Quotes have been translated from Arabic by the reporter.

Have you heard of Mohammed Assaf? If you answered no, then you are probably:
A) Non-Arab
B) Living under a rock
C) All of the above.

Assaf first entered into the hearts of the Pan-Arab world following his 2013 win on Arab Idol — an Arab TV show based on the British Pop Idol. Since then, his fame has skyrocketed, earning him the nickname “Asaroukh” (‘The Rocket”), as he has gone on to dominate the Arab pop charts.

But what makes him so special? Could it be his twinkling eyes? His nightingale-esque vocals? His charming demeanor? The answer is all of the above. However what he is possibly best known and celebrated for is giving back to the area that raised him and has continued to support him unconditionally: Palestine.

Assaf in his dressing room, preparing for his first concert of the “Hope for Palestine” tour in Calgary. Photo by of Hadeel Abdel-Nabi

Born in Libya to Palestinian parents, Assaf has experienced the heart-wrenching circumstances of the Israeli occupation of Palestine since he moved with his family to the Khan Yunis Refugee Camp in Gaza when he was four-years-old. Prior to appearing on Arab Idol, it took him a full two days to reach the auditions in Egypt due to obstacles at the border. He has since used his fame as a medium to shed light on the situation in Palestine and to give back in every way that he can.

“I am proud of doing my part of the collective responsibility that is on any Palestinian, famous or not. I always talk about my people and I always try to help my people from the suffering of the occupation,” says Assaf.

Over the past four years, Assaf has been working with Islamic Relief, a Muslim-based organization, to raise funds for various causes in Palestine. On Thursday, Oct. 5, Assaf made his first stop in Calgary on his five city “Hope for Palestine” Tour.

“My opinion is that we are not begging [by asking for donations]; rather the opposite, we believe that this is a necessary part of their responsibilities as Arabs and as Palestinians. Let’s say that as Arabs, all Arabs, we will always go back to our Arab roots and to our countries and to our people,” Assaf said about the kickoff of his fundraising for the children of Palestine.

“I am proud of doing my part of the collective responsibility that is on any Palestinian, famous or not. I always talk about my people and I always try to help my people from the suffering of the occupation,” – Mohammed Assaf

Assaf’s astonishing success has many referring to him as “Assaf Hilm Falastine” (“Assaf, the Dream of Palestine”) and has given a voice to a silenced group of people. His music has united the diaspora, and he continues to use his own spotlight to shed light on the current situation in Palestine. Assaf’s incredible influence and work with Palestinian refugees earned him the title of Goodwill Ambassador for Peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2013.

And to his fans, Assaf shared an inspiring message during the show:

“If it wasn’t for the fans and the people that support me and the people that have come out to see me today, I would not be the Mohammed Assaf that you know. So I thank God and I thank every person that came to see me today, because today is not just “Mohammed,” the people are not just here to watch Mohammed,” Assaf said. 

“I believe that we really have a good goal. My fame has a pure message, a message of love, a message of peace, and a message of happiness. Let’s give our people hope, those that are oppressed and plagued in Palestine and help them through the way of Islamic Relief.”

All proceeds from the “Hope for Palestine” fundraising tour will go towards supporting the children of Gaza.

habdel-nabi@cjournal.ca

Editor: Jamie McNamara | jmcnamara@cjournal.ca