In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims

Ominous music plays as images appear on the screen: Muslim terrorists shoot Christians in the head, car bombs explode, executed children lie covered by sheets and a doctored photograph shows an Islamic flag flying over the White House.

“This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America,” a narrator intones. “A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about.”

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

The film is called The Third Jihad. It is 72 minutes of gruesome footage of bombing carnage, frenzied crowds, burning American flags, flaming churches, and seething mullahs. All of this is sandwiched between a collection of somber talking heads informing us that, while we were sleeping, the international Islamist Jihad that wrought these horrors has set up shop here and is quietly going about its deadly business. This is the final drive in a 1,400-year-old bid for Muslim world domination, we’re informed. And while we may think there are some perfectly reasonable Muslim leaders and organizations here in the U.S., that is just more sucker bait sent our way.

“Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate,” says the narrator, “when in fact if you look a little closer you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”
“This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America,” a narrator intones. “A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about.”

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

Arab Film Festival shares the sorts of stories that became news

The social conditions depicted in some of these movies lend perspective to the events of Arab Spring, organizers say.

Eight months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt continues to grapple with the revolution’s aftermath as it prepares for parliamentary elections next month. But at this year’s Arab Film Festival, which opens Friday at the Writers Guild of America theater in Beverly Hills, it will be pre-revolutionary Egypt that appears on the screen.

In “The Birds of the Nile,” a man from a small village moves to Cairo in search of a better life but runs up against the disintegrating structures of Egyptian society. Another Egyptian film, “The Ring Road,” tells the story of a man trying to save his daughter’s life while struggling against the country’s endemic corruption.

“Egyptian Maidens,” about two unmarried women, sheds light on the daily struggles and mounting frustrations of many Egyptians.
Other festival offerings from Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq reflect similar undercurrents of anger that erupted into mass protests that spread across the Arab world this year.

Dutch Film Directors’ Murderer Included in Al-Qaeda Video

June 4 2011

De Telegraaf reports that a video clip released by as-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media branch, has featured an image of Mohammed Bouyeri, who killed Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. His inclusion is unusual in a video which otherwise focuses on depictions of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Hollywood Ignores East-West Exchange

At the Oscars last month the gap between what interests Hollywood and what the rest of the world seems to be doing was sharp and clear. Of the five nominees for the best foreign-language film, all but one, among them the winner, “In a Better World,” from Denmark, dealt in some way with relationships between the West and Islam.

So did many others of the 65 films offered for consideration by film academies around the globe, including the French, German, Dutch and Bulgarian submissions. In contrast, each of the nine American films that were nominated for best picture and eventually lost to “The King’s Speech” from Britain were inward looking, with purely domestic concerns — a characterization that can be applied to movies as different in style and substance as “The Social Network,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter” and “True Grit.”

But why isn’t the United States also part of that same emerging global cinematic conversation? Why isn’t Hollywood also making movies that grapple with the issues that are provoking filmmakers elsewhere? And when Arab and Muslim characters do appear on screen, why are they presented in such simplistic and stereotyped ways?

In American cinema, “We see everything through American eyes, without context or a representation of community” on the Islamic side, said Matthew Bernstein, an editor of the book “Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film” and chairman of the film and media studies department at Emory University in Atlanta.

Film director Akın boycotts Switzerland due to minaret ban

Leading Turkish-German director Fatih Akın has said he will boycott the Swiss premiere of his new film as a protest against Sunday’s referendum vote to ban the construction of minarets in the country. In an open letter, Akın voiced his dismay and complained that the Swiss ban contradicted his belief in the “harmonious co-existence of peoples.”

“Soul Kitchen,” Akın’s comedy about the multicultural day-to-day life in the German city of Hamburg, is due to be shown in Zurich on December 16. In his letter, the director said he would not accompany his film to the country.
“As a child of Muslim parents who do not see minarets as symbols of political Islam but, rather, simply the complete architecture of their houses of worship, I feel personally affected by the referendum. That is why I refuse to travel to Switzerland,” he wrote. The minaret ban has sparked heated debates and indignant reactions from countless groups and individuals worldwide.

