Archive for the ‘muslim’ Tag

Osama Loves Loved

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Osama Loves, as previously mentioned in this august organ (dontcha just love both those words?), is a participative online documentary I commissioned last summer from the breath of fresh air that is Mint Digital and Menthol TV. The interactive documentary came about in response to a request from my fellow commissioner at C4, Aaqil Ahmed, who looks after religious and multicultural TV programming. He had commissioned a season of television programmes about the culture (rather than the politics) of Islam, including a flagship primetime doc on The Koran. The underlying theme of the season was that Islam is not a homogeneous culture but a diverse and multifaceted one. Aaqil asked me to come up with an online project which conveyed the heterogeneity of Islamic culture and, after some great conversations with Andy Bell, Jeremy Lee and the MintFolk, Osama Loves was born…

In an interesting iterative dynamic, the interactive documentary which was born of the TV season in turn gave rise to a TV documentary commissioned through Janey Walker, Channel 4′s Head of Education. It’s a beautiful film entitled Osama bin Everywhere (and sub-titled Searching for 500 Faces of Islam). It follows the progress of Farrah Jarral and Masood Khan through the participative Web travelogue that is Osama Loves, on their mission to track down 500 people called Osama in just 50 days. The two intrepid explorers uploaded blog posts, tweets (a relatively early application of Twitter to enable our protagonists to publish by mobile when out of PC-based internet range), photos and videos each day,  asking the public for tips and advice to help them complete their challenge and get the most from the countries they were visiting (including Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia and Canada). As they backpacked across the Muslim world their search offered a window into the everyday life, culture and belief of the Muslims they met.

They asked each Osama they met “What do you love?” The idea was to transcend clichés about Muslims – the most well known Muslim on the planet being a certain Osama who epitomises these clichés and is not normally linked with Love. So Osama Loves sought out as many other Osamas (previously a popular name in Islamic countries) as they could in the time and showcased the rich diversity of their hopes and beliefs, concerns and perspectives.

When the spin-off TV doc aired again recently in the C4 morning slot it prompted a mass of positive feedback from viewers including:

“I am a Catholic and father to 6 children. Having just watched Osama bin Everywhere, I feel this programme should be shown to every child in every school in the UK regardless of religious belief. How refreshing it was to watch. This young woman deserves public recognition and a national award. The comments made and feelings expressed by all the Osamas were a true insight to Muslim people and the meaning of their religion.”

“Not really a press enquiry but please pass my congratulations onto Farrah – I taught her at school in the 1990s. Watched today’s Channel 4 programme whilst at home recovering from surgery. Very, very proud of what she’s become – but not at all surprised!”

“The programme was a joy to watch and I’d love to see more programmes like it. The presenter should be very proud of the programme – she is a great ambassador for her religion.”

“In a time of ‘reality TV’ which seem to be centered on Channel 4, finally a program that I could call brilliant! I was at work during my break and caught Osama bin Everywhere. I can honestly say I’ve not been so engrossed in anything in such a long time. This was a pleasure to watch.”

“What a fantastic programme! A real eye-opener, but I only saw it because the TV happened to be on when it started. Why was such a positive, heart-warming program hidden away on morning TV? Have you shown this in an evening slot? Please do!”

“I truly appreciate what you set out to achieve. Everytime I watch a programme on the television about Islam, it highlights the “bad apples”. I am only 18 years old, but have lived all my life in Britain. Having only visited Pakistan once, and at a very young age, you have driven me (in the most positive way) to go back to my country of ethnic origin. The programme itself has opened my eyes to how shallow people can be, relating everything bad to one name. I hope one day that I will have the power to enlighten people, just as you have to me. May you have all the health and happiness in the world, Inshallah.”

And here are a few other reactions to Osama Loves from more pressy sources:

Mike Mendoza, BBC Radio 2 website of the day
This is interesting – a Dave Gorman-influenced quest from 2 London-based Muslims (in collaboration with Channel 4), to find and meet 500 people who share the same name. In the process, they hope to change many people’s perception of Islam. Long-standing listeners will know that I like a pointless quest, so it’s nice to see a quest/travelogue which aims to do something a bit more positive.

Islam Online
Islam doesn’t provoke much interest unless they [Muslims] are burning flags or pillaging embassy workers or holding insulting placards. It won’t provoke much interest outside of Muslims, but Muslims worldwide will be grateful for the positive break. Put it this way, at least it’s better than their annual masterpiece, Big Brother.

