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DVD spreads positive Islamic image: Newspaper ad insert sidesteps controversy
[May 02, 2009]

DVD spreads positive Islamic image: Newspaper ad insert sidesteps controversy


May 02, 2009 (The News & Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Wake County residents in three ZIP codes will find a DVD about Islam bundled in their issues of The News & Observer today, as Muslim residents initiate a public relations effort to counteract a controversial DVD distributed in the paper in September.



Today's DVD,"The Fog is Lifting: Islam in Brief," was produced by an Egyptian nonprofit group intent on explaining Islam to non-Muslims. It offers an orthodox defense of Islamic precepts and theology without engaging in issues such as politics or terrorism.

"If the media keeps presenting a certain stereotype, people need to see the other side," said Mona Dakrouri, an Egyptian-American living in Cary, who was trained to speak to interfaith groups by the Bridges Foundation, which produced the DVD.


In September, The News & Observer, along with 70 other newspapers nationwide, accepted as paid advertising a DVD called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." That DVD, which featured scenes of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with those of Nazi rallies, stirred anger among Muslims locally and across the nation.

Reaction was swift and overwhelmingly negative. Locally, members of Muslim groups met with The News & Observer's publisher and executive editor.

Today's distribution includes 20,000 copies of the DVD in an orange cardboard sleeve that reads, "A gift from your neighbor." The Raleigh chapter of the Muslim American Society took on the responsibility of distributing the DVD.

Dakrouri said the group paid The News & Observer $2,400 to bundle the DVD into the Saturday paper. It will go to ZIP codes 27606, 27607 and parts of 27511. Most of the DVD's contents are also available on at www.youtube.com, by typing in "The Fog is Lifting." Not everyone in the Muslim community agrees with the strategy.

"It doesn't address the real concerns people have about Islam," said Khalilah Sabra, an organizer with the Muslim American Society. "Americans want to know how Islam affects them. They know about the prophet Muhammad." "The Fog is Lifting" is the brainchild of Fadel Soliman, the director of the Bridges Foundation and an Egyptian living in Cairo. A successful computer engineer and marketing expert, Soliman became convinced of the need for interfaith outreach after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 created a backlash against Islam.

His DVD is intended to appeal to Westerners, and it makes the case that philosophers such as Aristotle, Rene Descartes, and Immanuel Kant had notions of God that fit harmoniously with Islam. The DVD makes the claim that the theory of evolution is false and that the Prophet Muhammad was admired by people such as Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

"It's a full-throated defense of the tradition in which Islam is presented as the perfect egalitarian, scientific, pluralistic, modern religion that doesn't have the flaws of all the other religions," said Omid Safi, a professor of religion at UNC-Chapel Hill. "It remains to be seen if it will be seen as preaching to the choir, or if will succeed in persuading people outside the Muslim community." At least one Raleigh Muslim said outreach to non-Muslims should not depend on a DVD but on a concerted effort to engage people in conversation -- a conversation aimed not at conversion but at understanding.

"As a community, we fall way short of having an effective outreach to society," Iyad Hindi said. "A DVD is one effort. We need much more to have an impact." yonat.shimron@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4891 To see more of The News & Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsobserver.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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