OAKLAND -- The burning of a mosque in Yuba City and that community's response to the hate crime are the subject of a Oakland filmmaker's documentary airing on PBS stations this month.

The half-hour film "An American Mosque" recounts the 1994 arson, largely unreported by mainstream news outlets, that burned the Islamic Center in a rural Northern California town to the ground.

It will be shown at 8:30 a.m. July 19 on the KQED World channel.

The center, spiritual home to a multigenerational Muslim community, "was successfully rebuilt through determination, unity and support from community members of all faiths," in the description of filmmaker David Washburn.

"At its core, this is a story about empathy," said Washburn, who produced and directed the film. "I want viewers to make a genuine connection with the film's characters, to care for them. Why? Because there are so many messages out there telling people to fear Islam and to distance themselves from Muslims."

Airings on PBS stations started this week, timed to fall during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan from June 28 through July 28.

Washburn is an award-winning filmmaker based in Oakland and also did projects at the Regional Oral History Office at UC Berkeley, including interviews related to the World War II shipyards in Richmond.

He says he has a personal tie to the Yuba City arson because B'nai Israel, the Sacramento synagogue he attended growing up, was firebombed in 1999.


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"'An American Mosque' provides a valuable look through the eyes of one community of people who join together to overcome hate," writes the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This film beautifully demonstrates the story of triumph, hope and activism that followed a painful act of religious intolerance. (It is) a valuable resource for reducing prejudice and improving intergroup relations."

In addition to the television showings, the film can also be streamed for free online through July 28 at www.anamericanmosque.com. The website also has details about the documentary and a list of airings.