Vegetarian Elite
 
Abir Alsayed: The Heart of a Compassionate Syrian Filmmaker - (In Arabic)      
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Today’s Vegetarian Elite will be presented in Arabic, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Nepali, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Thai.

From the United Arab Emirates a flower of compassion blossoms, reaching the hearts of those she touches with her fragrance of kindness. On today’s Vegetarian Elite, it is our pleasure to introduce to you that beautiful flower of the desert, Abir Alsayed, a vegan director and producer for Hot Spot Films in Dubai. Ms. Alsayed also works as an independent filmmaker, freelancing for Al Jazeera, a leading international Arabic news network based in Doha, Qatar.

There are a lot of wishes that one hopes to achieve in life. On the professional level, I would like to evolve more as a director and do films on a larger scale. Of course, thank God, I’m now working for a channel that has millions of viewers. However, there is still the dream to make movies to reach the largest number of people through festivals and the like – and to make movies that have issues that are really important to me.

As a documentary filmmaker, Ms. Alsayed writes, “Films are a tool of change, they are a tool for the voiceless to be heard.” Today on our show, as throughout most of her life, Ms. Alsayed speaks out for the many voiceless – our beloved animal co-inhabitants. In fact, her love for life is an intrinsic quality that has flowered within her heart from a very young age.

I’m a vegetarian. I cannot say how long because I’ve been a vegetarian since I was born. When I was young, they kept asking me to eat meat. I did not see it as meat, but as an animal, not food. He is a being that has a life, children, and has... I did not look at it as something could be placed in a dish to be eaten.

In spite of being the only vegetarian in her family, Ms. Alsayed stayed strong in her conviction to have no part in the taking of animal lives while growing up.

I am originally from Syria. In Syria, there is a lot of vegetarian food, but they always consider it as appetizers being offered before the main meal. The main meal is always meat. When I was little and my family was invited somewhere, when they gave me food and saw that I ate only the vegetarian dishes, they’d say, “You did not eat anything!” You must eat meat in order to be considered that you ate well. So my situation developed further due to the love for animals or the aversion to live on [another’s] blood. So, frankly, I can live relying on vegetables, not on blood for nourishment.

As she grew older and understood the truth and cruelty involved in the milk industry, Ms. Alsayed decided to do away entirely with all animal products from her diet.

Then, as I grew older – I was almost 17 years old – I decided that even an egg is a small animal, so I said, “If I do not eat chicken, why should I eat eggs?” So I decided to stop eating eggs. Now, since I did not like eggs very much, it was not difficult to stop eating it. But sometimes, it was difficult to stop eating other things that contained eggs, such as cakes or anything else that I love which had eggs. But thank God, when I stopped eating it, I felt comfortable and there was no longer a kind of slavery to anything.

I am free and able to take decisions and to put any decision in my life into practice. There is nothing that makes me attached to anything physical in this life. Then, when I was almost 24 years old, which was five years later, I decided... I care a lot about natural nutrition and spirituality that I read in a lot of books. It is through books that I read about how they add hormones to milk and how the dairy industry has harmed a lot of animals and humans, where the animals are sick and the diseases are transmitted to milk. In order not keep them (cows) from being sick, they give them antibiotics. Ultimately, all these things enter our bodies. So, I decided to stop all dairy products, where I read the ingredients and stop anything that is related to it.

Although it was a decision borne from compassion, Ms. Alsayed was surprised to experience many benefits after her switch to a pure, plant-based diet.

Of course, it took nine months to do so. But imagine that after one week… I used to have a breathing problem during sleep, so after a week I was able to sleep easily and felt very comfortable and happy. After I stopped consuming milk, my health has improved; the same thing happened with my psychological wellbeing.

I started to look for dietary supplements, and come to view the whole universe as one integrated unit. Food is no longer just something we eat – no, it is a part of an integrated life system of this universe. So I started to look at food as nutrition and not just food – that is, it is food which nourish the body, soul, and mind. This is, of course, what made me feel happy that I have become a vegan.

We’ll be back in just a moment to continue our visit with Ms. Alsayed in the desert of the United Arab Emirates. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Vegetarian Elite on Supreme Master Television and our feature on Ms. Alsayed, director and producer of Hot Spot Films in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Even before she personally experienced the benefits of a vegan diet, Ms. Alsayed had always encouraged others to adopt a more compassionate, animal-free dietary lifestyle.

