Once Suspected as a Terrorist, Later Attained Top Secret Clearance, Now an Emerging Successful Movie Director: The Story of Khalid Abdulqaadir

This is story of a young man named Khalid Abdulqaadir who was born on September 3, 1982 in Wichita, KS. His father Mujahid, was a salesman at AT&T and his mother Tina, a nurse. The family moved to Kansas City, MO shortly before his second birthday where tragedy struck, as Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tina passed two years after her diagnoses causing Mujahid to move Khalid and his brother Muhammad to St. Louis where Mujahid was born. 

In St. Louis is where Khalid would have the dynamic upbringing that set the tone for his experiences later in life. Mujahid purchased a four-family building on the North side of St. Louis and converted one of the downstairs apartments into a mosque. The family lived above the mosque while the other two units were rented to members of the congregation.

Even though Khalid would spend time in the mosque on a daily basis, his grandmother, a devout Christian, insisted Khalid also accompany her in church on Sundays which he did. In addition to those cross cultural experiences Khalid and Muhammad were educated through the Desegregation Program of St. Louis, which allowed urban students to attend public schools in the suburbs while suburban students were given access to magnet schools in the city. From elementary through high school Khalid would traverse a multitude of cultures, people and ideas.

After graduating high school tragedy would strike again in the form of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. An individual that frequented the mosque Khalid and his father attended was in fact the infamous 20th hijacker. The FBI descended on the community and would spend time interviewing Khalid and his father everyday for a month after the attacks. During this time Khalid would be attacked and beaten on two occasions. The second hate crime placed him in the hospital for a week.

In October 2001, Mujahid was detained as a material witness to testify against the 20th hijacker in federal court. After testifying, the FBI charged Mujahid with conspiracy to levy war against the United States and sought the death penalty. Mujahid would be found not guilty but was sentenced to 15 months for being a felon in possession of firearms after a felony conviction 40 years prior. Though found not guilty or terror related charges, the stigma casted a shadow over the Mujahid and his son’s lives.

Khalid in Uzbekistan for research on an international thriller

In response, Khalid and Muhammad decided to take their destiny into their own hands and clear their family name. Muhammad would pursue an NFL career and Khalid entered the military. He would go on to serve 8 years honorably. After his military career, Khalid continued to work as a civilian in government. He obtained an undergraduate degree in international business, an MBA, and a masters in international relations.

During his education experience, he studied abroad in 10 countries across five continents and traveled to more than 40 other countries. His global travels coupled with his unique experiences growing up are what influenced him to write and what provided depth to his stories. After years of public service Khalid successfully cleared his family name as his position in government required their records be cleared. 

In 2018, Khalid’s first screenplay adapted from his autobiography would place top ten in a national screenwriting competition at BET, and land in the 2nd round at the Sundance Institute Writer’s Lab. Since then Khalid has written, directed, and produced over 20 film projects earning numerous awards and accolade. He’s currently working on his first film project with major Hollywood talent.       

On the set of “The Unexpected,” a film written by former Navy SEALs, produced and assisted directed by Khalid

“Our own country turned its back on us and in response we chose to serve it honorably.”

Khalid Abdulqaadir

If someone asked who is Khalid, in a few sentences, what would you want them to know?

Khalid is passionate about people, their cultures, and is a staunch humanitarian.

How did you get started in movie making/producing?

I got started in movie making after an old Navy roommate and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke called me and said he was going to be in a Transformer movie with Mark Wahlberg. I immediately looked around my office and asked myself, what am I doing here. I had written stories in the form of novels, short tales, and books of poetry, but never a screenplay. So I looked up on YouTube, how to write a screenplay and got it done. My first screenplay was based on my life story. I’ve had the drive to do nothing but create films ever since.

What is most controversial topic you touched?

This is a tough question because almost everything I touch on through film are controversial topics. I’m currently working on a human trafficking piece as well as one about gentrification. If I had to choose though I guess I’d have to police brutality and gun violence in the African American community. I developed a project in January of 2020 titled “Disarmed,” which brought together the police and the African American community to collaborate and make a short musical. I had recently re-watched “Westside Story” and that kind of gave me the idea. It took us 35 meetings over eight months to get the police and the community to a point where they felt comfortable moving forward. There were a lot of powerful things said in those meetings between the two groups but we were able to reach some type of understanding by the end.

We carried out the project on a cold January night. I took command of 35 police officers 16 of which were the real SWAT Team. By the end we had successfully thrown a pebble at the tidal wave that is the conversation of police interaction with the black community, but even as a pebble, we made a tiny hole of impact and that was my goal all along. Speaking of impact, two weeks after we released that project, two individuals from the community that participated came across each other on the street, had an altercation, pulled guns out, but then they recognized each other from our project and that’s what defused the entire situation. So the project contributed to reducing gun violence and had a positive impact on police and community relations.

What projects do you have lined up?

My Navy SEAL buddy turned Hollywood action star and I are working on a human trafficking PSA. Very hard hitting stuff and its purpose if to bring awareness to this situation as the activities of trafficking have increased in recent years. We’ve also pulled a project out of LA which is always good. Sorry Hollywood but we can make movies too and for cheap right here in the Midwest. So some execs reached out after seeing our work and they’d like to bring a feature film here for us to produce. We’re also in money talks, the best talks to have, about funding a superhero film I wrote. It’s the second part to the Disarmed project and involves enlisting local artists as superheroes to showcase their talents. It’s an experimental community directed project like the one we did with the police.

Who would be your dream to work with?

The person I would like to work with most is Robert Townsend. I grew up admiring not just his films, his ability to direct, act, and produce his own films, but the fact that he telling stories that were unique and ahead of their time.

What advice would you want to give new movie makers?

I’m still new to it myself lol. If I was one qualified to give any advice I’d say don’t listen to anyone. Don’t listen to nobody but yourself. Watch your Youtube videos and read everything but if you end up doing that more than you are creating, cut it back and create more. Literally nothing else matters except you and your hearts desire to create so do that the most.

What mistakes have you made along the way?

The biggest mistake I made was letting someone else dictate my vision. Execute the vision you set out to do and don’t let people pull you off your creative direction. You’ll know when valuable suggestions enhance your story but be mindful of people simply trying to change your story. Another mistake I made was not starting sooner. I should have been writing and making films. Don’t wait on anything.

When BET asked me to film a 5 minute scene from my script, I had no idea how to do that because it was my first project ever. Still, I began making my film with my cellphone and sock puppets and that was a million dollar competition. I didn’t care, it was going to get done no matter what and the best I could do was good enough for me even if it were sock puppets. Luckily, a friend who had made a few films stopped me and helped me turn in a serious production but in those early stages knowing nothing, I value that I had the spirit to do whatever was necessary to see my project through to the end. That is my mentality to this day.   

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my children to know that their father commanded and wielded his own destiny, and that they can do the same. 

Do you feel you and your brother succeeded in clearing your family name, and how so?

We certainly did clear our family’s name. We accomplished this by self declaring who and what we are. Our own country turned its back on us and in response we chose to serve it honorably. This means that our patriotism and loyalties are of the best kind, those that have been tried, tested and proven. This is why I was able to go from being labeled a terrorist suspect to receiving a top secret clearance. Now that we’ve settled the score, I can walk away from my conversation with my own government and get into doing what I love most, making movies.

Artists with superpowers manifested through their artistic abilities struggle against a powerful foe who seeks to take their powers and use them to gain influence over the world.

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Beena Yusuf
Editor in Chief

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