MPAC Attends DHS Meeting| Hollywood Bureau Holds Actor's Workshop| “Safe Spaces” Presented in Denver

November 16, 2014

1) Engagement is Working, MPAC Attends DHS Meeting

This week, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati attended a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley in California. Johnson met with American Muslim leaders who have raised concerns about government surveillance, initiatives to combat extremism, and religious profiling. Al-Marayati said that the meeting "signals an improvement in the community’s relationship with law enforcement that marks a fresh start from a decade ago when surveillance and infiltration bred distrust."

"Remember where we were 10 years ago when we had sting operations, when we had so many profiling issues? I think, at least, Secretary Johnson is saying those days are behind us — we're working toward engaging communities."

2) Hollywood Bureau Holds Actor’s Workshop for Rising American Muslim Stars

On Sunday November 9, our Hollywood Bureau held an actor's intensive attended by American Muslim actors looking to gain insight on how to further succeed in their careers. The four-hour intensive was taught by veteran acting coach Scott Sedita and casting director, turned theatrical agent, Mariko Ballentine.

During the first session, Sedita, who has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry and helped launch the careers of many of today’s top stars, including Courteney Cox (“Friends”), Matt LeBlanc (“Friends”), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU”) and Vincent D’Onofrio (“Law & Order: CI”), shared the keys to becoming a successful actor and remaining at the top of the game. He addressed how to deal with the very real obstacles of fear, distractions and self-doubt that often interfere with an actor’s ability to achieve optimal success.

The afternoon session was lead by theatrical agent, Mariko Ballentine, who worked as a commercial casting director for over 30 years before moving on to represent actors. Ballentine shared insight on how to make a good and lasting impression during an audition. She also evaluated the participants' headshots and offered valuable insight and wisdom on how to deal with the tough reality of rejection, type casting and stagnation in their careers.

If you are interested in learning more about MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau and learning about the Bureau’s opportunities, please contact Deana Nassar, MPAC Hollywood Liaison, at (323) 258-6722 or

MPAC's Hollywood Bureau serves as a bridge between the Muslim community and the entertainment industry. The Bureau is responsible for advancing Muslim American perspectives in the entertainment industry by serving as an information clearinghouse in Islam for the Hollywood community. The Bureau also works with the Muslim American community to nurture creative talent and connect aspiring Muslim filmmakers, writers and actors with Hollywood professionals.

3. Salam in Denver

This week, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati delivered a presentation on MPAC Safe Spaces Initiative at the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties town hall event at the Colorado Muslim Society Abu Baker Mosque in Denver, CO.

4. "I Am Change" Goes to Atlanta

In a first, we held our "I Am Change" workshop in Roswell, GA at the Roswell Community Masjid. Washington, DC, office Director Haris Tarin and Policy Analyst Saif Inam presented to the community best practices on civic engagement and framing issues. The day was followed with meetings with Atlanta leaders in discussing opportunities for establishing Atlanta as a leader in American Muslim engagement. The seminar was the first step in establishing an MPAC-RCM partnership. In the future, we hope that we can continue to be of service to the Atlanta-area Muslim community so that their voices are amplified.

5. White House Vigil

This week, MPAC joined a DC Christian group in holding a Christian-Muslim interfaith candlelight vigil in front of The White House. Participants shared their sincere thoughts and prayers concerning the brutalities that the world is witnessing in Iraq and Syria, particularly against women and minorities. 

6. Young Leader Webinar

Over twenty MPAC Young Leader alumni attended our first Young Leaders Professional Webinar. MPAC Young Leaders heard from professionals in the media, government and Hollywood industries. Speakers included former New York Times First Amendment Fellow Nabiha Syed; former public affairs spokesperson of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and MPAC Young Leader alumni Aidan Ali-Sullivan; NBC News Producer Sharaf Mowjood; and Comedic TV Screenwriter Sameer Gardezi.

“Never be afraid to follow your passion and never fear taking risks. The worst thing that could happen to you is being rejected, which is something we all need to learn how to go through,” said Syed.

Participants had the opportunity to learn from young professionals and receive advice on how they can break into their fields of interest.

Mowjood of NBC News said, “If Muslims Americans wish to change their narrative, then we need to stop going on TV and talking about ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Instead, we should go on TV to talk about food and sleep.”

7. #MPAC14 Convention Right Around the Corner!

Our annual convention is less than one month away! The early-bird deal ends on Nov. 29, so buy your tickets today. The #MPAC14 Convention will help orient us towards better policies, better understanding of current issues and better ways of engaging our communities. America needs us! Visit our convention website and buy your tickets today. 

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