The Sun
No doubt the FBI will be keeping a close eye on the site – especially for any entrants expressing a love of the Tora Bora caves in eastern Afghanistan.

Toronto Star
None of this is sponsored by the CIA – the aim is to give dignity back to a much abused and reviled name.

Osama fun in the Currant Bun

The dear old Sun has picked up on Osama Loves today in a full page spread on p22. Naturally enough they’ve brought their own special magic to it – like photoshopping out the male half of our dynamic Muslim duo.

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Osama Loves

Farrah and MasoodThis morning two young British Muslims, Farrah and Masood, set off on a 50 day mission right across the Islamic world. Their goal: to meet 500 Osamas. Why set out to meet so many people with the same first name? ‘Osama’ conjours up the most prevalent cliches of Islam in the minds of most non-Muslims. By seeking out 500 people with that name – people of all ages, shapes and sizes, backgrounds, hopes and loves – Osama Loves seeks to undermine the cliche and put a human face on Islam, whilst showing the diversity of Islamic culture across the globe.

The project came about when my fellow Channel 4 commissioner, Aaqil Ahmed, came to ask me if I had any ideas about how to give his Islamic culture TV season (The Wonders of Islam) an online dimension. He had commissioned a very special documentary about the Qur’an, a series about the Seven Wonders of Islam and some other programmes, all highlighting the diversity of Muslim culture beyond the Middle East. So that was the brief: show how varied Islamic culture is across the world.

I had been talking to Andy Bell at Mint Digital for a long time about doing a project together but it never quite happened, the right thing hadn’t come along. From chatting to Andy I knew he had recently married a Muslim woman, that he had a strong interest in things spiritual, and that he had insight into both worlds. We bounced a few ideas around, brought in other colleagues from Mint, combined a few themes and merged some ideas until we had the participative journey that is Osama Loves: Searching for 500 Faces of Islam.

So today that journey starts and Farrah and Masood are going to need all the help they can get… If you know an Osama or can help them on their travels in any way please do let them know via the site’s blog comments.

The question came up while we were developing the Ed Spec, what if they find That Osama (the cliche one)? We wrote into the Specification that if that were to happen Mint definitely get a second series with a decent budget ;-)

Another important question is why are our young travelers bothering to cross continents in search of names and faces? Let me briefly tell you Farrah’s story. She was doing her medical training in East London when one day she finds herself in an operating theatre into which is wheeled a patient for an amputation. It struck her as odd how young this patient was – usually there are years of artery furring abuse behind an amputation like this. To cut a long and sad story short, the patient that day was one of the victims of the 7/7 bombings in London. Suddenly the reality of that outrage, committed by men with very similar backgrounds to Farrah herself (a fact that quickly struck her), that outrage shook her identity to the core. Now she’s on a mission and this time it’s personal: to prove that That Osama does not represent her community, to explore what Islamic culture and belief really means to her, and to provide insight into the day-to-day realities of Muslim communities, their concerns and hopes, their perspectives and loves. “Osama” and “Loves” are not two words you often hear together, or expect to. This initiative is yoking them together whether That Osama likes it or not.

Talking of Thes and Thats, for now I’ll leave the last words to Matt Johnson of The The. I met him once when I was working with Tim Pope and Pete Goddard who made some of their best promos – Matt made me a cup of tea the first time he came into the office in Marshall Street – tea-making was my realm at that point in my first job so it was a generous gesture which hasn’t been forgotten. Writing the last paragraph punctuated with “Loves” reminded me of this song of his about two people walking away from death and conquering with love:

Me and my friend were walking
In the cold light of mourning.
Tears may blind the eyes but the soul is not deceived
In this world even winter ain’t what it seems.

Here come the blue skies, here comes springtime.
When the rivers run high and the tears run dry.
When everything that dies
Shall rise

Love love love is stronger than death
Love love love is stronger than death

In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch.
All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath.
But, awoken by grief, our spirits speak
How could you believe that the life within the seed
That grew arms that reached
And a heart that beat
And lips that smiled
And eyes that cried
Could ever die?

Love love love is stronger than death
Love love love is stronger than death

Shall rise, shall rise
Shall rise, shall rise.

