“Assalamu alaikum, kids! How are you all doing?” boomed Wael Ibrahim, our guest speaker at the LiveDeen conference in Karachi. He had flown all the way from Hong Kong and was now visiting hibakidz Smart Heart activity area at the conference.
Hassan, Omar, and I were sitting at the same table, eager to hear what this man with a big smile had to share with us.
“How many of you watch cartoons and movies? And don’t you lie to me!” he grinned.
Some kids raised their hands. Since I mostly watched videos and documentaries, I just sat there. Hassan was a screen buff. He loved movies and every now and then insisted that his parents allow him to watch this or that.
Omar was the aeronautical engineer, who loved building stuff and designing planes. Movies didn’t really interest him. He wanted something more challenging for the mind.
“I loved to watch movies when I was a kid,” the speaker admitted. The kids seemed a bit surprised, as they thought that teachers of the Quran talked only about Islam.
“Once, I watched an Indian movie called Mard (man),” he confessed. “They showed a village being burnt down and poor people running in all directions in a mad rush. Suddenly, a father took hold of his baby and engraved the word ‘Mard’ on the baby’s chest. The background music peaked, the baby cried bleeding from the wound, and soon the time passed showing the same baby grown up to be a brave man. And guess what? After all these years, he still carried the scar on his chest of that written word ‘Mard’. That was so cool.”
I wasn’t sure if it was cool or not, but all the children listened to Brother Wael Ibrahim in awe.
He continued: “That night, when I woke up in the middle of my sleep, I sneaked into bathroom, took my father’s shaving blade, and carved out on my chest ‘Mard.’ I could hear the same music re-playing in my head, as blood dripped from my body. In the morning, when my father found out what had happened, he woke me up startled and demanded an answer. I lied to him that my sister had done this to me. I got into serious trouble for it.”
Hassan and I just blinked, while Omar was in a daze. All the kids silently stared at the speaker.
“The point I am trying to make here is that movies can make you do things which are not necessarily right. They have a certain power just like magic, and there are many incidents like this. Kids travel into a fantasy world and try to become and behave like someone else.”
Omar and I stared at Hassan, who was shifting in his chair nervously.
“Stay away from these movies and cartoons as much as you can,” he warned urgently.
“But can’t we watch anything?” a curious boy asked.
“It depends what you want to watch. Is it making you a smarter and better person, or is it wasting your time? You must always question that,” Wael Ibrahim explained.
“What do you like more: Hong Kong or Pakistan?” someone asked.
“Both!” He replied. “Biryani in Pakistan and home in Hong Kong.” Everybody laughed.
“Actually, my wife is the fast food type of person, who cooks for an hour and leaves the kitchen, but Biryani takes long. So I love Pakistan. And even though I was born in Egypt, I was not a good Muslim there. I found Islam in Hong Kong , a non-Muslim country, and that is why it is so close to my heart.”
“I have seen you in Masterchef cooking chocolate too,” added a boy.
Everybody laughed. “What? Okay, now you are confusing me with someone else. I am not a chef. Right kids, thanks for listening. I had a lovely time talking to you all. Assalamu alaikum.”
“Walaikum assalam!” we all chorused and watched him exit the room with the same smile.
Omar teased Hassan: “So let’s see what you have written on your chest, the movie lover.” And we burst into peals of laughter. Hassan just pulled a face and giggled along.