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Palestinian Arab Idol finalist says Issawi an inspiration

April 22, 2013 6:32 P.M. (Updated: April 24, 2013 11:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Muhammad Assaf, a Palestinian finalist in the TV singing contest Arab Idol, says he is inspired by long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi and would trade winning the competition for the prisoner's freedom.

"I am conveying Palestine's message to the world, and if I had to choose between winning the Arab Idol title and the freedom of Samer Issawi, I would choose freedom for the Palestinian hero whose steadfastness is peerless and I can't compare myself to it," Assaf told Ma'an.

Speaking from Beirut, the singer from Gaza City said that he considers himself an "ambassador of Palestinian art," who wants to convey a positive image of Palestinians, despite Israeli occupation and oppression.

Arab audiences are happy to see a Palestinian singing different genres of music rather than just patriotic songs, he said, adding that he has been receiving support from his fans in the Arab world.

Assaf says he has been moved by the plight of Palestinian prisoners, especially Samer Issawi who has been on hunger strike in Israeli detention for 265 days.

"Issawi has provided a model in the struggle which is too great to be imitated by artists, despite the fact that art has an element of resistance as it can deliver the message of a people under occupation to the whole world."

"I can't differentiate between my art and my patriotic attitude," he added.

Assaf qualified on Friday for the final of MBC's popular singing competition Arab Idol.

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