Demonizing Arabs in the Movies? Exploring Islamophobia

Interesting account of a documentary on the demonization of Arabs in American films. It’s in fact the actions of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination League against True Lies in 1994 that first tipped me off to the problem of demopathy. They could get people to demonstrate against portraying the Arabs as terrorists, but when Arabs behaved as terrorists — for example the Buenos Aires bombing of the Jewish Community Center three days after these demonstrations — brought not a peep.

My sense is, that when you insist that we shouldn’t show Arabs as terrorists because it stereotypes them, but you don’t object loudly to Arab terrorists, then you are just throwing sand in our eyes.

Cast of Villains
‘Reel Bad Arabs’ Takes on Hollywood Stereotyping
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 23, 2007; Page C01

LOS ANGELES — A full house has turned out at the Directors Guild of America for the L.A. premiere of the new documentary “Reel Bad Arabs,” which makes the case that Hollywood is obsessed with “the three Bs” — belly dancers, billionaire sheiks and bombers — in a largely unchallenged vilification of Middle Easterners here and abroad.

“In every movie they make, every time an Arab utters the word Allah? Something blows up,” says Eyad Zahra, a young filmmaker who organized the screening this week with the support of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Arabs aren’t always vilified in the movies. In “Lawrence of Arabia,” Omar Sharif, right, appeared as Sherif Ali with Peter O’Toole.

As the documentary “Reel Bad Arabs” demonstrates, individuals of Middle Eastern descent often are portrayed as villans in the movies and on television.

The documentary highlights the admittedly obsessive lifework of Jack Shaheen, a retired professor from Southern Illinois University, the son of Lebanese Christian immigrants and the author of “TV Arabs,” “Reel Bad Arabs” and the upcoming “Guilty? Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11.”

In his tireless quest for evidence — any evidence– of Arab stereotyping, Shaheen has viewed (and reviewed in his books) thousands of movies and TV shows. What he has found, the 71-year-old academic says, are the most maligned people on the silver screen. It is a diss that dates back to the earliest days of cinema and continues today with popular television shows such as “Sleeper Cell” and “24,” which Shaheen calls the worst of smears, “because it portrays American Arabs as the enemy within, like, ‘Look at the terrorist — hey, he’s my next-door neighbor!’”

And he couldn’t be? Those polls indicate an alarming number of people who are our next door neighbors and approve of terrorism. Weren’t the fellows who did 7-7 the Brits’ next door neighbors?

And if Arab-Americans want us to trust them, shouldn’t they work on denouncing these kinds folks, rather than denouncing the movies that show those possibilities?

In the documentary, Shaheen shows dozens of film clips to illustrate his point. Arab women? Hip-swiveling eye candy of the oasis or “bundles in black.” If Arab men are not presented as buffoons, or smarmy carpet-dealers, or decadent sheiks (and oh, how the oily sultans are smitten with the blond Western womens!), then they are basically your bug-eyed hijacker-bomber.

Even the evil “24″ shows more interesting Arab women than that…

“And not only are the Arabs dangerous, they’re inept,” says Shaheen, pointing to the head villain, called Salim Abu Aziz, in James Cameron’s “True Lies,” whom Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character kills — by launching him to his maker on the back of a missile.

We all love Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia,” but Shaheen mostly ignores the positive. Here in Los Angeles, the audience groans and tsk-tsks when a clip from the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” shows the blond and partially disrobed Kim Basinger being auctioned off to dirty, grasping Arabs with bad dental work. And the audience laughs when a couple of Libyan yahoos with machine guns suddenly show up (why?) in a VW van (why?) in “Back to the Future” to blast away at Christopher Lloyd’s Dr. Brown, because it is just so absurd.

“When I saw these movies as a kid, sometimes I laughed, but now you kind of cringe,” Omar Naim, a director (“The Final Cut” with Robin Williams), says after seeing the documentary. For example, Shaheen includes the scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in which Indiana Jones is confronted by the sword-wielding Arab, and then just shrugs and shoots him. “That’s a funny scene,” Naim says, “and if there were more normal Arabs in the movies, we could all laugh at him and not think, wait, is Indiana Jones racist?”

