Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Upcoming Intl Films Examine America’s Role in War On Terror

Five Minarets in New York

In a coincidental echo of the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque (or as Keith Olbermann might put it, the Nowhere Near Ground Zero Community Center), Turkey has just released New York Ta Bes Minare, or Five Minarets in New York, a big-budget (for Turkey – an estimated $12 million) terrorism drama which features a few familiar Hollywood faces: Showgirls’ Gina Gershon, Terminator’s Robert Patrick, and Hugo Chavez’s BFF Danny Glover.

I’m always curious about how international cinema tries to shape audience perception about the ill-named War on Terror, and how Hollywood undermines us in that conflict. I haven’t yet seen the movie, so my preliminary assessment here is based solely on my impression of the trailer, but based on that, it’s not difficult to see that this will be yet another morally inverted tale of bullying American bigotry and noble Muslim victimization (and if my assessment’s off the mark, I will certainly post a follow-up).

The movie’s website hints at the message we can expect. It announces that the story “underlines America’s paranoia with the Islamic world after 9/11.” Perhaps the word “paranoia” means something different in Turkish; if it means “perfectly rational concern about the clear and present danger of Islamist attacks on American soil and interests abroad,” then that would correctly describe our stance toward the Islamic world (or it would if our administration wasn’t so cozily wrapped in a Snuggie of denial and appeasement). If by “paranoia” they mean, well, paranoia, then to suggest that America has nothing to fear from Muslim extremism but fear itself, that we have blown the threat all out of proportion, is laughable.

It’s also ironic, considering the off-the-charts paranoia pervading the Islamic world, such as their recent suspicion that the Mossad have trained sharks to destabilize the Egyptian tourist industry. Apparently Arab paranoia has now jumped those sharks.

But let’s look at the trailer and decode its messages. It begins with Gina Gershon, who plays the wife of a Turkish scholar wrongfully arrested as a terrorist suspect. After that setup, the overrated Glover, apparently portraying a Muslim, rasps, “Our faith, our way of life is under attack.”

It’s impossible to overstate how intensely this statement would resonate with Muslim audiences, who are incessantly flooded with Islamist propaganda that the West is waging war on Islam, thus making “defensive jihad” incumbent upon all able-bodied Muslims. In the face of that propaganda, Obama’s soothing assurances that we are not and never will be at war with Islam are the equivalent of whistling into a hurricane.

“This is a house of worship,” the film’s imam complains when FBI agent Robert Patrick barges into a mosque, mid-session. “Show a little respect.”

“I have no respect for a religion that gives aid and comfort to our enemies,” Patrick shoots back.

The notion that an FBI agent, in this era of political correctness and hypersensitivity to Muslim hair-trigger offense, would come barreling into a mosque full of worshipers and openly insult their religion is so divorced from reality that it makes the conspiracy theory of Mossad-trained sharks seem like the pinnacle of rationality. This scene bears no relation to the obsequious manner in which our law enforcement have been instructed to tiptoe around the Muslim-American community, fearing that the attempt to root out dangerous extremists will somehow alienate and radicalize moderates.

The word “respect” too will carry weighty significance for many Muslim viewers, for whom respect (many would say dhimmitude) from non-Muslims is paramount. Indeed, according to a new Gallup poll, a large majority of Muslims say the best way for the West to improve relations with them and ease the Clash of Civilizations is to “respect Islam.” (As an aside, my response to that poll is that it’s not enough to expect respect; one has to earn it.)

“And this freedom of yours,” a Turkish character sneers at Patrick in the trailer, “You only seem to take it to countries where there’s oil. Is that just a coincidence?” This is another standard Islamist complaint – that America and the West steal Muslim resources. This is ludicrous, of course; without the Western technology to discover and extract the resource we pay billions for, those oil-rich sheiks would still be riding atop camels instead of in air-conditioned fleets of Bentleys.

The rest of the trailer revs up into what looks like a tense thriller. Along the way we get a glimpse of Gershon in a headscarf, the pious scholar being roughly interrogated (what, no waterboarding scene? Even Stallone’s The Expendables had one), and chanting against “the evils of communism, capitalism, Zionism, and imperialism” – the Axis of Islamist Evils. In all fairness, the film does seem to include an Islamic terror group; it will be interesting to see how that element is treated.

One final thought about this flick. Though it’s not clear from the trailer what the “five minarets” of the title have to do with the story, keep in mind what purpose minarets serve for Muslim fundamentalists: as an aggressive political statement of Islamic supremacism. “The mosques are our barracks,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan himself recited from a poem once, “the domes are our helmets, the minarets are our bayonets, and the faithful are our army.”

My Name is Khan

The accusation of paranoia reminds me… Two years ago the major Indian star Shahrukh Khan was pulled aside and questioned at Newark Liberty International Airport. Khan suggested he was singled out as a Muslim because Khan “is a Muslim name and I think the name is common on their checklist.” His point so curiously echoes the title of the film he had just wrapped, My Name is Khan, about a Muslim facing bigotry in post-9/11 America, that one could reasonably suspect that the incident was a publicity stunt.

But My Name is Khan director Kabir Khan said that the actor’s delay was “yet another example of American paranoia post-9/11.” Ah, there it is again – paranoia. Muslim extremists aren’t trying to kill us. They aren’t pushing to establish sharia worldwide, or to destroy democracy as they claim. It’s all in our heads. “It saddens me to say this,” director Khan lamented, “but I don’t think the US will ever be cured of Islamophobia.”

What saddens me is that so many fatuous, self-important, America-hating filmmakers – here and abroad – perpetuate this completely wrongheaded notion that the “irrational fear of Islam” springs out of ignorance and hatred instead of Islamic terrorism itself, and that it is a bigger problem than what Obama likes to call “al Qaeda and its affiliates.” The Organization of the Islamic Conference actually calls Islamophobia “the worst form of terrorism.”

You know what they say: It’s not paranoia if someone’s really trying to kill you.

By and large, Hollywood avoids revisiting the 9/11 attacks in film or TV (with the notable exception of the brilliant The Path to 9/11) and avoids confronting the truth and reality of Islamic terrorism. Meanwhile foreign film industries, with the seeming complicity of useful idiots such as Patrick, Gershon, and the despicable dictator-lover Glover, are hard at work whitewashing history, packing their films with anti-infidel tropes, and painting America as an oil-rapacious aggressor and Muslims as victims of paranoia, bigotry, and Western oppression.

Theirs is the message that will ultimately dominate worldwide perception of the Clash of Civilizations – unless Hollywood mans up and begins countering that false perception with the truth.
(This article originally appeared at Big Hollywood)