Accolades for Salman at MPAC Award Function

Los 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, April 29.
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 attacks.
"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 follow Islam."
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 value."
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.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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