Seriously, check out the hook-nosed Jamie Farr as the hand-licking sheik in “Cannonball Run II.” There is also a scene from “Father of the Bride Part II” that features Eugene Levy as the thickly accented Mr. Habib, who rips off poor Steve Martin (though if you live in L.A. you’d get that Levy was doing a Persian, not an Arab). But Shaheen suggests imagining Mr. Habib as a Jew and see if it’s still funny.

And why did Disney’s Oscar-winning “Aladdin” begin with the song lyrics: “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place / Where the caravan camels roam / Where they cut off your ear / If they don’t like your face / It’s barbaric, but, hey, it’s home!” (The lyrics were changed but only after protests from Arab Americans.)

These are the buffoons. The more serious baddies appear in bad films such as “Black Sunday” (Middle East terrorists attack Super Bowl using the Goodyear blimp) and “Death Before Dishonor” (Middle East terrorists attack U.S. embassy). And then there is the work of Israeli film producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who brought you Chuck Norris in “The Delta Force,” in which Arab terrorists swarm (and are squashed) like insects, bringing to mind treatment of the Japanese in World War II films.

The Defense Department, Shaheen says, has assisted in the making of some particularly insulting anti-Arab fare, such as “Iron Eagle” (kid flies jet to save dad from radical Middle Eastern state), “Navy Seals” (Charlie Sheen tags and bags Middle Eastern terrorists) and Shaheen’s choice for most inflammatory work, “Rules of Engagement,” released in 2000, in which armed women and children lay siege to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, based on the story by the former Navy secretary and now junior senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones.

And thus we have the Timeline of International Villainy. To create drama, especially in action and war movies, Hollywood needs bad guys, and in their time, the Japanese and Germans, and later the Koreans and Vietnamese, served that role. For a long while, commies were useful foils (with their taste for world domination, nukes and vodka), but with the end of the Cold War, the Soviets became the Russians, and the Russians only worked if they were gangsters, and Hollywood already had the Italians to do that job. Colombian drug traffickers were employed as handy replacements, but then coke just felt . . . dated. Transnational corporate evildoers are okay, if not that sexy. But there just has been something about those Arabs. They’ve got legs.

In an interview before the premiere, Shaheen says that the OPEC oil embargo, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis all conspired to cast the Arab as film villain beginning in the 1970s. “We pray and we kill,” Shaheen says of the depiction. Like other stereotypes on film — of blacks, Jews, gays, Latinos, Native Americans — Arabs are now in the crosshairs.

Somewhat like Norton talking about Hamas, Shaheen apparently has difficulty raising the issue of terrorism. No single factor led to the depiction of Arabs as terrorists in American movies than Arab terrorism (which appears in Shaheen’s list as “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”)… like Munich, 1972.

“The Arab serves as the ultimate outsider, the other, who doesn’t pray to the same God, and who can be made to be less human,” says Shaheen, who argues that movies and TV shows do matter — that they shape public opinion at home and abroad. “Do you have any idea what it must be like to be a young person watching this stuff over in the Middle East?” he says. And if you ask Shaheen who even cares about an old Chuck Norris film, he answers, “Have you ever looked through a TV Guide? These movies are on television constantly. The images last forever. They never go away.”

The 50-minute documentary, for which Shaheen is looking for a distributor, is making the rounds at film festivals, and Shaheen says he would like to see it aired on public television. A DVD can be purchased through the Media Education Foundation.

In the Q&A session after his documentary, Shaheen explains that he is not advocating a politically correct scrubbing of all portrayals of Arab Americans and Arabs — even as terrorists. The problem is balance, he says.

Meaning? Hollywood still shows black pimps and Latino gangbangers, but pop culture has also made some room for Will Smith and “Ugly Betty.” “I’ve seen the Arab hijacker, but where is the Arab father?” Shaheen says. What we need, he says, seriously, is a sitcom called “Everybody Loves Abdullah.”

When Abdullah’s got the courage to denounce and fight the Arab terrorists — as some of the Arabs on “24″ do — then I’m for the program. Until then, Americans have every reason to be concerned about Arab terrorists.

As for the overall thesis, this is a real exercise in trying to control our perceptions by controlling virtual reality. The best thing the Arab-American community can do today to change American perceptions of them is to show some civic courage, like the M. Zuhdi Jasser.

