THE STRANGERS – Film Preview with Q&A
The compelling true story of one of Britain’s earliest Muslim convert communities.
Join us at 7:00pm on Friday 22nd August @RumisCave as we screen a short preview of the upcoming film THE STRANGERS and host a Q&A with the director and some members of the community from the film.
London in the late sixties – a hive of spiritual and social activity, with as many paths on offer as there were people – Guru Maharishi, Shree Ragneesh, Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation and all other manner of Eastern Mysticism.
Amidst all this, a small but steady stream of young English men and women testified that “there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger”, and with that became Muslim. ‘For the first time in the history of England’, they proclaimed, ‘there is an indigenous and unified Muslim community of men, women and children.’ Their aim? ‘To work for the establishment of Islam in England’, and to establish an ‘environment in which the life-structure of Islam can be experienced and learned’.
The community was the first of its kind in Britain, and pioneered traditional Sufism as a social reality in English society. Having stumbled upon Islam, a profound change had taken place for these individuals that went far beyond the psychedelic experience of the time. Many of its members were artists and musicians; the group included Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, Martin Stone and Ian Whiteman of Mighty Baby, filmmaker Jack Bond, 60’s photographer Peter Sanders and the Californian Beat poet Daniel Moore.
And as well as inviting Westerners to Islam, the community had a broader societal influence that can be seen to this day. Famously, Eric Clapton was inspired to write the song ‘Layla’ after a member of the community gave him the Persian love story ‘Layla and Majnun’; an allegory of man’s longing for the Divine. Less known is the fact that George Lucas spent time with the community while researching for Star Wars.
Praying in Hyde Park, wearing robes and turbans on the London Underground; a strange sight to behold indeed. This is a film about a group of people who felt estranged from mainstream society and instead found solace in the strangest of places. As the famous saying of the Prophet Muhammad reads:
‘ISLAM BEGAN AS A STRANGE THING, AND WILL COME THUS AGAIN, AS IT WAS AT THE BEGINNING. BLESSED, THEREFORE, ARE THE STRANGERS.’
Meanwhile, in the Black urban archipelago of South London, a group of young West Indians were to have their very own appointment with Islam after various brushes with different Black Power movements.
They were carried on a wave of Afro-centrism which transcended barriers of language, nationality and distance between peoples of African descent, articulated with fiery intelligence by radical figures such as Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka and Angela Davis. However, an incipient Islam was also near at hand, running like an electric current beneath the surface of these movements. The trend, which had begun amongst ‘Beat Generation’ Black artists and musicians such as Art Blakey, of confessing Islam outright or declaring their affinity with the Muslim religion, had by the 1960’s caught up with other iconic figures including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cliff, the Last Poets, etc.
None of this was lost on the young West Indians in London, determined to recover pride in their identities and searching for new spiritual, cultural and political directions. Taking inspiration from the heroic defiance of the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, came as naturally to them then as their sense of belonging to the Ummah (community) of Islam would become later.
Join us on Friday 22nd August @RumisCave, 7:00pm as we screen a short preview of the upcoming film and host a Q&A with the director and some members of the community from the film.