On a Wing and A Prayer Premiere

On Thursday, May 18, 2017, the film On a Wing and a Prayer was played in Robertson Hall at Butler University. The film, part of the A New View Film Series, is an appropriately amusing documentary following an American Muslim, Monem Salam, as he works to fulfill his childhood dream of learning how to fly. The film shows us not only his story, but also his wife Iman, and their community, as they reconcile the freedom to pursue a dream with the prejudice against the ‘Other’ that pervades American culture.

Throughout the film, we are shown the unique but relatable dynamics of the Salam family as they balance work, travel, parenting, and flight school. There were moments when both Monem and Iman expressed feelings of disbelief and frustration when they were singled out because of their faith. Even so, they never compromised their integrity in an effort to appear more ‘normal’. This is especially relevant to American society today, as we are often confronted with issues of intolerance and racism. Not only is it is an extraordinary act of bravery to wade against the tide of ignorance with your head held high as Monem and Iman have done, but they did it with a smile.

Monem and Iman told a story that resonated with many members of the audience. During the post-film discussion, moderated by Managing Director of the Desmond Tutu Center Waseema Ali, many shared their own experiences of prejudice based on their skin color, religion, and gender. The common thread that linked each story from the audience to the film was the will to persevere in the face of adversity, be it by learning how to fly, smiling at strangers who seem perplexed by a hijab, or working to bridge ignorance by sharing their culture with others. On a Wing and a Prayer is a story about an American family trying to do all of the above because, like so many others, they have the right to pursue the American dream.

We can all learn from the spirit of optimism and acceptance demonstrated by the flight school that didn’t hesitate to accept Monem as a pupil, especially when compared to the first school he applied to that responded by immediately informing the FBI. While many people remain suspicious of the “Other”, On a Wing and a Prayer provides a reminder that there are many people who welcome strangers without a second thought. This welcoming nature is what has made America the land of opportunity for so many people and is a characteristic component of American culture that each of us must continue to nurture so that everyone can pursue their right to make dreams come true on a wing and a prayer.

By: Corbin Panturad

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