos. I support her work. I was posting, voting and advertising like an insane man.

But SEE whats crazy is that i received this message via email several times, and its so sad to see it just pasted here again and that we are having such a tremendous conversation over such a thing...I do think we can live without being harassed and given such false self righteous excuses about being "proactive"- that isnt all that "out of the box"- give me something interesting...(while i keep digging myself in a hole)

Anonymous said...


What's wrong with helping a Muslim filmmaker advance in her career, especially as it relates to a positive contribution by providing a Muslim voice* here?

*a large void with lots of work still needed to fill.

Even though the means of support at this point (ie, monetary assistance) is not original, we would be supporting an effort that would use creativity and outside-of-the-box ways to strengthen the Muslim voice.

Being an element of support for such efforts is proactive. The degree at which the support is provided or how it is carried out is a measure of how proactive one is. Nonetheless, it's a step and shouldn't be belittled.

Some of these comments seem pretty short-sighted. It makes me sad to think that our community is not only sluggish to respond to such great causes, but twisted in the interpretation of such appeals (probably due to an outlook tainted by selfishness.)

And yes, it is sad that this even needs to be discussed at this tangent.

Yasmeen Noor said...

as-salamu `alaykum,

I have rarely before been known enough to be the subject of debate, so I apologize if my request and its purpose were vague.

To become a successful filmmaker, there's a common procedure: make A LOT of films/videos first. The purposes of these are exposure, networking, expanding one's reel, and, most importantly, training. It is rare to ever find a filmmaker capable of making a quality feature without first making several projects, some of which may not even be very good (see the earlier short films of some famous directors to know what I mean).

These films require money. A quality short film, one that can even compete in festivals, is usually around $5,000 to $40,000. If filmmakers had to pay for their own films, aspiring filmmakers would only be able to make perhaps one film a year. They would be considered a joke and would take a decade to make a feature film.

Independent filmmakers nearly always solicit private funds for money. Even Michael Wolfe, maker of our most famous documentaries on Islam, fundraised heavily for his films. Spike Lee, in making his first films, scoured his poor neighborhood asking for donations. Since then, he has heavily impacted the perception of various issues and groups.

I am dedicating my career to making feature about social issues and using the films as a voice for the Muslim people, in serving whatever their needs are. I make no profit and all funds--that I have won, collected previously, or am collecting now, go toward past or future projects (except for $2,000+ in the last film that went, as I had promised, to Islamic Relief). For "Bassem is Trying," I even paid back all the private donors who would accept the money. I live with 7 other girls in a 2 bedroom apartment to save money...I hope it's clear that I'm not squandering any funds on myself.

It is for these reasons above that I hope you do not fault me for soliciting donations. And while it seems odd to be financing somebody's career, this is conventional for filmmakers and is also done often when that career is dedicated to fulfill needs of the Muslim community; many organizations, for instance, solicit donations in order to sponsor people to train for political careers. If I were making money off of the films or off of my career, I would not feel as comfortable asking for donations. I pray Allah accepts all of our efforts.

If you have even the slightest question, you may email me at

Jazakum Allahu khayran,


Affad Shaikh said...

so where do you stand? No updates?

Mohammad Mertaban said...

It saddens me to think that some Muslims in our community still live in the Stone Age, where they don't have foresight to see the potential of our community and its constituents.

If you don't know what is going on with Lena's career, you should sincerely read up on how many accolades & how much recognition she has gotten for several of her films, especially "The Land Called Paradise." This video has gotten over half a million views on YouTube itself, not to mention the number of appearances it has made at several film festivals, schools, conferences, summits, meetings, MSAs, etc. The reach of the Media is endless: it is always there.

If we (Muslims) ever want to move ahead and grow as an intellectual, political and proactive community, we have to venture into areas that will give us this exposure and recognition.

Therefore, when you donate to a unique cause where VERY few Muslims have made it this far, then it is not only be something we should support, but it becomes our community's responsibility to back them up and support them. She represents us, she represents Muslims in the US.

If you have any doubts about anything, I would highly highly encourage you to get to know Lena as a person and to see how amazingly unique she is from her character, to her knowledge (Islamically as well as academically, not that to two are mutually exclusive, but you know what I mean), to her kindness, and her generosity. You can contact her at the email provided in her previous post.

I think that people who have been hostile with their posts owe Lena an apology for saying the things that they said. If you want to provide an opinion about something, please make sure it is backed up with the right sources and that you are able to fully stand behind your opinion. None of you know Lena and know her work enough to be able to judge that she is going out to simply "solicit money from the community."

Enough said.

With sadness & disappointment I sign this,
Mohammad Mertaban