Connecting Islam and film culture : the reception of The Message (Ar Risalah) among the Moroccan diaspora
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Participations: journal of audience and reception studies. - Middlesex
, p. 68-94
University of Antwerp
This article reviews the complex relationship between religion and film-viewing among the Moroccan diaspora in Antwerp (Belgium), an ethnically and linguistically diverse group that is largely Muslim. A media ethnographic study of film culture, including in-depth interviews, a group interview and elaborate fieldwork, indicates that film preferences and consumption vary greatly along socio-demographic and linguistic lines. One particular religious film, however, holds a cult status, Ar Risalah (The Message), a 1976 historical epic produced by Mustapha Akkad that deals with the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The films local distribution is discussed, as well as its reception among the Moroccan diaspora. By identifying three positions towards Islam, different modes of reception were found, ranging from a distant and objective to a transparent and subjective mode. It was found that the film supports inter-generational religious instruction, in the context of families and mosques. Moreover, a specific inspirational message is drawn from the film by those who are in search of a well-defined space for Islam in their own lives.