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Bomb hatred with love - the advert that shocked the Arab world

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A suicide bomber sits at his workbench, prepping his explosive vest for death. The voice of a young child is heard over the scenes of his impending destruction, saying: “I will tell G-d everything, that you’ve filled the cemeteries with our children and emptied our school desks. That you’ve sparked unrest and turned our streets to darkness.”
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Jun 15, 2017

So begins the most audacious television advert ever flighted in the Arab world.  On the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the world of advertising was forever changed when the Kuwaiti-based telecoms giant, Zain, launched a ground-breaking anti-terrorism television campaign that shocked the Arab world.

The launch also coincided with the second anniversary of the massive ISIS bomb blast at a Kuwaiti mosque, which killed 27 worshippers and injured 227 others.

In the advertisement, Zain - which has 45 million cell phone subscribers throughout the Arab world and Africa - tackled the issue of Islamic extremist terror head on. The stark images of the suicide bomber are contrasted with footage of children playing soccer, a grandfather kissing the feet of his grandchild and a young couple preparing for their wedding vows.

“That you’ve sparked unrest and turned our streets to darkness and that you’ve lied, G-d has full knowledge of the secrets of the heart.” berates the child.

Undeterred, the angel of death wearing his explosive suicide vest, boards a bus in search of martyrdom. But the bus is filled with victims of fundamentalist terror, who confront the bomber. While proclaiming his belief in G-d, the bomber is challenged by a grandfather holding a child: “You come in the name of death, but G-d is the creator of life.”

The advert becomes a struggle for the soul of Islam, as both sides chant “Allahu Akbar” the Islamic phrase, named Takbir, meaning "Allah is Greater".

Prominent as a passenger on the bus, is the iconic image of Omran Daqneesh, the child from Aleppo in Syria, whose blood-stained image became an international symbol of the Syrian civil war after he survived a Syrian/Russian airstrike.

Seated on a jarring bright orange ambulance chair, the child represents all of those children who have been the victims of civil war, terrorism and strife in the Middle East. The child sings to the suicide bomber, challenging his faith.

Regardless, the bomber walks through the valley of his own destruction, witnessing bombed buildings, smouldering cars and destroyed schools. Appearances by the real-life victims of terror are interspersed with footage from terrorist attacks in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, all places where Zain operates as a mobile network operator.

The emotive soundtrack builds to a crescendo as people stream out of mosques and schools to confront the terrorist. Among those streaming out, are real victims of terror including Ibrahim Abdulsalam, who was injured in the Kuwait mosque blast, and a bride who survived the bombing of her 2005 wedding in Amman, Jordan.

As the music rises, the crowd is joined by United Arab Emirates pop star Hussain Al Jassmi, who sings:

Let’s bomb violence with mercy,

Let’s bomb delusion with the truth,

Let’s bomb hatred with love,

Let’s bomb extremism for a better life. 

An emotive musical soundtrack defies the suicide bomber. “Worship your G-d with love, with love not terror," sings Hussain Al Jassmi, “Be tender in your faith, gentle not harsh. Confront your enemy, with peace not war."

The crowd chases the bomber until he falls to the ground, whereafter Al Jassmi offers him a hand to redeem himself. Rather than the carnage of a suicide bomb blast, the sky explodes in fireworks.

Witnessed by the bride who survived the attack on her own wedding day, the original intended victims marry at a ceremony attended by the suicide bomber himself as a guest, now dressed in a suit.

The advert is bold, stark and evocative. Originally flighted on television, the video has now gone viral on social media, where more than seven million viewers have seen it on YouTube. Its message is clear: This Ramadan, “let’s bomb hatred with love”.

While breaking new ground in the world of advertising, the campaign is not without its detractors.

The inclusion of the image of Omran Daqneesh has been the focal point of criticism. The five-year-old Syrian was injured not by ISIS, but by either Syrian President Assad’s or Russian forces in an air raid that killed eight people, including Daqneesh’s brother, Ali.

“The child Omran is a victim of Assad’s barrel bombs and not the terrorism of Daesh [ISIS],” wrote one Syrian writer. “Part of justice for any victim is to expose his killer. Zain’s ad distorts the truth.”

Other activists considered it inappropriate for Zain to use the images of terror victims in a commercial way.

Despite the criticism, the advert has received an overwhelmingly positive response in the Arab world. One comment on Facebook read: “It’s wonderful. We need these beautiful words these days. I wish those words are applied through actions in the Muslim world.”

The video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508 or search in www.youtube.com for Zain anti-terrorism advert.

 

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