It is said, in Los Angeles, that Abdulwahab Benyoucef's call to prayer is so lovely and so clarion that Muslims come to the mosque just to hear him. About three times a week, the Algerian actor -- who has shortened his name to Ben Youcef -- comes here in his traditional tunic to stand before the men kneeling toward Mecca.
He closes his eyes, holds one hand over his ear, leans into a microphone and sings out the Arabic words in extended phrases.
"It's a way to call people to come to worship God," Ben Youcef says. "That's the purpose of the adhan [the Arabic name for call to prayer]. I bear witness that there's no God except God. I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God. Come to what's good, come to prayer."
In his other life, the 34-year-old Ben Youcef is one of Hollywood's A-list Muslim actors. Lately, because of his complexion, he's been getting more and more generic ethnic roles. "Because in commercials," he says, "a lot of times I'm actually playing a Latin guy or an ethnically ambiguous guy." ...
The call to prayer is not music, per se. Music is not allowed in the mosque. But the five-times-daily prayer call can be musical. Ideally, a muezzin is sought out for a voice that inspires and awes -- a voice like an instrument.
"When you hear a beautiful voice, it connects the soul to the divine in a way that words sometimes cannot do," says Jihad Turk, a friend of Ben Youcef's and president of Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school in Southern California.
Ben Youcef, with his Aladdin-like good looks and mellifluous voice, has the goal of becoming Hollywood's most recognizable Arab actor -- the next Omar Sharif -- just so long, he says, as he can remain true to Islam. (Read or listen to the full article, including the adhan)