A friend of mine, Daniyal Noorani from Lahore, Pakistan, has put together a very interesting project: seizing on some of the more transcendent media of music and animation, Daniyal is using these as tools in an effort to bridge the growing gap in relations between Pakistan and the US, his current home, reflecting the wider issues that continue to place the West and the Muslim world at odds.
It started with a short film, Find Heaven, which made the Official Selection at the 2010 London Independent Film Festival and screened at Harvard University as part of the Muslim Film Festival earlier this year. This has grown into what are effectively four related projects of music and animation, including a studio album and what Daniyal describes as Pakistan's first anime series, relying on expertise in Pakistan itself. He's launched it as a Kickstarter campaign.
If I had $10,000 in my pocket, I know where I would put it - I'd like to see where this goes. But whether or not this particular project succeeds in this instance, I like Daniyal's work for several reasons: it has a strong appeal for young people, which is what is going to make a difference; it's also multi-disciplinary and evidence suggests that it works well at both ends, in Pakistan and with a Western audience. With this kind of subject matter, one can be tempted to cry from frustration, but this stuff laughs resoundingly, yet retains poignancy.
Finally, in cold hard political terms, Pakistan is important. I'm not a foreign policy expert, but here is one explanation for why Pakistan matters, from a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in response to Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan at the start of 2010. The message has been repeated often. Right now, anything that can offer some informed popularisation of the myriad issues connected to these intercultural problems, like the Find Heaven Project, is hugely welcome.