TV fakery travesty of a mockery of a sham

Undercover MosqueUndercover Mosque

Hot off the presses: A victory for Channel 4, decent journalism and free speech. This important, insightful film was commissioned by my colleague in C4 Commissioning, Kevin Sutcliffe.

DISPATCHES VINDICATED OVER UNDERCOVER MOSQUE FILM

The makers of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation Undercover Mosque have won a public apology and six figure libel settlement from West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service which falsely accused them of TV fakery.

At the High Court this morning [15 May 2008] West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised unreservedly for the comments which they have accepted were incorrect and unjustified. They have withdrawn the remarks and undertaken not to repeat them. They have said that they “were wrong to make these allegations… and now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity”.

Undercover Mosque included a number of excerpts from preachers and teachers uttering statements such as:

‘Allah created women deficient’

‘…it takes two witnesses of a woman to equal one witness of the man’

‘By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her (young girls) to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her’

‘take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain’

‘Whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to anything else – kill him in the Islamic state’.

West Midlands Police and the CPS have also agreed to pay substantial damages to the programme makers. The programme makers will be donating all of the damages to The Rory Peck Trust. The Rory Peck Trust exists to support freelance news gatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety. Established in 1995, the Trust provides financial assistance to freelancers in need, and to the families of those who are killed or seriously injured or suffering persecution as a result of their work. The Trust is totally independent and relies on its income from sponsorship, grants and donations.

The settlement followed the issue of libel proceedings by the programme makers in response to public statements made by West Midlands Police and the CPS about the investigative documentary (broadcast 15 January 2007) which exposed extremism in a number of British Mosques.

In August last year, WMP and CPS issued a joint press release falsely claiming the programme had completely distorted the views of Muslim preachers and clerics featured in the programme by misleading editing.

Unusually, WMP and CPS also referred the programme to TV regulator Ofcom who rejected their complaints and stated “each and every quote was justified by the narrative of the programme and put fully in context” (see below).

Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head of Current Affairs at Channel 4 who oversees Dispatches, said: “This is a total vindication of the programme team in exposing extreme views being preached in mainstream British mosques. Channel 4 was fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject-matter but recognised that the programme’s findings were clearly a matter of important public interest. The authorities should be doing all they can to encourage investigations like this, not attempting to publicly rubbish them for reasons they have never properly explained. We will continue to produce undercover investigations of this nature.”

David Henshaw, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Hardcash Productions, who produced the documentary added: “This was a thorough and detailed one-hour documentary, made over nine months and at personal risk to the undercover reporter. The abhorrent and extreme comments made by fundamentalist preachers in the film speak for themselves. They later claimed they had been taken out of context – but no one has explained the correct context for arguing that women are ‘born deficient’, that homosexuals should be thrown off mountains, and that ten year old girls should be hit if they refuse to wear the hijab.”

Hardcash Productions are a leading independent television company who specialise in documentary making. They produced the multi-award-winning Beneath the Veil and an investigation into the post office, Third Class Post, for Channel 4’s Dispatches strand.

Julian Bellamy, Head of Channel 4, said: “When the West Midlands Police and CPS refused to withdraw their damaging remarks we had no option but to support this action. As Channel 4’s flagship current affairs programme, Dispatches has an outstanding reputation for brave and incisive journalism. It was clearly vital to us that an important piece of journalism and the reputation of its makers was not undermined by these unjustified allegations remaining unchallenged. Journalism of this kind has always been, and will continue to be, central to Channel 4’s purpose.”

A bit of the background:

Following broadcast West Midlands Police launched an investigation into some of the individuals featured in the programme. They sought a production order for untransmitted material with which Channel 4 complied.


In August 2007 ACC Anil Patani (Security and Cohesion) wrote to Channel 4 on behalf of the West Midlands Police who, together with the Crown Prosecution Service, simultaneously issued a press release alleging some comments in Undercover Mosque had been ‘Edited together to change their meaning’ and/or ‘Broadcast out of context’. The press release also stated that the programme might ‘undermine community cohesion.’

In November Ofcom dismissed all complaints against Undercover Mosque and rejected evidence supplied by the West Midlands Police to support their claim of misrepresentation through misleading editing. It concluded:

“Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. On the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts), Ofcom found that the broadcaster had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.”

 

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