Meet the Qabbanis


The characters of Mosque Alert introduce themselves in their own words by telling us a bit about who they are.

Meet the Qabbanis, a Syrian American Muslim family living in Naperville, Illinois. 

From left to right: Rom Barkhordar as Tawfiq Qabbani, Rula Gardenier as Aminah Qabbani, Sahar Dika as Samar Qabbani, and Andrew L. Saenz as Farid Qabbani

From left to right: Rom Barkhordar as Tawfiq Qabbani, Rula Gardenier as Aminah Qabbani, Sahar Dika as Samar Qabbani, and Andrew L. Saenz as Farid Qabbani


  • ABOUT ME: If there’s a lucrative deal in the making, I want in on the action. Americans and Arabs.  When it comes to making money, we speak the same language. 
  • ABOUT MY COMMUNITY:  If there is one thing that unites the Muslims of Naperville, it’s our love for Naperville. For what is the Al Andalus Library and Community Center if not a love letter, our way of giving back to the town that have given us everything. Opportunities, great schools, beautiful parks, a safe environment in which to raise our children. 
  • ABOUT AL ANDALUS:  This town hall meeting is going to be a game changer for us within Naperville. It’ll put the narrative back in our hands. It’s our chance to demonstrate that we belong, we fit in.  But I’m under a tremendous amount of pressure right now. The last thing my family needs is people in the Muslim community whispering about my kids. 


  • ABOUT ME: I’m a fashion designer. My philosophy isn’t to pair a headscarf with an outfit, no, it’s to build an outfit around the headscarf. The hijab is my centerpiece. My piece de resistance. My Muslim sisters, we need to feel good about ourselves. Confident. Attractive. Powerful. 
  • ABOUT MY COMMUNITY:  Of course Naperville is my home.  I’ve spent the better part of my life here. But Syria is where I grew up. It’s where Tawfiq and I got married. A big part of my heart is still there. 
  • ABOUT AL ANDALUS: A lot of our people, I’m sorry, they’re a mess. All the backbiting? The disunity. ‘This one’s not Muslim enough.’ ‘This one’s too Muslim.’ ‘This one’s not even a real Muslim.’ We’re going to need to lay a few ground rules about who’s allowed to speak at the town hall. First off, no thick accents. Only people who speak intelligible English and understand American culture.


  • ABOUT ME: You want a Muslim extremist? Forget those guys with the beards. I’m a Muslim extremist. Me. I’m an extremist for equality. I’m an extremist for feminism, for inclusion, for democracy, for art, poetry, literature. That’s Muslim extremism. 
  • ABOUT MY COMMUNITY: I’ve always been this big defender of Naperville. Especially when people describe it as insular and racist. But right now I need distance from this town. It’s feeling really toxic. Plus being near DePaul is so much fun in the summer. 
  • ABOUT AL ANDALUS: I want a progressive mosque! All I’ve been hearing for ten years now is “baby steps, Samar, baby steps.” Men and women can’t even pray together. We’re stuck in the back behind a partition. It’s degrading. I want an egalitarian, feminist, LGBT friendly masjid. A social justice masjid. That’s my Islam. 


  • ABOUT ME: You know what? I am proud. I’m a proud Arab American. But Muslim American? That pistol’s loaded. The word “Muslim,” for me, it’s weighed down with a whole lot of baggage; stuff that I can’t relate to, that I don’t agree with, and that frankly, I find embarrassing. 
  • ABOUT MY COMMUNITY: You mean we’re not the center of the universe? It’s so easy to get all caught up in this Naperville bubble, thinking everything’s so normal. Life’s good. Until people start hating on me and my family.    
  • ABOUT AL ANDALUS: Just because we’re Muslims doesn’t mean people can’t ask questions. There are legitimate reasons people fear Muslims. Especially now. Besides, the mosque isn’t for young people.  It’s for immigrants, like mom and dad.  It connects them to Syria, to their memories, their childhoods.