As for Mr. Shaheen, he’s been doing his thing for a long time. Here’s some exerpts from a long and extremely interesting review of the “Hollywood stereotypes Arabs” complaint from 2001 (before 9-11).

Cinema Paranoido
Arabs, Islam and Hollywood

By Daniel Mandel

The Complaint:

1. Islamist violence is distorted and Arabs and Muslims unfairly singled out. Salam al-Marayati, director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has asserted that State Department figures on global terrorism indicate that terrorist acts in Columbia “far outnumbered” similar incidents in the Middle East.

2. Islamist terrorism is invented. According to Jack G. Shaheen, a professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University and a leading writer on this subject, “lurid and insidious depictions” of Arabs are “staple fare” but more accurately reflect the “bias of western reporters and image makers” than Muslim realities. Marayati also contends that, because the CIA once trained Afghani insurgents-turned-terrorists and America’s worst terrorist, Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, was Caucasian, Arab and Muslim terrorism is apparently a fantasy concocted by movie-makers.

3. Arabs and Muslims seldom appear in sympathetic roles. Conversely, Shaheen argues that Arabs and Muslims rarely appear as sympathetic, mainstream characters but, on the contrary, turn up almost exclusively as fanatical, homicidal terrorists “who issue fatwas, or burn Uncle Sam in effigy”.

Motives:

Why does Hollywood engage in these alleged practices? Essentially, critics offer two reasons, both conspiracist in nature, relating to either the US government or alleged Jewish control over the media.

1. Hollywood furthers US government policies. Discussing the US media, John Esposito contends that portraits of Islam are generated by national-security paranoia, just as were US depictions of the communist movement during the Cold War.

Edward Said, university professor at Columbia, finds that Muslims and Arabs “are essentially covered, discussed, apprehended, either as oil suppliers or as potential terrorists.” Rather than provide “the human density” of their lives, “a limited series of crude, essentialised caricatures of the Islamic world [are] presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.”

2. Hollywood furthers Zionist policies. Critics like Said assert that Hollywood, in depicting Arab and Islamist terrorism, is guilty of Islamophobia and anti-Arab animus, generated for the deliberate purpose of bolstering Israel, reducing representations of Palestinians to “the mad Islamic zealot, the gratuitously violent killer of innocents, the desperately irrational and savage primitive.”

In the Middle East, this thesis is more unbuttoned, assuming an openly antisemitic character, as in this analysis by Tariq ‘Atiya in Al-Ahram, Egypt’s leading newspaper:

It’s the Jews who invented and remain in charge of Hollywood. They are also a force to be reckoned with in US policy-making. And they are using exactly the same techniques that were used against them in Europe to attack Muslims … Hollywood increasingly acts as a curtain raiser, using the supposed make-believe of the screen to prepare people for unpalatable realities, so that people will not be too shocked when the same thing suddenly begins to happen for real.

Mandel then analyzes a number of movies, including True Lies and Executive Decision. He then comes to an important exception to the rule, which illustrates the problem with the critics: nothing will satisfy them.

The Siege

Despite their weaknesses, such critiques have nonetheless had an impact, as can be seen in The Siege (Twentieth Century Fox, 1998). Director Edward Zwick was clearly persuaded that Muslims and Arabs deserved sympathetic portrayal in a story dealing with Middle Eastern terrorism. An unexceptionable goal, no doubt; but what were the results and what was the reaction from Islamist groups? [snip...]

The makers of The Siege went to considerable lengths, consulting Muslim-American and Arab-American organisations in the process, to head off any implication that Muslim- and Arab-Americans are complicit in or sympathetic to the crimes of an Islamist fringe. First, they carefully emphasized Arab-American loyalty to the United States. Immediately following the first bombing, Hubbard tells his FBI task force that they have the “complete support and co-operation” of Arab Americans. A dignified representative of an Arab defence agency is seen declaring, “Whatever injustices my people may be suffering at this very difficult moment, we will continue to show our commitment to this country.”

Secondly, Palestinian nationalists are differentiated from terrorists. Kraft, the film’s heroine, tells Hubbard that her first boyfriend was a Palestinian and that she regards Palestinians as “these incredibly warm, hospitable people living in this horrible place.” When Hubbard queries, “But yet you work against them?” she replies: “Only the crazies. I tend to be suspicious of all true believers.”