When my family was invited to meals, I went to eat with them. Everyone was surprised, “How can you not eat meat? You should eat meat!” As I grew older and people started to invite me or I invited them to certain places, they were often surprised. They were surprised when I prepared a great banquet with only vegetarian food. I tried to encourage and show them the new products, the new alternatives. For example, instead of animal butter, there is a vegetarian one.

There is soy milk or rice milk, etc. There is vegetarian cheese and many of these things, so it is no longer difficult to abstain from anything. I always show them that there are alternatives It is possible to make a table full of nice vegetarian dishes. There is no need to harm other animals or our bodies by eating meat. Of course, I encouraged my family a lot, and my mother is now trying to follow a Japanese method called macrobiotics. But my husband – I am married – used to eat a lot of meat.

He could not accept the idea that I am a vegan, ever, neither he nor his family. So we stayed together four years; he is a doctor. Throughout the four years, he kept telling me that meat and milk are good and I have to eat meat. Finally, I started sending him all the published research which showed that meat is harmful. So, after four years, he also became a vegan like me . Now he is starting to warn me when I overlook and purchase any product that contains a hormonal component or milk. He tells me, “Be careful, it contains so and so.” Thus, he became more of a vegan more than me.

To further emphasize the urgent need for a global switch to a plant-based diet, Ms. Alsayed discussed some of the detrimental impacts of milk and meat consumption.

There are two reasons why I have become a vegan. The first reason is that the dairy industry is not as we imagine, the way they show it in the animation where it is the farmer who milks the cow. No, the milk industry is a very destructive one, both to animals and humans – primarily to the animals because they deprive the calf of the milk and then kill him. Secondly, the cows remain in a constant state of pregnancy and frequent childbirth to produce milk.

Just for the milk, their udders may swell to an unnatural degree. Thus, the cows get sick; and they cannot move around because they keep them in a very tight space. So what happens is that these cows get sick and transmit diseases to the milk. The biggest problem is that in order to prevent the death of cows, they give them a lot of antibiotics, which as we know, do not disappear even if they are in water. So, all of these antibiotics enter the milk; all the hormones that are given for growth and for fattening up the cattle enter the milk.

So, the fact is that the milk has become a liquid full of harmful hormones, of pesticides even, because the feed is full of pesticides. As a result, milk has become a poisonous liquid containing a lot of toxic substances. Of course, this affect me a lot for the following reason: First, the milk is a reason for killing the animals, as well as being harmful to humans. There are research studies which claim that milk is related to the lack of hormonal balance in the body which eventually leads to cancer.

So, milk is fatal to animals and humans, so why should we have it? Another reason, of course, that made me become a vegan is that when I was consuming milk… It is true that I am a vegan now, but I ate cheese and other things; I did not vary the food. That is, I did not eat things such as grain, seeds…other things, including vegetables. When I stopped eating dairy products, my food has become more diverse, healthier, and more respectful of the environment.

Of course, regarding the environment: A vegan who interested in the environment knows that if we are vegan, we do a lot to protect the environment. Because, in order to feed animals… They say that in order to make one hamburger we have to cultivate thousands of hectares of crops as food for animals. A lot of forests are being cut to be cultivated with crops as a food for animals. When these animals have these crops once, twice, or three time, the plants will not grow again.

Thus, there are a lot of arable lands that are no longer fertile and this causes famine in the world. We know the role of forests in purifying the air and how they help the environment. These lands are converted to grazing pastures. And during eating, the cattle emit gases that lead to the warming of the atmosphere. So what happens is that we increase the temperature of the planet and decrease the number of green places on it. Hence, if we are interested in the environment, in our health or the health of animals, we should be vegans.

Loving viewers, thank you for joining us for this episode of Vegetarian Elite. Join us again next week for part 2 of “Abir Alsayed: The Heart of a Compassionate Syrian Filmmaker.” Between Master and Disciples is coming up next, here on Supreme Master Television. Together, may we create loving world of peace this New Year, with the awareness of God’s love in every sunrise.
Today’s Vegetarian Elite will be presented in Arabic, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Nepali, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Thai.

