Couple travels Route 66 for 'Great Muslim American Road Trip' - Albuquerque Journal

Couple travels Route 66 for ‘Great Muslim American Road Trip’

Sebastian Robins and Mona Haydar traveled through Albuquerque and New Mexico as part of their journey on “The Great Muslim American Road Trip.” (Courtesy of Adam McCall)

The American story is the Muslim story. The Muslim story is the American story.

This is what Alex Kronemer hopes to educate viewers as they watch “The Great Muslim American Road Trip,” on PBS.

“Muslims came to America for the same reason that others came,” Kronemer says. “They all wanted a better way of life.”

Kronemer is the executive producer behind the series.

The three-part documentary series follows a young Muslim American couple – rapper Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian Robins – as they explore America’s “Mother Road” and its surrounding Muslim communities on a 2,500-mile drive from Chicago to Los Angeles. The second episode airs at 9 p.m. Monday, July 12, on New Mexico PBS, and it features the couple traveling along Route 66 from Tulsa, Oklahoma through Albuquerque. It is available to stream on the PBS Video app.

Although they are practicing Muslims – Haydar is Syrian American and Robins converted after meeting Haydar – the couple, like most Americans, are unfamiliar with Islam’s deep roots in America.

This road trip is an opportunity for them not only to experience the breathtaking panoramas and iconic roadside attractions that have made Route 66 famous, but also to learn more about the history of their faith and what it means to be Muslim in America today.

Alex Kronemer is the executive producer of “The Great Muslim American Road Trip.” (Courtesy of Adam McCall)

“PBS is excited to share Mona and Sebastian’s journey along iconic Route 66, highlighting the diversity of Muslims in the United States,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President of Multiplatform Programming & Head of Development at PBS. “Muslim culture has always been a part of American history, a fact that (the series) explores throughout the heartland and its vibrant Muslim communities.”

Making more than a dozen stops, the couple meets authors, entrepreneurs, students and others, including Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali in Chicago; Bosnian immigrants and restaurant owners Sulejman and Ermina Grbic in St. Louis; jazz musician Leon Rollerson in Tulsa; and award-winning actor and writer Amir Abdullah in Pasadena, California.

Their conversations uncover the deep roots and impact of Islam and Muslims in American history and culture.

By the time they reach the West Coast, the couple have a better understanding of themselves, their relationship and the centuries-long Muslim experience in America.

“Who knew that one of the first non-Indigenous people to set foot in North America was a Moroccan explorer or that a Syrian camel driver helped survey the very road that has provided millions of American tourists their kicks on Route 66?” Kronemer says. “It was an amazing and always-surprising experience to join hip-hop sensation Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian Robins as they explored both their Muslim roots and Route 66. People will never view Muslim Americans the same way again.”

Kronemer says he’s traveled around the United States and visited almost every state.

While visiting these cities and towns, he would often see a mosque where he met Muslims.

“I started to think about telling the story,” he says. “Every stop that we made on this journey, we would hear many stories. We started to see how the Muslim story is woven into the American fabric of life.”

While Kronemer also learned a lot during the filming, he was also overseeing the entire production.

“We had nine different camera platforms,” he says. “There were cameras set up in side the car. There were times we didn’t film because the trip took too long. We also had two cameras at each of our stops. Then there was a drone team capturing beauty shots. We could have made a 12-hour long series. The three hours covers the story well. We cover 3,000 miles of road and it moves pretty fast.”

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