“New Muslim Cool” Takes Inside Look at Fusion of Islam and Hip-Hop

Produced in Association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB)
And the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

“New Muslim Cool transcends race, ethnicity, class and religion. Like hip-hop culture, the film is all about irrepressible social transformation and empowerment.”
— Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network

New Muslim Cool is Islam as you have never seen it. It is also hip-hop as you have probably never heard it. This new film, which opens the 22nd season of P.O.V., PBS’s award-winning nonfiction film series, gives audiences an insider’s view of a little-known cultural fusion between Muslims and street beats that has been developing since the very beginnings of hip-hop culture. The result is a surprising challenge to stereotypes of both Muslims and urban youth in America that encourages viewers to look critically at the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s New Muslim Cool has its national broadcast premiere on P.O.V. on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, at 10 p.m. (Check local listings.) American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, P.O.V. received a 2007 Emmy for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking. The 2009 season of P.O.V. continues each Tuesday at 10 p.m. through Sept. 22, with two specials in November and January.

New Muslim Cool is more than another hybrid hip-hop story. It’s also the story of a man coming of age, facing his deepest questions about his faith, trying to keep his family safe and learning how to hold himself accountable. A decade ago, Hamza Pérez, born Jason, was a drug dealer on America’s mean streets. The child of Puerto Rican parents, he had two recurring, competing dreams at night: in one he was in prison by age 21, and in the other he was dead. New Muslim Cool is the story of how, as Hamza laughingly puts it, “both [dreams] came true,” albeit in unpredictable ways.

Indeed, when Hamza was 21, he was hanging out with friends and getting high when a chance encounter with an “old sheikh” transformed his life. The death he experienced was “a death of all my past, the negative,” he says. He gave up drugs and the street life and converted to Islam. He then went further, becoming active in forming a community of Latino and African-American Muslims, many of whom, like Hamza, were former street hustlers and drug dealers. The community ultimately moved from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh, Pa., with Hamza bringing along his son and, after the breakup of his first marriage, his daughter.

As part of their efforts to build a community that would reconcile their heritage with their new faith, Hamza and his brother, Sulíman, formed the rap group Mujahideen Team (M-Team). M-Team strives to use knowledge gained in the streets to put Islam’s religious message into a familiar context. Ultimately, Hamza would bring that message to prisons, fulfilling his other dream in a way he had never imagined.

Early on in the film, Hamza and Sulíman joke about the exotic hybridization their faith and community embody. “See, we don’t speak full Arabic,” says Hamza, “but we know Arabic Spanglish Ebonics.” The two men’s conversion has largely bewildered their family, who raised them as Roman Catholics. The family’s initial upset has been tempered by gratitude that the brothers’ new faith has gotten them off drugs and away from other dangerous pursuits. Yet the family also feels some discomfort over the tough lyrics Hamza and Sulíman use as M-Team.

With their unflinchingly critical words and intense stage performance — complete with flaming machetes — Hamza and Sulíman attempt to carve out a place for themselves in the tradition of protest poetry, up from the rawest roots of hip-hop. Within the Muslim hip-hop world, they are recognized as heirs to the tradition of artists like the Last Poets and Public Enemy, freely criticizing the government and many elements of modern society. But their music also draws scrutiny and eventually complicates Hamza’s life, even as he begins to grow and embrace a softer way of expressing himself.

The struggle to make his community thrive, raise his kids, build a new marriage and, paradoxically, deal with an FBI investigation of his group’s new mosque in Pittsburgh, Pa., all serve to deepen Hamza’s study of and thinking about Islam and the plight of the poor and imprisoned in America.

Hamza begins to reach out to prisoners, using his faith and struggles to inspire them. His work also leads him into surprising alliances with ministries of other religions that, like his own, seek to build a road to redemption from the nation’s jails.

Says director/producer Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, “New Muslim Cool came out of my long-standing interest in the power of pop music and culture to create social change and a deep feeling that we urgently need to look for common ground as our world grows increasingly diverse and interconnected. This is a story about who we all are as a country, making choices about our deepest values in tough times and continually redefining what it means to be American.”

New Muslim Cool is a production of Specific Pictures in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

About the Filmmaker:
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, Producer/Director
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s works explore the connection between the personal and the socio-political, and frequently feature Latino themes and Spanish-language content. Her documentary credits include “Paulina,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast by the Sundance Channel; the Emmy-winning “Home Front,” a co-production with KQED-TV San Francisco; “Immigration Calculations”; “Ramadan Primetime”; and, most recently, “Special Circumstances,” which will air nationally on PBS as part of the Voces series in 2009. She is a recipient of the James D. Phelan Art Award for her body of work.

