Mohammad Assaf: Palestine’s Voice

ولد محمد عساف في 10 سبتمبر1989 في مصراتة، ليبيا لأبوين فلسطينيين من قطاع غزة، فلسطين، وهو واحد من سبعة أشقاء. عاد عساف ووالديه إلى مخيم للاجئين في خان يونس في قطاع غزة عندما كان في الرابعة من عمره.
Assaf receiving his award as Arab Idol Season 2.
فاز عساف في الموسم الثاني من ‘عرب أيدول’، التي تبثها الشبكة MBC  وقال انه لقب “بالصاروخ” من قبل المطرب اللبناني و القاضي ‘عرب أيدول’ راغب علامه. كان الناس في العالم العربي يصوتون للفلسطيني محمد عساف.
استحق عساف الفوز في ‘عرب أيدول’ و لأن صوته رائع وجلب بذلك الأمل للكثير من الفلسطينيين. سوف يسافر إلى الشرق الأوسط لإحياء حفلاته في فلسطين في فندق جراند بارك برام الله
كانت فرحة عساف كبيرة بعد أن تلقّى دعوةً من رئيس الإتحاد الدولي لكأس العالم جوزيف بلاتر للغناء في إفتتاح الدورة المقبلة التي ستقام في البرازيل العام المقبل. ويُشارك عسّاف في أضخم حفل رياضي غنائي عالمي على الإطلاق، وأيضا تلقّى الدعوة من بلات، لإفتتاح ملعب رياضي وأول قناة رياضية فلسطينية في الضفة الغربية.
For my Arabic class, I was asked to explore an icon that I believe promotes peace in a positive, apolitical manner. At first, I found it difficult for a peace icon to be apolitical because typically the two go hand in hand. Then I thought, Al-Bustan strives for a similar mission by bringing together the community of Arabs and non-Arabs, from all walks of life. The arts, especially music, are a universal language across the world. One person who recently exemplifies this is Mohammad Assaf, a Palestinian from Gaza. As a public figure who just won Arab Idol, Assaf has the ability to influence the masses through his music. With that in mind, I began writing an expository essay for my Arabic language class. 

As I noted in the Arabic paragraph above, Assaf was given the name “the rocket” by Lebanese superstar and Arab Idol judge and mentor Ragheb Alama because of his exuberant personality. Assaf is Arab Idol’s second season winner, which got me wondering about the first season’s champion, Carmen Suleiman. While Assaf received overwhelming attention after his victory, Suleiman recognition was more modest. I thought to myself, what is it about his story that is so compelling? 
I was curious to see the reaction of Arabs about his victory so I browsed the web for critiques. It was difficult to find a source that spoke negatively about Assaf. How did he win the love and support of so many people? Was it simply his voice, or is there more behind this story?

I came across an insightful article written by Maysoon Zaid, an American comedian and activist of Palestinian descent. As she writes:

The story of how Mohammed Assaf got to audition in Cairo from Khan Younis is the stuff that episodes of Glee are made of. As the legend goes, Mohammed had to beg and bribe the Egyptians, at Rafah crossing, to let him out of Gaza and into Egypt. His incredible journey spanned two days and when Mohammed finally arrived in Cairo, he was too late. The gate was closed. Devastated, he called his mom to tell her he was coming home. Like a true stage mom, Entisar Assaf wasn’t having it and wouldn’t allow her son to quit. She told her child that coming home was not an option and to get his singing self over that gate by any means necessary. Apparently, all Palestinians have an inner Spider Man and scaling walls is child’s play.

Mohammed obeyed his mama and hopped the wall. Once inside, our hero faced another roadblock. He didn’t have a contestant’s number and no number means no audition. He had come too far to give up now, so like a scene from a Broadway musical, Mo spontaneously broke out into song right in the middle of the gaggle of people waiting their turn to audition. He sang his heart out. A man from the crowd stepped forward and handed Assaf his audition number. He told Mohammed that he was just there clowning and that Mo had a real shot and could have his spot. The kid from Gaza had finally caught a break.

I was struck by how his story represents the daily struggles of Palestinians and their perseverance in achieving their dreams. His story inspires Palestinians, and all Arabs, to fight for freedom and to never lose sight of their roots even in times of hardshipAssaf’s ability to compete against all odds and his subsequent victory provided a sense of hope, a source of inspiration, and another voice for Palestinian people.
Last Thursday, the Eid in Dubai concluded with one of the most awaited events of the year, the Arab Idol Live Tour 2013. The concert was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, featuring champion Mohammed Assaf, and the two finalists, Syrian Farah Yusuf and Egyptian Ahmed Jamal, as well as Ragheb Alama. Details about the rest of the Arab Idol Live Tour has not been revealed to the public yet; however, Assaf’s team is working on bringing him to the United States this upcoming year.

While in Dubai, Assaf is working diligently on his first album, which will feature ten songs, and his first single to be released soon. MBC is making a autobiographical movie about Assaf’s life journey, shining light on Palestine. 

Assaf’s experience and modesty makes him a fitting figurehead to draw attention to the Occupation. He does not dwell on the past but he is focused on improving the future and promoting peace. Assaf’s peace campaign is just beginning. He is proud of his heritage and of his people; he wants to show the world Palestine’s potential as well as encouraging the world in joining his campaign. When returning home to Gaza after his Arab Idol win, Assaf exclaimed, “Thank you Palestine and thank you Arab nations! Thank you for your support and standing by my side to put a light on the suffering of my people in Gaza and West Bank. I give you this win because I am proud and I am proud to have you behind me.”

– Zeanah Rumman-Obeid, Drexel student/Al-Bustan intern

References:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s