Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moustapha Akkad ... Who?

Scene from the film The Message, also titled Muhammad, Messenger of God.

We all remember the film, The Message, right?
Well do we remember the man behind it - Moustapha Akkad?

I bet not. Well, I think he was a real life hero in his own, unknown, way.
Heroes do not have to be big men with booming voices who engage in spectacular battles.

Sometimes - most of the time - they are just persons who are just average Joe's or Jill's, who have a big heart and want to do something with their lives that is bigger than their own selves. They may not go out to do battle in another continent, or find a cure for cancer.
They may just be doing what they are already doing, but in a way that would make the lives of others matter.

Not many of us know that the man behind the most iconic film on the Prophet (s.a.w.) was murdered savagely.
In 2005, Akkad and his daughter were killed in a bomb blast detonated in Jordan by an al-Qaeda suicide bomber.

[Wikipedia] -

Moustapha Akkad (Arabic: مصطفى العقاد) (July 1, 1930November 11, 2005) was a Syrian American film producer and director, best known for producing the series of Halloween films and directing Mohammad, Messenger of God and Lion of the Desert.

Though he dedicated much of his career to explaining Islam to the West, ironically he was killed in 2005 in Amman, Jordan by an Al-Qaeda in Iraq suicide bomber.

Akkad was born in Aleppo, Syria. In 1935, his father, then a customs officer, gave him $200 and a copy of the Quran before he left for the United States to study film direction and production at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Akkad spent a further three years studying for a Master's degree at the University of Southern California (USC), where he met the legendary director Sam Peckinpah.

Peckinpah became Akkad's mentor in Hollywood and hired him as a consultant for a film about the Algerian revolution that never made it to the big screen, but he continued to encourage him until he found a job as a producer at CBS.
In 1976, he produced and directed Mohammad, Messenger of God (released as The Message in 1977 in the United States), starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas.

Akkad faced resistance from Hollywood to making a film about the origins of Islam and had to go outside the United States to raise the production money for the film.
While creating Muhammad, Messenger of God, he consulted Islamic clerics and tried to be respectful toward Islam and its views on portraying Muhammad.

He saw the film as a way to bridge the gap between the Western and Islamic world, stating in a 1976 interview:
“I did the film because it is a personal thing for me. Besides its production values as a film, it has its story, its intrigue, its drama. Beside all this I think there was something personal, being Muslim myself who lived in the west I felt that it was my obligation my duty to tell the truth about Islam. It is a religion that has a 700 million following, yet it's so little known about it which surprised me. I thought I should tell the story that will bring this bridge, this gap to the west.”

In 1978, he helped make low-budget film history when he produced Halloween.

Akkad became best known for his key involvement in the first eight Halloween movies, as an executive producer (the only producer to participate in all of these films), Akkad also later owned the long-running franchise that spawned seven further variations on the original theme (the most recent being Halloween: Resurrection in 2002).

The series was highly profitable, although it was only the first film that became iconic.

In 1980 he directed his next big project, Lion of the Desert, in which Quinn and Irene Papas were joined by Oliver Reed, Rod Steiger, and John Gielgud.

It was about the real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar (Quinn), who fought Mussolini's Italian troops in the deserts of Libya.

The movie is now critically acclaimed, after initially receiving negative publicity in the West for being partially funded by Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi, who invested $35 million in the movie.

This negative publicity may have been the cause of its relatively poor performance at the box office.

In the United Kingdom Akkad once tried to buy Pinewood Studios from the Rank Organisation and also had a studio at Twickenham.

He was in the process of producing a $80 million movie featuring Sean Connery about Saladin and the Crusades, for which he already had the script, that would be filmed in Jordan.

Speaking of the film, he said:
“...Saladin exactly portrays Islam. Right now, Islam is portrayed as a terrorist religion. Because a few terrorists are Muslims, the whole religion has that image. If there ever was a religious war full of terror, it was the Crusades. But you can't blame Christianity because a few adventurers did this. That's my message."

In a tragic twist of fate, Akkad, and his 34-year-old daughter Rima Akkad Monla, were killed in the 2005 Amman bombings.

They were both in the lobby at the Grand Hyatt when a suicide bomber sent by Al-Qaeda in Iraq detonated his device.

His daughter died instantly, and Akkad died of his injuries two days later in a hospital.

Akkad is survived by three sons.
Sons include Tarek (his oldest) and Malek, who helped produce most of the Halloween movies.

Mudpe adds -

Youtube Credits of the film, The Message -

In Mudpie's view, this is the most memorable scene of the film, Lion of the Desert -

Mudpie adds - not many of us today know that Akkad encountered violent objections to his making the Message.
The extremists were outraged by The Message – or, as it was then called, Mohammed, Messenger Of God.
Although Akkad had observed the prohibition against representations of the Prophet, even a rumored glimpse of his shadow (which the director had at one time considered) provoked objections. Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, formerly a Seventh Day Adventist called Ernest McGhee, decided to do something about the abomination.
A dozen Muslims seized three buildings, and took 120 hostages, including (in an early example of the many internal contradictions of the Rainbow Coalition) the future mayor of Washington, DC, Marion Barry.
He was one of a couple of dozen injured. Jewish hostages were abused.
A reporter was killed.

Fast forward a few years, and we now know that this was just a sign of things to come.

Moustapha Akkad was a great missionary of the late 20th century, as his message of The Message had reached millions of people, both Muslim and non-Muslim.
And nothing that the savages of al-Qaeda can do will ever take that away from him.



Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaikkum,

You got a nice blog.
Really touched while reading about Moustapha Akkad.

Nice to know about the person behind the "Messenger"


Anonymous said...

Salaam Brother

I remember my late father brought the whole family to watch the Messenger; six of us. He could ill afford the movie tickets but he felt that it's a movie that we should not miss. Reading your blog now made me appreciate him more and I really do miss him. He passed away in June this year. As I write this my tears kept rolling down....many thanks.

Sis in islam