She has produced short stories for the public television series “California Connected” and “Keeping Kids Healthy” and co-produced Sophia Constantinou’s history of Cyprus, “Divided Loyalties” for the Sundance Channel. Jennifer also worked as an associate and co-producer with Lourdes Portillo on Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (P.O.V. 1999) and Señorita Extraviada (P.O.V. 2002), two award-winning documentaries that had their national broadcast premieres on PBS.

Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Jennifer has worked throughout the United States, in Latin America and in Europe. She is a native Californian of Irish and Mexican heritage and was raised in Los Angeles and Vermont.

Credits:
Producer/Director: Jennifer Maytorena Taylor
Co-producers: Kauthar Umar, Hana Siddiqi
Cinematographers: Davíd Sarasti, Jon Shenk, Mark Knobil
Editor: Kenji Yamamoto
Original Score: Chris Strollo
Additional Music: Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl, Junoon, Sean Jones, Rey Nieves

Running Time: 86:46

Festivals:

• San Francisco International Film Festival, March 2008
• Al Jazeera Documentary Film Festival, Doha, Qatar, April 2008
• Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, New York, June 2008
• Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Independents Night, New York, June 2008

Dutch anti-Islam politician Wilders plans new film

Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders says that he plans to make a sequel to his anti-Islamic film Fitna, that sparked protests and condemnation from Muslims and others last spring. Wilders said in a Dutch interview, that the sequel would likely come out next year, and that it will be different from ‘Fitna.’ His new film will apparently focus on the threat of Islam and the impact of “Islamization” on Europe and the United States, and cover such issues as the freedom of speech.

Wilders is being prosecuted in the Netherlands for his anti-Islam remarks, and was barred from entering Britain and attending a British showing of ‘Fitna’ earlier this year.

Film about Gay Muslims Wins GLAAD Award

The film “A Jihad for Love” by American Muslim director Parvez Sharma following gay Muslim men and women in twelve countries, gas won numerous awards, and most recently received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) awards in March. Sharma traveled through Iran, Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and others – to examine the experiences of being gay and lesbian in an “intensely Muslim community.” He consciously decided against pursuing his project in America or a Western country in which homosexuality has a markedly different experience of acceptability, but cautioned against wanting to save gays and lesbians in predominantly Muslim countries. Sharma found that many are happy where they are, and do not desire asylum, displacement, or change to a different paradigm. “We tend to assume the Western model of this GLBTQ identity. Unless there’s a pride parade you’re not really free. These ideas are way more complicated than that. Sexuality is so complex in Eastern and Islamic cultures,” he says.”

Film inspired by 7/7 bombings has premiere on anniversary

A film prompted by the 7 July bombings is to be premiered in London on the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Shoot On Sight, with a cast including Brian Cox and Greta Scacchi, is a fictionalised account of the killing of an innocent young Muslim man by the Metropolitan police in the wake of the outrage. The real incident killed 52 people as well as the four bombers. Innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police in a later incident. Some of the families of those killed today expressed shock at the ” insensitive” timing of the premiere and said they knew nothing of what is the first movie based on the attacks. Jag Mundhra, the Indian Hindu director who was living in London at the time, said the aim of the film was not to offend. The story is told from the perspective of a Muslim police officer – played by Naseeruddin Shah – with a white wife and children who are well integrated into British society until “something happens and there is this ripple effect in communities that were otherwise co-existing”. It stemmed from Mundhra’s personal experience of the consequences of the 7 July attacks. “I couldn’t stop a taxi after the bombings because of the way I looked,” he said. “Then I started noticing that on television suddenly Scotland Yard was represented by a Muslim police officer [Tarique Ghaffur]. I knew it was because the way they wanted to tell the Muslim community ‘look, we have a Muslim police officer’. “Then I could see that if I sat on an Underground train everyone looked at you and moved away. I could feel the fear.” The aim of the film was to address these issues. “I wanted to see the point of view of a shooter who had to pull the trigger and shot the wrong guy. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Louise Jury, in Cannes, and Lucy Hanbury report.