From the United Arab Emirates a flower of compassion blossoms, reaching the hearts of those she touches with her fragrance of kindness. On today’s Vegetarian Elite, we have the honor of presenting the second of our 2-part feature on that beautiful flower of the desert, Abir Alsayed, a vegan director and producer for Hot Spot Films in Dubai. Ms. Alsayed also works as an independent filmmaker, freelancing for Al Jazeera, a leading international Arabic news network based in Doha, Qatar. Although raised in a traditional non-vegetarian Syrian family, Abir made the benevolent decision from very early on to not eat meat.

When I was young, they kept asking me to eat meat. I did not see it as meat, but as an animal, not food.

As a documentary filmmaker, she uses her art to speak out for the many voiceless. Likewise, throughout most of her life, she has spoken on behalf of our innocent and beloved animal co-inhabitants. At 17 years of age, Ms. Alsayed made the decision to switch to a pure plant-based diet, devoid of any animal products, when she learned the truth about the cruelty involved in the dairy industry.

If we are interested in the environment, in our health or the health of animals, we should be vegans.

As an added benefit, Ms. Alsayed discovered that her plant-based dietary lifestyle is very helpful for her strenuous job as a filmmaker.

My job requires a lot of physical exertion. It requires physical as well as mental strength. The reason is that we travel a lot and we have photographic equipment that has to be carried. There are a lot of things we face and need physical strength, so a lot of people were astonished that if I eat vegetables, how could I have the energy to do all this work from morning to night.

So, they were astonished that it provided me a lot of energy, even though I ate less than other people who ate meat. Of course, when we are vegan we must be careful of the quality of our food. We must eat whole grains, a variety of leafy vegetables. When we do so, we’ll notice that we are able go for a long time without food. Being vegan has helped me to withstand the work in my profession.

In addition to health benefits of the vegan diet, Ms. Alsayed believes living a compassionate dietary lifestyle without taking the lives of others is a moral responsibility, one in which Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, imparted during his lifetime.

There is a lot of respect for the environment and animal rights. The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, once said that a woman enters hell because she imprisoned a cat and did not feed or give her water or let her go to find food or water for herself. So, imagine you go to hell just because of abusing a cat. There is another Hadith, I think that mentioned a lot about during war in which the Prophet recommended combatants not to harm the elderly, women, children, animals, and not to cut trees.

So imagine the war where people were in a state of chaos and no one cared about anything, nevertheless, he recommended people not to cut trees and to respect the environment. There are also Hadiths that say no fire was lit in the house of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him. This meant that he did not cook meat at home. He ate rice, barley, wheat, dates or pressed dates. But I want to say that there are a lot of people, when they look to Eid al-Adha or any other Islamic occasion, they do not know that in Islam, if one wants to actually emulate the life of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, it is necessary not to be austere only, but to respect all beings in the universe also.

The Prophet asked us to respect them in war, let alone in peace. The Prophet loved people; he was fair and had a compassionate heart. Therefore, we must learn that from him and apply it in every aspect of our life. I mean, we cannot be affectionate with our children and everyone else and then come back home and eat flesh, blood, and bones. Affection must be present in all aspects of our life.

Indeed, Ms. Abir Alsayed’s love and regard for life is like a wellspring in a dry desert, which is reflected in her professional work.

I have done a lot of movies and programs that focus on the idea of converging with one another or accepting each other. For example, I did a program for children called “Children of Overseas.” This program examined the situation of Arab children who grew up outside of their countries. I focused on two countries, Canada and the United States, where I lived with 13 families.

I studied how these children live in a society different from the one in which their parents came from and how they attempt to learn a second language, customs and traditions. But what they also learn from this community makes them more open and more knowledgeable. Of course, regardless of the richness of the program, I learned a lot from that because I met people from many regions of the Arab world.

We know that Arab countries are not the same. There are a lot of differences between a family from Sudan and a family from Syria, or a family from the United Arab Emirates and a family from Morocco. There is a clear distinction. So, as I met these people, from all races, with all life experiences, I have benefited a lot. But at the same time, we discussed in-depth about how one can be open and at the same time, be able to preserve one’s identity.

We’ll be back in just a moment to continue our visit with vegan filmmaker Ms. Abir Alsayed. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Vegetarian Elite on Supreme Master Television and our feature on Ms. Abir Alsayed, director and producer of Hot Spot Films in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Aside from filming the documentary on Arab children living overseas, Ms. Alsayed is also working on other films that focus on the human spirit.

