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The Message - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A father yearning for a long-waited reunion with his daughter loses the glitter of her rejoiced eyes to the flames. Their hands haven’t even touched. The tragedy was soon prolonged with the loss of the same grieving father. As their bloods blended in the same pool in the lobby, their souls sought a long awaited reunion in death. Moustapha Akkad couldn’t outlive his beloved child. Two guiltless souls were lost to cheap terrorist death.

The loss is grave. Akkad, the Syrian international film director, has spent a life time spreading world-wide the innate mercy and tolerance of Islamic values. He took with him to the heart of Hollywood Arab and Muslim pride and dignity. He was a class of his own, who combined professional excellence with profundity and purpose.

In his file “The Message,” Akkad has shown to the world true inclusive and tolerant nature of the holy message of Islam, the religion that spread by inducing faith and respect rather than fear and intimidation. The film celebrates the moral teachings of the message of Prophet Muhammad, which are most needed in our world of today. Even while abused and persecuted, the Prophet forbade his companions and followers to cut a tree, kill a child or a woman, and humiliate or torture a captive. He taught them to obey and observe God’s commands in all they did and said. The world, West and East, its racists and extremists, are in dire need for “The Message.”

The calamity is painfully paradoxical. The protagonist of Islam was killed at the hands of “Islamist” terrorism, in a Muslim capital, on his way to Damascus to celebrate the world’s movie culture. It is another replay of the ferocious terrorism that has wasted thousands of innocent lives in the mosques, market-places and streets of Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Turkey, obliterating with these lives the true face of Islam from the collective memory of the world. A free service to racism and conflict of cultures.

The painful loss shows, once more, that terrorism threatens us all in the East and West, North and South. It is not restricted to a region, race, or religion. Dressing terrorism up in such exclusive attire, or worse, masking it with minor successes, undermines any strategy to face and defeat it. Officials in the West talk about elections in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan as the promising spring for their people and about economic and political reform in the Middle East and North Africa are bearing fruit. They talk about democracy and modernization, and bypass occupation, the rage it evokes, and the racism it spreads. They talk as if elections are an all-purpose remedy. The raging uprising in France, the long-established European democracy, shows that elections are not the only criterion for democracy, and that human dignity, security, and equality are just as essential. Otherwise, violence would not have become the medium of expression.

The world is in dire need for honest and truthful examination of human sufferings everywhere. Passing accusations, and dividing the world into civilized and uncivilized, democratic and non-democratic halves is not a solution. Some international soul-searching is over-due. The murder of Akkad, the director of “The Message” and “Omar al-Mukhtar,” in the name of Islam, should rouse Muslims around the world to the fight. We should be in the first ranks to eradicate the criminals in both East and West. Islam and terrorism are not two faces to the same coin, as many benefit to claim. Muslims, ahead of all people on earth, are suffering the gravest loss and paying the highest price for such self-serving misconceptions. The loss of Moustapha Akkad is a painful and unforgettable testimony.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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