NPR has a story on a Muslim actor from Algeria who gives a sonorous rendition of the Islamic call to prayer (Adhan) three times a week at his mosque; many come just to hear his voice.
For the next year, NPR will take a musical journey across America, which is one of the most religiously diverse countries on earth. We want to discover and celebrate the many ways in which people make spiritual music — individually and collectively, inside and outside houses of worship.
It is said, in Los Angeles, that Abdulwahab Benyoucef’s call to prayer is so lovely and so clarion that Muslims come to the mosque just to hear him. About three times a week, the Algerian actor — who has shortened his name to Ben Youcef — comes here in his traditional tunic to stand before the men kneeling toward Mecca. He closes his eyes, holds one hand over his ear, leans into a microphone and sings out the Arabic words in extended phrases.
“It’s a way to call people to come to worship God,” Ben Youcef says. “That’s the purpose of the adhan [the Arabic name for call to prayer]. I bear witness that there’s no God except God. I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God. Come to what’s good, come to prayer.”
In his other life, the 34-year-old Ben Youcef is one of Hollywood’s A-list Muslim actors. Lately, because of his complexion, he’s been getting more and more generic ethnic roles. “Because in commercials,” he says, “a lot of times I’m actually playing a Latin guy or an ethnically ambiguous guy.”
While the story is feel-good it does oddly descend into a bit of Orientalism. For some reason writer John Burnett could not type up an article on a Muslim without including a reference to “Aladdin.”
Ben Youcef, with his Aladdin-like good looks and mellifluous voice, has the goal of becoming Hollywood’s most recognizable Arab actor — the next Omar Sharif — just so long, he says, as he can remain true to Islam.