Now, I’m doing another program called “Friends of the Arabs.” We wanted to do a program that shows that people from all over the world have a love for justice. They support some of the Arabs issues, not because they like the Arabs from the Oriental point of view, no, but because they love justice. So, when they talk about the oppressed people living under racial discrimination – racial discrimination that kills them every day and prevents them from moving outside their country.

So, these people stand for these issues because they are with justice and peace in the world. I have met a lot of people. I filmed in Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Canada, France, and America. We will film also in South Africa and Norway, maybe in Italy and other countries. These people are individuals around the world who are looking for justice, who are questing for equality for all people, searching for a society free of war, free of racism and racial discrimination.

So we called it “Friends of the Arabs.” But frankly, they are friends of righteousness and justice. There are other programs I’d like to do. I would like to do a program about people who make changes, I mean, I’d love to do “Women Who Change the World,” women who, through thinking, have changed the environment around them and changed the world by sharing their thoughts. They are not necessarily famous people, but they may have actually changed the thinking of the community around them. I am attracted to people who have no voice, to have it heard through the camera and my microphone.

During our conversation, Ms. Alsayed gave us a glimpse of the beautiful cultural tapestry that has been woven from splendid Arabian traditions and history.

The Arab heritage is very rich in everything that you can imagine, like stories, adages, and proverbs. It is well known since the ancient times that the East is the country of wisdom. And what I love most of the Arab heritage is that it is rich and contains a lot of wisdom and homilies. But at the same time, what I like of the Arab heritage is that it was inclusive of the world heritage. Arab philosophers and scholars accomplished two things at the same time.

First, they translated the science that was in Greece, Roma, Persia, and India. They had translated the science that was there, for example – science, philosophy and spirituality of other countries, and they added to it, thus, creating their own different schools. Let us take a look at Andalusia, for example, when the Arab civilization prevailed in Spain. It was a place for anyone who wanted to study and anyone who wanted an open society.

The three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – coexisted perfectly in peace and harmony. So, ultimately, the Arab or Muslim community was known for being accepting and loving of the other spiritual and scientific traditions, etc. I would very much like people to be cognizant of this fact because it is not known about the Arab world.

The other thing that I would like to share is that if anyone wants to study Arab and Islamic history, they should look at the role of women in the Arab and Islamic history because it was very developed. The Prophet had a quota solely for women to teach them about their religion. So, ultimately, the condition of women from a historical perspective… Women were not able to inherit or own properties; they were only able to do so after Islam.

This is not the point which I would like to focus on, but I’d like to say that people should not have the conception that Arabs or Arab women do not have personality or individuality. Our modern societies now may cause more harm to women than the Andalusian society, which had a lot of famous women, women poets, and even women in the army.

Her future plans? Ms. Alsayed has great ideas in the works to promote the peace-building diet for our planet.

I once wrote an article that was published in a vegan journal in Canada about the beauty industry and how we can make 100% vegan cosmetic products that are more beneficial for women and their beauty – not for once but for the long term. This article was translated into Chinese… because they read it via the Internet and asked the magazine to translate it into Chinese to be published in a Chinese magazine.

So I took the idea from here, in which I would like to do something for vegans more professionally. For example, like writing a recipe book for the traditional, not modern, Arab food, but adapted for vegans. A lot of people, when they know I am a vegan, say, “But there are many foods that we love in our society, you will not be able to eat them.”

Then, I will tell them “No, these foods can be made in a vegan way by using some of the alternatives, etc. Thus, I will not be deprived of anything and the Arab delicious flavor will be retained in the dishes. So, I would like to write a book on traditional Arabic recipes. Of course, it’s not only for the Arabs but for non-Arabs as well to learn about the food we eat and how delicious and tasty our cuisine is. I recommend you to Be Veg, Go Green 2 Save the Planet

It has been a joy to have you with us for our program, “Abir Alsayed: The Heart of a Compassionate Syrian Filmmaker,” on Vegetarian Elite. Between Master and Disciples is coming up next, here on Supreme Master Television. With Heaven’s grace, may our planet be preserved where all lives co-exist in a beautiful tapestry of loving kindness.



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