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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Prophet Mohammed's movie set for screening in North America

Mohammed: The Last Prophet will premiers in theaters in US, Canadian cities on Eid Al Fitr after 9/11 delay.

By P. Parameswaran - WASHINGTON

The first animated movie of Prophet Mohammed will finally be screened in North America after being delayed by the September 11 tragedy, which sparked off unprecedented anti-Muslim sentiment, its distributor said Wednesday.
"Mohammed: The Last Prophet," will premiere in theaters in 37 US and Canadian cities for one week beginning November 14 on Eid Al Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking the end of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan.
Oussama Jammal, president of the film's distributing company Fine Media Group, said it was an irony that Americans would be able to watch the US-produced movie after much of the world had already seen it.
It was completed just before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by the Al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.
"The film was scheduled to be released in the United States around 2002 but (was put off) because it was just after September 11 and people were not in the mood to go to the movies," Jammal said.
"Yet it is of great significance for this first animated Islamic movie ever in North America to be screened at the end of the fasting month - fitting perfectly with the nature of the film," said the 50-year-old Lebanese-born Jammal, who emigrated to the United States in the 1980s and has since become an American citizen.
The 90-minute film that chronicles the early life and teachings of Islam's Prophet Mohammed was produced for Badr International by RichCrest Animation Studios, the creators of animated classics such as "The King and I" and "The Fox and the Hound."
Film director Richard Rich is a well-known American director who worked for Disney.
Because of Islamic traditions prohibiting the visual representation of religious figures, no images of Prophet Mohammed appear in the film.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, said the movie was an excellent opportunity for parents and children of all faiths "to learn more about an historic figure like Prophet Mohammed and events that shaped today's world."
"It addresses the needs of the post 9/11 climate and is a creative and non-political way for the people to know about the history of Islam and the prophet's message," council spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed said.
Nihad Awad, the council's executive director, urged Muslims to purchase tickets for distribution to their friends and neighbors.
The war on terror launched by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks has antagonised a large section of the estimated six million Muslim Americans and changed their thinking.
Racial profiling, the detention and deportation of an unknown number of young men from Arab and Muslim countries, some for fairly minor immigration violations, and the Justice Department's crackdown on suspect Muslim charities have all fueled a sense of persecution.
Three quarters of Muslims polled recently said they would vote for Senator John Kerry to just seven percent for Republican Bush ahead of the tightly-contested November 2 presidential polls.
The poll of 1,700 Muslims was published last month by Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
John Voll, the center's director, said "the movie is especially relevant in the current time when so much of the media presentations of Muslims and Muslim life is so negative.
"And this provides an alternative perspective," said Voll, among a group of academics consulted over the movie, budgeted at more than 10 million dollars.
Voll, a Christian who grew up in the Midwest and whose father was a methodist minister, said the movie could assist the Muslim community itself in its continuing education and provide a resource for educators in general public schools.

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