Bringing the Greater Jihad to the Silver Screen

Bringing the Greater Jihad to the Silver Screen June 3, 2012

Check out this wonderful exchange about the nature of jihad in Islam in a recent film. (And, if you know the film’s name, please let me know.)

Update: I’ve been informed it was “Sleeper Cell,” a 2005 film I somehow missed. (Actually, it’s in my NetFlix queue, but it’s a long, long queue.)

Aside from the fact that I agree wholeheartedly with its message and think such insights need to be more widely discussed–among not only non-Muslims but also Muslims, even if this isn’t a radical new perspective, theologically speaking–I’m inspired by the use of the medium of a thriller (or so I assume) to inspire reflection as opposed yet more fear, jingoism or empty machismo. And for it to be done in a way that’s watchable, well, that’s really exciting and powerful. (The day that Hollywood starts to consistently probe the complexities of the War on Terror in the same way it does, say, the Vietnam War–not that it it is adequately critical in that case, either, as H. Bruce Franklin shows in his brilliant book about Hollywood’s increasing and willful amnesia about this incredible tragedy–is the day the Muslim-baiting industry goes out of business.)

What saddens me is that conversations like this are pretty rare and how inured many of the most woefully ignorant of participants in today’s debates are to basic facts thanks to the advent of heavily-footnoted but woefully misinformed partisan talking points (e.g., the shlock produced by Islamophobe propagandists-in-scholars clothing whose selective quotes from and dumbed-down analysis of Islamic tradition never fail to echo Disraeli’s immortal quip about statistics) and the paradoxical absence of effective fora for substantive intellectual exchange online today.

Coupled that with a relentlessly superficial MSM that constantly beams faux firsthand observations of anything that is ugly from the Muslim world and you often get a mindset of unassailable faith in the shallowest stereotypes and double standards. Thus, many of the combatants on the Blogosphere are like the warring hosts in Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” only without the latter’s realization that they were hacking away in the dark.

But, on the bright side, things like this plant the seed for the eventual reexamination of these easy oversimplifications and myths even among the most brainwashed, assuming they really are interested deep down in arriving at the truth and understanding their “foes.” The most valuable debate is, after all one that you have with yourself and your conscience in private, far from the crowds baying for blood. And just as you can’t un-watch the endless scenes of crazy-looking Muslims that the nightly news shows so love, you can’t un-watch a movie that exposes you to perspectives that call into question those simple categories and lead you wonder if, maybe just maybe, Muslims, to borrow a line from Sting, “love their children, too.”

Let the Dialectic begin.

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