Documentary about Muhammad!

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Friday, December 13, 2002 at 4:58PM :

Excellent new film on the life of Muhammad and on the life of Muslims in
America today.

Dear colleagues:

"Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" is a new documentary that will air on
PBS on December 18 at 9:00 pm. I saw about 30 minutes of it (it is two
hours long) and I would recommend it highly. Below is a press release
about the film; please check for local listings and
for additional information about the film and about Islam.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Zeina Azzam Seikaly, Outreach Coordinator
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
Georgetown University

The Life Story Of The Man Who Founded Islam And Changed The World
Premieres on PBS on Wednesday, December 18 at 9:00 PM

Innovative documentary interweaves 7th century biography
with the lives of 21st century American Muslims
inspired and guided by Muhammad's example

His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was
only six. But sheltered by a powerful uncle, he made a good start in
life, established himself in a profitable business and married well. And
then, at the age of 40, he was transformed.

A man who could not read or write, he announced that he was the prophet
of God.

His name was Muhammad, and in the next 23 years he would bring peace to
the warring pagan tribes of Arabia and establish the new religion of
Islam, which today has 1.2 billion followers.

Three years in the making, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, which
premieres Wednesday, December 18 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS (check local
listings), travels in the footsteps of the prophet to the Arabian desert
and the holy city of Mecca where much of Muhammad's story unfolded.

"There are six to seven million Muslims here in America, where Islam is
the country's fastest growing religion, but many Americans are
completely unfamiliar with the life story of the remarkable man who
founded this religion 1400 years ago," says producer/director Michael

This sweeping two-hour documentary goes well beyond the boundaries of
the past. "Muhammad is 'history in the present tense,'" says
co-creator/producer Michael Wolfe, a well-known Muslim author. "In it,
we reflect on this 7th century story through the experiences of 21st
century Americans who feel deeply connected to what Muhammad did, said
and believed." A presentation of KQED/San Francisco, the documentary is
produced by Kikim Media and Unity Productions Foundation. Muhammad:
Legacy of a Prophet was created and produced by Michael Wolfe and
Alexander Kronemer, and produced and directed by Michael Schwarz. Noted
actor André Braugher is the narrator.

With some of the world's greatest scholars on Islam providing historical
context and critical perspective, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet tells of
intrigue and faith, revolutionary ideas and bitter persecution, brutal
war and brilliant diplomacy in an arid desert where tribal allegiance
was often the only protection. Muhammad was orphaned as a child, but he
was fortunate to be born into the powerful tribe of the Quraysh in the
city of Mecca, a regional pilgrimage site and commercial crossroads. He
became a successful trader based in this cosmopolitan center and married
a woman who was a wealthy merchant. Yet as Muhammad prospered with the
city, he saw that the poor were increasingly neglected and hedonism
dominated the culture.

One day in the desert, while meditating in a mountain cave, Muhammad was
struck by a revelation that changed his life and the world. Terrified by
the force of the experience, he began to recite words that came to him,
words he said were from God. These messages would continue throughout
the rest of his life. Unable to write them, he would repeat them to his
growing band of followers until they became part of their collective
memory. Slowly these revelations began to form the book we now know as
the Qur'an (or Koran). While people were shocked by these claims, "they
acquired credibility because of the very nature of the words spoken,"
says M. Cherif Bassiouni, professor of law at DePaul University. How
could an illiterate man make up language of such poetry and wisdom?

The new faith and ideas that Muhammad proclaimed as the Word of God,
were a threat to the Meccan establishment. Muhammad's pronouncement that
there was only one God, particularly threatened the very livelihood of
the rich Meccans who profited from Mecca's role as Arabia's most popular
pilgrimage center. Through years of harrassment and deprivation, and
trading sanctions imposed against his people, Muhammad continued to
preach and share revelations with his followers, calling on them to
worship one God, to destroy idols and to practice charity. As the
community faced growing hostility, he began to encourage Muslims to move
across the desert and settle in the oasis town of Yathrib, later called
Medina. When word of an assassination plot reached him, Muhammad barely
escaped death and managed to join the growing Islamic community in

"Unlike Jesus or the Buddha, who seem to have been purely spiritual
leaders with no temporal responsibilities whatever, Muhammad found
himself now head of state," author Karen Armstrong points out. "Having
transferred the Muslim families from Mecca to Medina, he now had to make
sure they could survive there." Muhammad proved to be a strategically
gifted military leader and a creative diplomat in the turbulent period
that followed. A series of bloody battles between the Meccans and
Muhammad's followers almost destroyed the nascent faith, but then the
tide turned. Ultimately Muhammad was able to lead 100,000 Muslims back
to Mecca for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that remains a cornerstone of the
spiritual life of Muslims.

