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MICHAEL JACKSON MOURNS BY ARAB WORLD

Surprisingly, a Bahraini royal mourned him publicly, young Lebanese held a candlelight tribute, Egyptian musicians hailed him as an inspiration.
Beyond his global reach, Michael Jackson held a special place in the Muslim world, as one of the first major Western entertainers to break through cultural barriers in the 1980s.
  • Some made a connection with the pop icon because of rumours, never substantiated, that he had converted to Islam. Others embraced him as one of their own after he sought refuge in the Gulf emirate of Bahrain in 2005, following a bruising trial on child molestation charges in the United States.
  • "God have mercy on him. He was a Bahraini. He lived with us," said Jassim Ali, 35, shopping for Jackson CDs in a music store in the capital, Manama.
  • Jackson only spent a year in the emirate, as a guest of Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Isa Al Khalifa, a son of Bahrain's king and an aspiring songwriter who had befriended the entertainer. Jackson kept a low profile there, largely staying close to his host.
  • Across the Arab world, the tributes to Jackson, who died on Friday, mirrored those elsewhere around the globe, though some argued the singer had a special appeal in the region.
  • "Religion is a big part of identity in this part of the world, and the idea he became Muslim boosted his popularity," said Egyptian cultural critic Tarek el-Shinnawi.
  • The conversion rumours were fuelled, in parts, by comments by Jackson's brother, Jermaine, a convert to Islam, who has said his brother showed interest in the faith. In November, a British tabloid claimed Michael Jackson converted at a friend's home in Los Angeles.
Source: NZ Herald
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