Osama Loves

Channel 4's Search for 500 Faces of Islam
By Emdad Rahman
UK Correspondent

Filmmaker Masood Khan and junior doctor Farrah Jarral.
Osama Loves
Young British Muslims Farrah Jarral and Masood Khan have a unique task. They have 50 days to meet 500 persons, each called Osama, across the Islamic World, asking each, "What do you love?"

The project came about when Channel 4 commissioner, Aaqil Ahmed, who had already commissioned a documentary about the seven wonders of Islam and the Qur'an, asked one of his fellow Commissioners if he had any ideas about how to give an online dimension to his Islamic culture TV season The Wonders of Islam.

The Idea

The idea, thus, transpired and came to fruition after further discussion took place between Adam Gee, award-winning, London-based, interactive-media producer and commissioner and Andy Bell of Mint Digital, user- generated news website and the production company. 

Gee discovered through subsequent conversations that Bell has an interest in the spiritual aspects of life, and his insight and knowledge have strengthened after marriage to a Moroccan woman.

The marriage took place in the sunny climes of Morocco, and his interaction with his new family and relatives made Bell realize that the majority of Muslims believed that the UK coverage of Islam and Muslims was too focused and linked to terrorism.

"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," Gee wrote on his blog.

Searching for Osamas
Personally, I was immediately attracted to the project after Jemima Gibbons, my good Facebook friend, bought it to my attention. I visited the site and recommended Imam and lecturer Dr. Usama Hasan from Leyton, London, as well as Glasgow's very own Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, a staunch Rangers supporter.

Jarral and Khan record and upload blog entries and video journals  on a daily basis, which can be viewed on the project website. Their assignment is aimed at showing the 500 candidates and portray the astute outtake of 50 everyday Osamas that are very different from the notorious Osama bin Laden.

In her blog, Jarral spoke about her heading to northern Nigeria searching for Muslims named Osama,

"It was like wading through treacle to get here but we finally made it. The vibe is really different up here and you can definitely feel a Muslim identity in the area."

"The journey was pretty rough with loads of potholes and breakdowns. I'm so relieved to finally be in northern Nigeria. Today is going to be a fresh start. I'm hoping to explore the city and meet some Osamas."

"The only thing that marred my delight at finally arriving in Kano last night was a confrontation with my biggest fear; cockroaches. The size of a moderately plump rodent, one of these Nigerian beasts could probably have one of the rats on the Piccadilly Line in a fight. However, I've been told that this was part of their African continent!"

Hana Sayeedi, an accountant from London, is closely following the exploits of Jarral and Khan. She expressed her jubilation, "Congratulations to Messrs Ahmed, Bell and Gee, they're not going to get much interest as it [the show] shows Muslims in a non-demonized state."

" 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."

Not everyone called Osama wants to cause havoc. Osama Loves is a mission to discover the sunnier side of Islam.

The clock is ticking, and both Jarral and Khan are going to need all the help they can get in their search for Muslims named Osama.

Related Links:
Osama Loves (Website)

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