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Anisa Mehdi
Anisa Mehdi makes films and reports news on religion and the arts. She's making her third film on the Hajj pilgrimage now from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Anisa's life and work are enriched by great educations at Wellesley College and the Journalism School at Columbia University plus a loving family. Career credits include CBS News, Nightline, National Geographic, New Jersey Network, NPR, the BBC, Frontline, and lots of lectures at home and abroad.

Entries by Anisa Mehdi

21st Century Abolitionist

(0) Comments | Posted February 11, 2016 | 10:08 AM

The choir sang "Amazing Grace." One congregational hymn was Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," and the other, "When Israel Was in Egypt's Land (Go Down Moses)." The perfect musical background to a sermon on slavery. But there was no preaching about the benefits of the 13th Amendment. This was...

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Questioning Saudi Control of Mecca

(10) Comments | Posted January 28, 2016 | 3:05 PM

As the world braces for what may be fresh terror attacks by Islamic State, Muslim scholars, clerics and lay people are speaking up about troubles within the house of Islam. The culturally diverse and decentralized Muslim populations of the 21st-century are dealing with the implications of not having a single...

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Black Ribbon in the Balsam

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 4:11 PM

It was my dad's idea to snake a black ribbon up through our Christmas tree; mom agreed it was fitting. The satiny strip wound through the balsam branches, just close enough to the trunk to hold shape and just far out enough to shimmer among the colored lights and homemade...

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Why Is It So Hard?

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2013 | 9:13 AM


It's time for a pause in looking at the rituals of Hajj and their spiritual impact on pilgrims to consider how this phenomenon is reported. This is the largest annual gathering of people on the planet. The most diverse accumulation...

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Sayee: Woman's Work

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2013 | 6:07 PM

October 11, 2013

By walking around the Ka'aba seven times pilgrims follow the footsteps of Abraham/Ibrahim, the acclaimed prophet of monotheism. Ibrahim built up this symbolic house of the One God with his son Ishmael/Ismail according to scripture. And God told Abraham to call people to come and worship at...

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The First Tawaf

(3) Comments | Posted October 21, 2013 | 7:22 PM

When you see people circling the Ka'aba it may look like a swarm, a school of fish, a galaxy swirling its way counterclockwise ... just because. From overhead it's a maelstrom that never sinks into the sea. It's a powerful, living organism, a community of Babel, in which individuals experience...

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Do You Speak Muslim?

(6) Comments | Posted October 15, 2013 | 7:08 PM

The nurse who gave the meningitis vaccine asked where I was going. "Mexico?" she wondered. "India?" These places were just names to her; she'd never left the United States.

"Saudi Arabia," I said, "I'm making a film about a pilgrimage called the Hajj."

Into her blank stare I continued....

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Hajj Blog: Goodbye Medina, On To Mecca

(19) Comments | Posted October 13, 2013 | 7:01 AM

"Remember," said Ismail Fenni, co-leader of the Islamic Society of Boston's hajj group, "do your shopping in Medina. Buy gifts for your family in Medina. Change money in Medina. Because when you get to Mecca you need to turn your attention fully to the practice and performance of the pilgrimage."

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Lessons From Uhud

(6) Comments | Posted October 8, 2013 | 8:49 PM

The city of Medina is cool and calm, a gentle beginning for pilgrims making the Hajj. Here people enjoy daytime temperatures in the 80's and 90's; regular breezes tickle the air under long dresses and refresh faces tightly confined by headscarves. It's green. Built up around an original agricultural community...

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Landing in the Kingdom

(1) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 3:24 PM

The rain was torrential and the sun blazed through cloudy skies the day before I flew off to Saudi Arabia. It was an omen of good for this challenging film shoot. Rain was rushing, abundant, provocative, urging my creative juices to flow. Sun smiled possibilities for success. It was as...

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