Show documenting Muslim American couple's trip on Route 66 to be screened in Joplin

·3 min read

Jun. 21—A new series that will air on PBS next month will feature Route 66 as experienced by a young Muslim American couple, and the city of Joplin is set to make an appearance in the first episode.

"The Great Muslim American Road Trip" features Mona Haydar, a Syrian American, and her husband, Sebastian Robins, who converted to Islam after meeting his wife. The road trip is an opportunity for the couple to discover the historic Mother Road and also learn more about their faith and what it means to be Muslim in America today, officials with the production said.

"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 and head of development at PBS, in a statement. "Muslim culture has always been a part of American history, a fact that 'The Great Muslim American Road Trip' explores throughout the heartland and its vibrant Muslim communities."

The first episode of the three-part series will premiere at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, on PBS, and the PBS Video app. Titled "Life is a Highway: Chicago to Joplin, Missouri," the episode includes footage of the couple's visit to Joplin, including a trip to Mercy Park and conversations with Joplin's Muslim community about the aftermath of the 2011 tornado.

Ozarks Public Television will offer a free screening of that episode from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Joplin, 1805 W. 32nd St. Haydar and Robins will attend the screening virtually, giving attendees the opportunity to ask questions about their experiences.

"We're thrilled to bring our viewers this fresh look at Route 66, an iconic national treasure that runs right through our backyard," said Rachel Knight, general manager of Ozarks Public Television, in a statement. "It's one of those rare opportunities to see something very familiar through a new lens. The show is a great example of public television's mission to reach and reflect all Americans, and we are delighted that Joplin is a featured stop on the trip. I hope folks will join us for this sneak peek at the series."

Throughout their road trip, the couple also meet Muhammad Ali's daughter, Maryam Ali, in Chicago; Bosnian immigrants and restaurant owners Sulejman and Emmina Grbic in St. Louis; jazz musician Leon Rollerson in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and award-winning actor and writer Amir Abdullah in Pasadena, California, PBS officials said. By the time they end their road trip, the couple will have a better understanding of themselves, their relationship and the 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?" said Alex Kronemer, director and producer of the series, in a statement. "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."