Faris Kermani’s exclusive interview with SHAFAQNA – Britain’s acclaimed filmmaker tells his story

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SHAFAQNA- Back in 2011, a decade after the United States declared war on terror, throwing Islam and the Islamic world at the heart of a violent religious controversy, the BBC aired a ground-breaking documentary  – The Life Of Muhammad, a three-part series presented by Rageh Omaar for BBC Two, from director and producer, Faris Kermani.

An acclaimed British filmmaker of Pakistani descent, Mr Kermani’s work has been both challenging and profound in that it brought a new insight into issues pertaining to the Islamic world.

A graduate from the London Film School, his work consists primarily of documentaries but also includes drama series, and fiction films. Many of his programmes focus on South Asian politics and the Muslim world.

He has produced programmes for the BBC and Channel 4 as well as Pakistani channels. Releases include: The Life of Muhammad (BBC), Seven Wonders of the Muslim World,Karbala: City of Martyrs and Karachi Kops (all for Channel 4).

He now heads his own production company based in London, Crescent Films.

In 2012 Mr Karmani received two awards for The Life of Muhammad – the Sandford St Martins TV award and the Royal Television Society award.

SHAFAQNA: Back in 2011 you produced and directed The Life of Muhammad, a documentary retracing the life of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and the impact Islam ultimately had on the world. Can you please tell us what inspired this documentary?

I had wanted to make this programme for a long time, it was a story that I was surprised had never been done on British television, programmes on most major religious figures had been made but not on the Prophet and yet he is the or one of the most important person in the history of the world.

SHAFAQNA: Your work so far has focused a lot on issues which pertain to the Islamic world — Seven Wonders of the Muslim World, Karbala: City of Martyrs and so on … What message are you trying to convey through your work and how do you think it has been received in the UK?

Television programmes I don’t think convey messages, they tell a story,  a story that can be about our history and a story that can resonate with contemporary issues, and a story about the world we live in, so the two that you have mentioned do just that, in Seven Wonders the programme focuses on the beauty of Islamic architecture, of its design and colour, and of the people who use these buildings and of their beliefs. In Karbala: City of Martyrs we were telling the story of Iraqi Shias and Shias in the UK and of the history of persecution and violence that the Shias have suffered.

How do programmes like these go down in the UK?? Difficult to say, Seven wonders got very good ratings and Channel 4 were very happy with it, as they were with Karbala which got some good reviews also..

SHAFAQNA: The media often refer to a clash of civiliZation when referring to tensions in between the Judeo-Christian world and Islam. Do you believe this to be true? Is it not instead that intolerance is leading the conversation?

I think those who use those term are actually intellectually lazy, I don’t think one can make sweeping generalized statements like that, there are tensions and violence between Muslims, more Muslims have been killed by other Muslims in the name of Islam than by non-Muslims…the level of intolerance shown by some Muslims to minorities within their own communities is appalling so to me when the media refer to a clash of civilization because of acts of terrorism in the West they often forget or try to ignore what actually is a very complex situation. It’s basically a tabloid term.

SHAFAQNA: What would you say to those who claim that being Muslim means leaving in contradiction to western values?

I think they are wrong, there are in my view only human values, universal values, not western or eastern or northern or southern, and of course there are individual values so you might want to have a beard and you can, you might want to wear a hijab and you can, and those states that pass laws against a particular form of dress in my view are wrong, as are Muslim states that insist and dictate what one can wear…in my view the vast majority of Muslims living in the Western world are happy to be were they are and judging by the queues outside the embassies of these countries desperate to get to them..

SHAFAQNA: You are yourself British and Muslim. You have contributed a great deal to society through your work. How do you position yourself within this debate on religion versus democracy?

For what it is worth I don’t see religion and democracy are at odds with each other, I am very strongly on the side of democracy and against dictatorship of any kind.

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