Filmmaker’s Son Remastering Father’s Classic Muslim Film ‘The Message’

Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Controversial Islamic film The Message  to be remastered.

When it was first released, The Message by Moustapha Akkad created quite a stir. The Islamic world reacted violently and called for a ban on the film, deeming it “blasphemous.” Ironically, however, the movie was anything but anti-Islam. In fact, Akkad had hoped the message of peace and brotherhood Islam advocated would be understood by the world and wanted to “bridge” the gap between the West and Islam.

40 years after the initial release, Moustapha's son Malek Akkad wants to restore the film to relaunch it as a high-definition movie. The movie was banned in most Islamic countries, and today remains as just a pirated copy, secretly circulated among people. Whether controversial or not, this movie is counted as a classic, although it is not spoken about openly.

Having been inspired by David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia in 1926, Akkad decided it was time to do something similarly inspiring and beautiful. He wanted to fill the chasm between Islamic beliefs and Western culture. Nothing seemed like a better idea than to create a film about Prophet Muhammed himself.

However, Akkad was shocked at the reaction the movie created among Muslims. Violent protests and demonstration erupted everywhere including in the U.S. and U.K. While political and religious pressures plagued him even as he was shooting, the film was thoroughly scrutinized by Islamic scholars in Cairo.

Though the scholars approved of the film initially, they withdrew their support following the backlash by the Muslim community.

Akkad says his father's aim at creating this movie was not to portray Islam as the one true religion. On the contrary, the aim was to create a kind of inter-religious harmony between the Jews, Christians and Muslims who have otherwise been misunderstanding one another. The film highlights the similarity of beliefs and teachings in these religions and portrays Muhammed as a prophet of the same God as were Noah, Moses and Jesus.

Even now, after 40 years, The Message is called a “touchstone in the Arab world.” The movie is one of the few contributions from the Arab side towards popular media and as such is a classic worthy of mention. It is this attribute of the film that makes it so special. By remaking a better quality print of it Akkad hopes at least now, this film will achieve the goals his father originally had intended.

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