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Hollywood Wants Ali As Messenger

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AP
Muhammad Ali has been recruited by a Hollywood entertainment industry group for a public service announcement explaining America's war on terrorism to Muslims around the world.

The boxer, who converted to Islam in the 1960s and refused to serve in the military when drafted during the Vietnam war, has been asked to film a one-minute spot to be aired on international networks, said Hope Boonshaft, executive vice president of external affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“He has agreed in concept,” said Boonshaft, who heads the international committee of the so-called Hollywood 9/11 group of studio executives, producers, directors and writers trying to aid the war effort.

Final details about the content of the video have not been worked out. A final agreement is not expected until the 59-year-old Ali reviews the final concept, Boonshaft said.

Ali's spokeswoman, Jill Siegel, did not immediately return calls on Sunday.

“Ali's name kept coming up when we considered people who are credible, well known around the world and can deliver the message that this is not a war on Islam but a war on terrorism,” Boonshaft said.

The public service announcement would be the first Hollywood 9-11 project for overseas consumption. The group overseen by the Motion Picture Association of America has dispatched entertainers and filmed messages to Americans at home and serving abroad since its formation last month after a meeting with Karl Rove, a senior adviser to President Bush.

Ali appeared on a Sept. 21 entertainment industry telethon to raise money for attack victims and their families. Boonshaft said that appearance had an impact on his choice for the video.

During the telethon, Ali told the audience, “Islam is peace. It's against killing, murder, and the terrorists, and the people doing that in the name of Islam are wrong. And if I had a chance, I'd do something about it.”

The announcement would be designed to air in several languages over networks like Al Jazeera, the Middle East Broadcasting Center and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. The stations have not yet been contacted by the Hollywood group.

The group hopes to complete the video by late January.

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