While recounting the story of Muhammad, a tale that was carefully passed
down as oral history in the 7th century and subsequently recorded, the
documentary also conveys what many American Muslims believe Islam
teaches, and how their beliefs shape their lives. The documentary takes
viewers into the homes, mosques and work places of some of America's
Muslims to discover the many ways in which they follow Muhammad's
example and interpret his life and his message today. Through these
inter-linked narratives, the filmmakers connect past and present,
prophet and follower, within an innovative film structure."

Co-creator/producer Alex Kronemer says, "Many Muslims believe that if
you want to understand who they are, the best place to start is with
this story of Muhammad, because he established a model of behavior and
values which Muslims strive to emulate today."

The American Muslims that the documentary introduces include recent
immigrants, Muslims whose families have lived here for generations, and
American converts like Kevin James, a Brooklyn fire marshal, who has a
Jewish mother and a father who is Native American and African American.
"America is a racial nation," says James. "Either you're Black, you're
White, you're Italian, you're Jewish, you're this, you're that. So
coming from a mixed background, I've felt like, kind of in limbo." After
a period of spiritual seeking, James discovered a kinship with Islam, in
part because it shares religious roots with both Judaism and
Christianity and in part because it preaches racial equity. His faith
inspired his decision to become a firefighter he explains, "The Qur'an
teaches you that the saving of one life is as if you've saved all of

A critical care nurse, Najah Bazzy is a second generation Muslim
American who lives in Dearborn, Michigan. Her hometown has seen a
massive influx of Muslim immigration as a result of the Gulf War. As she
helps her colleagues understand and work effectively with their Muslim
patients and her husband negotiate life with a teenage daughter, Bazzy
says that Muhammad is her constant guide. "We live our lives through his
examples, but he's not God," she explains. "Our reverence is to God.
And our reference is to [Muhammad]. So how I walk, and how I speak, and
how I carry myself, and how I treat my husband, and how I treat my
mother and my father, and how I behave as a sister and a daughter and a
nurse and a friend and a neighbor, that's all prophet Muhammad in

Although this documentary was well into production prior to 9/11, some
of the American Muslim characters who help tell Muhammad's story were
filmed after the attack. These sequences portray their reaction to this
event, the aftermath they have experienced, and the controversial
concept of jihad. Through a combination of commentary from Islamic
experts and interviews with Muslim Americans, the program also addresses
some of the difficult issues at the matrix of religious faith, cultural
customs and Middle East politics, including women's rights and charges
of anti-Semitism rooted in the historical conflicts of the 7th century.

FRONTLINE will rebroadcast Muslims, a two-hour special on the many
diverse interpretations of Islam around the world, on Thursday,
at 9:00 PM on PBS.

A variety of community-based events that use Muhammad: Legacy of a
and Muslims as a catalyst for dialogue about Islam are taking place
around the country in conjunction with these broadcasts

Visit for more information about Muhammad: Legacy
of a Prophet, including a "virtual Hajj," essays by program
participants, transcripts and additional interview excerpts, an
interactive timeline, as well as extra information and streaming video
on Muhammad and women, violence, other religions, America and more.
Funding for Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet has been provided by the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The David and Lucile Packard
Foundation, Arabian Bulk Trade, Sabadia Family Foundation, Irfan
Kathwari Foundation, El-Hibri Foundation, Qureishi Family Trust, and
many individual contributors.

Kikim Media draws on 25 years of experience in print and broadcast
journalism to engage, entertain and inform its audiences. Its
productions are guided by a fundamental commitment to fairness and
accuracy and by its abiding conviction that a true story, honestly told,
can change people's lives. The company was founded in 1996 by Michael
Schwarz, whose work has been honored by some of the most prestigious
awards in broadcasting, including three national Emmy Awards, two George
Foster Peabody Awards, and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University
Journalism Award.

Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) was founded by writers and producers
Alexander Kronemer and Michael Wolfe. UPF is a nonprofit production
company whose mission is to develop balanced, fair and accurate
journalistic material concerning the world's cultural and spiritual
traditions in order to help increase understanding and tolerance.

KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched
public television station, and Digital Television 9, Northern
California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio
88.5 FM, the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation; the
KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of
teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops,
seminars and resources; and, which harnesses the power of
the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.

Adina Barnett
Kelly & Salerno Communications
(203) 863-1008

Brian Eley
(415) 553-2238

Outreach Prescreening Contact or to Schedule Appearances of the
Lobna "Luby" Ismail
Connecting Cultures, Inc.
T. 301-438-3153

To learn more about Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet or to order go to:, or or call 1-888-786-0444.

-- Lilly
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