controversies

Before ‘The Messenger of God’, there was another ‘Messenger of God’

The controversy around Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s new film Muhammad: The Messenger of God, with a fatwa issued against him and music composer AR Rahman, has a precedent of sorts, in more than one way.

Majidi believes his is only the second film on the Prophet, the first being The Message, released in the original Arabic in 1976 and in English in 1977. Directed by Moustapha Akkad and starring Anthony Quinn in the English version, it followed the rules of depiction: the Prophet is not shown or heard on screen.

Cut to September 14, 2012. In the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, a feature film about the Prophet was being screened by the Army to unite locals. But it had just the opposite effect.

At that time protests were raging against a film titled Innocence of Muslims, which depicted the Prophet in an entirely negative light. Subsequently, the maker of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Sam Bacile, was sentenced to jail in the US.

But as the film began, a person in the crowd protested that it was the same film, Innocence of Muslims, that was being screened. The police and security forces pointed out that, on the contrary, it was an internationally accepted film, dubbed in Urdu by Pakistan’s Geo TV and approved by Islamic universities from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Trouble erupted, however.

The movie in question was, of course, The Message. It was banned in several countries, and was also associated with violence: on March 9, 1977, the day of the film’s release in New York, a militant group of African-American gunmen, led by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, took 149 hostages, killing a radio journalist and a police officer in a 39-hour standoff when they seized the District Building, the Islamic Center, and the B'na B'rith Headquarters in Washington.

Khaalis wanted the government to release some of his men who were convicted of murder, but he also wished for The Message to be withdrawn. "We want the picture out of the country," Khaalis said. "Because it's a fairy tale, it's a joke... I'm Muslim and I'll die for my faith. It's a joke. It's misrepresenting the Muslim faith.”

The Message had to fight many problems. Akkad had to seek funding outside the US for the project, and initially the governments of Kuwait, Libya and Morocco supported him, but funds dried up after Kuwait withdrew financial support. Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi stepped in to help.

Boxer Muhammad Ali wanted a part, but was turned down by the director because he was too famous. The media claimed that Charlton Heston would play Mohammed. Riots and protests erupted in Pakistan. Deaths were reported.

Five days before the London screening, Akkad received threatening phone calls and had to change the title from Mohammed, Messenger of God to The Message. Akkad was killed in a terrorist bombing attack of a hotel in Jordan in 2005.

Akkad also made Lion of The Desert in 1981, again starring Anthony Quinn – a film on the Libyan revolutionary icon Omar Mukhtar, which was released in India and became a source of controversy in Kashmir.

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Not incidentally, The Message was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score. Will Rahman repeat history?

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Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

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Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.