One of the greatest tragedies of our time is the hijacking of the innocence of mass media entertainment. From fairy tale stories, to sci-fi comic books, to children’s programs and all the way to the cinema industry, entertainment as a modern mass media form is venturing into a dark and vicious path that is masterminded by those in power, and fueled by those with money. And in a world that is currently fighting for the survival of peace and stability, this industry is falling prey to premeditated political agendas that is brainwashing public opinion as and when it sees it fit.
When first conceived, the object of such forms of public entertainment was to make us laugh… and at times cry… and almost always it was meant to provide us with a temporary escape into make-believe realities and lifestyles through the lens of fictitious characters. However, and more importantly, entertainment was never meant to make us hate, or vilify… or demonize people of other color, race or creed. And yet, the truth of the matter is precisely so.
As a child I cannot forget my passion for Western movies starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Charles Bronson… movies that depicted cowboys as the good guys and native American Indians as the ravaging savages. To my young mind — and despite the violence I witnessed — I always left the theater excited and victorious, because for some twisted reason, I felt that so long as the good guys won, all was well. It was only until I had grown up that I realized that what I had witnessed as a child was a gross distortion of a tragic truth manipulated by the settler to suit his reality.
Similarly, I cannot forget my passion for World War II movies. Movies in which the Japanese were the enemy and the Americans were the heroes. And once again, for some twisted reason, I walked away at the end feeling elated thinking that good won once again, and this time by the atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...
Luckily for me, I grew up — and hopefully today I know better. Today I know that ever since 9-11, the chronic and systemic defamation and vilifying of Muslims is on the rise. A case in point is the movie “Taken 2”. A movie that I hoped would excite my love for adventure, but which ignited my fury instead. For immediately within the first few minutes of its opening scene, a direct association was crafted into the viewer’s mind of Islam as being a religion of violence, irrational logic, white slavery and unjustifiable vendetta.
Interestingly enough, when I did some minor research on the movie I found that although its language medium was English, it was in fact a French action film directed by Olivier Megaton with a wide international cast starring Liam Neeson. Now what does that say?
I’ll leave that for you to decide, but know this. Last month a book was launched entitled “France and the Hated Society: Muslim Experiences” by Saied R. Ameli, Arzu Merali and Ehsan Shahghasemi. It is a book about Muslim experiences of hate crimes in France. It explores how French Muslims believe they are the target of an Islamophobic campaign fueled by the state, its institutions, ideologies and policies and it constitutes an important intervention of interest for policy makers, activists as well as scholars.
According to the book, experts are warning that offensive and insulting media propaganda against Islam is now being seen as “normal” in a growing number of circles within Europe. They argue that this allows far right groups, such as the English Defense League in the UK and the National Front in France, to openly promote their hatred against Islam, resulting in far more serious attacks on Muslims in the West.
And here is the irony of it all. On the one hand, we have a Western discourse that is in full support of Islamophobic innuendo based on the idea of “freedom of speech”, yet simultaneously this very same Western discourse that claims to support “freedom of speech” will not blink an eye to condemn and criminalize any criticism that they feel has anti-Semitic innuendo related to it… why is that so?
(Fatin Bundagji is a writer for the Saudi-based Arab News, where this article first appeared Nov. 5, 2012)