Accolades for Salman
at MPAC Award Function
Angeles: More than 600 people joined the Muslim Public Affairs
Council in honoring the makers of "Paradise Now",
"Syriana" and Salman Ahmed of the band "Junoon"
during the 15th MPAC Media Awards gala dinner on Saturday,
In a stirring evening filled with emotion and reflection,
attendees were treated to musical performances from rocker
Salman Ahmad of the South Asian rock band "Junoon",
who was honored for using his celebrity to raise awareness
around crucial health issues in South Asia, played acoustic
guitar and was accompanied by Indian tabla player Ramish Kumar.
Ahmad, who founded "Junoon" in 1990, is inspired
by the ancient Sufi tradition, which is reflected in the band's
music and lyrics. Ahmad is also UNICEF's chosen spokesman
for AIDS prevention, and he and the group have publicly advocated
the need for peace with India.
World renowned Jordanian pianist Zade Dirani also performed
his original composition "Kingdom of Peace" as part
of a tribute to Moustapha Akkad ("Halloween", "The
Message", "Lion of the Desert"), the pioneering
Muslim and Arab American director who, along with his daughter
Rima, were killed in the November 2005 Jordanian terrorist
"The ability of the artist to conjure emotion, challenge
deeply held ideas, and inspire thought and action are unmatchable,"
said Communications Director Edina Lekovic, who served as
the evening's Mistress of Ceremonies. "For this reason,
we honor those who use art and media to create thought-provoking,
enriching and humanizing portrayals of Islam and Muslims.
These voices of courage and conscience have the potential
to do what we need most right now - provide a complex and
multidimensional human face to over 1.3 billion people who
Director Hany Abu-Assad and Warner Independent Pictures President
Mark Gill were both honored for their roles in bringing the
Academy Award- nominated film "Paradise Now" to
American audiences. The film, which follows two Palestinian
childhood friends who have been recruited for a strike on
Tel Aviv and focuses on their last days together, challenges
popularly held one-dimensional images of Palestinians as fatalistic
religious fanatics. Instead, it presents a difficult and compelling
reflection of the daily difficulties of the occupation and
powerlessness that lead to violence.
Abu-Assad, joined by actor Ali Suliman ("Khaled"),
presented official ceremonial engraved plates from the city
of Nazareth to Gill and his colleagues Paul Federbush (Senior
Vice President of Production & Acquisitions) and Laura
Kim (Executive Vice President of Marketing & Publicity).
MPAC also thanked government agencies -- including the State
Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department
of Justice -- for helping to expedite Abu-Assad's visa application
in order to allow him to accept the award in person.
Warner Brothers and Section Eight Productions, the creative
forces behind the hit film "Syriana" were honored
for creating an eye-opening portrait of politics, petroleum
and power. As the President of Section Eight, the production
company founded by actor and activist George Clooney, Jennifer
Fox accepted the Media Award as a symbol of pushing back against
superficial storylines which undercut audiences' desire to
transcend differences. Producer Georgia Kacandes also stressed
the importance of shooting the film in Middle Eastern countries
in order to provide a realistic landscape to the films' plot.
Among the special guests who attended the Media Awards were
2003 Media Award honoree Mike Farrell ("M*A*S*H")
and his wife Shelley Fabre, Shangri-La Entertainment President
Steve Bing, and Doug Nelson, who is the Faith-based Representative
from the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The County of Los Angeles and the LA Board of Supervisors
also shared declarations in support of the Media Awards and
efforts to promote accurate portrayals of Islam and Muslims.
"Music and film hold the power to challenge stereotypes
and win hearts and minds," said MPAC Executive Director
Salam Al-Marayati in his remarks. "We are not here to
honor those who have created sympathetic portrayals of Islam
and Muslims. We are here to honor truth, which is a core Islamic
In an effort to promote positive and accurate portrayals of
Islam and Muslims, the Muslim Public Affairs Council each
year recognizes voices of courage and conscience who are the
best in their field. Since 1991, MPAC has honored artists,
actors, authors, and activists for their artistic contributions
to tolerance and diversity. Past recipients include Morgan
Spurlock for the "30 Days" episode "Muslims
and America", the Allah Made Me Funny Muslim Comedy Tour,
Spike Lee, Karen Armstrong, Hakim Olajuwan, Yusuf Islam and
the producers of VH1's "Behind the Music," Michael
Moore, and Alec Baldwin.