Thirdly, the story boasts a significant Arab character who is sympathetically developed: Hubbard’s trusted FBI colleague Frank Haddad (Tony Shaloub), a Lebanese-American. Haddad is so traumatized by Devereux’s mass arrest of New York’s young Arab males, including his own son that, in a dramatic scene, he throws away his FBI badge and asks Hubbard to intern him along with the others.

Fourthly, the film is implicitly critical of aspects of American Middle East policy. It emerges that the Iraqi sheikh, captured by Devereux’s men at the start of the film, had been an erstwhile anti-Saddam ally to whom support had been cut off in a sudden tergiversation of policy. The true terrorist, Samir, and others trained for subversion against Saddam Hussein, now direct their skills against the United States. In short, the film places at least partial blame for Islamist terrorism on the United States, almost to the point of echoing the idea posited by certain French intellectuals that Washington is the creator of Islamism.

Here, surely, was a story crafted to ensure that Muslims and Arabs are differentiated from the terrorists and extremists among them. Overall, to the extent that any group is shown in a negative light in The Siege, it is the US military and policy elite. Moreover, the idea that public hysteria and militarist temptation can subvert the United States and victimize Arabs is a prominent theme of the story.

For all these efforts, the end product pleased Muslim- and Arab-American sensibilities little more than had True Lies and Executive Decision. CAIR executive director Nihad Awad stated, “We acknowledge the intent of the film’s producers . . . But the barrage of negative or stereotypical portrayals of Muslims in this film will overpower any positive message.”

CAIR was not alone in its criticism. Shaheen contends that The Siege “not only reinforces historically damaging stereotypes, but also advances a dangerously generalized portrayal of Arabs as rabidly anti-American.” More pungently, ‘Atiya – who admits to having only seen the film’s trailer – criticises The Siege as indicative of “Hollywood’s shift into Islamophobia overdrive” and (consistent with his Jewish-conspiracy theory of Hollywood) claims that the film must be understood as “propaganda for an actual forthcoming ‘siege’ of Arab and Muslim Americans.”

Such maligning of a worthy, if cloyingly self-conscious, attempt to mollify Muslim and Arab concerns suggests that the very subject of Palestinian, Arab, or Islamist terrorism, or the state support of terrorism by Middle Eastern governments, is in and of itself taboo. This stance ranges far beyond the ostensible effort to establish that Muslim- and Arab-Americans are respectable and diverse people, most of whom thoroughly disapprove of terrorism. [snip...]

The unhappiness of critics with The Siege reflects a larger problem that appears also in complaints about newsmedia bias. Nothing satisfies short of sycophancy. This is where the remarks from groups like NPR become facetious at best: “If we’re being criticized by both sides, we must be doing something right.” But nothing short of everything will get you complaints from the Arab side; on the Israeli side, the tolerance for criticism, indeed the engagement in self-criticism, is pretty strong.

Mandel concludes after analyzing several more movies with the following:

Observations

Muslims and Arabs are not singled out. Hollywood action films deal heavily in stereotypes because the art of storytelling depends in large part on the success with which protagonists and antagonists are evoked. This requires verisimilitude. Inevitably, those who are portrayed in stereotypical fashion are unhappy with the results. If there have been twenty-two films since 1986 that depict American forces engaged in hostilities with Arabs, there have been many more films over the years depicting Italian mafias and gangsters, a portrayal Italian Americans have long protested. Muslims and Arabs are not uniquely singled out, either with malign deliberation or ignorant carelessness, for unfavourable treatment.

Action film characters are psychologically shallow. This genre of movie is called “action” precisely because action and spectacle override all other considerations, such as character development or social commentary. Action films have their virtues, but a profound dissection of politics, culture, and psychology is not among them. It is untenable to expect this genre to undergo a qualitative revolution that does away with stereotypes. It is not coincidental that Three Kings, alone of the films considered, possesses intellectual depth. As a black comedy, rather than an action-thriller, it invites social and political commentary.

The subject matter of action films is factually derived. Action films must reflect realities with which the viewing audience is familiar. Because terrorism against Americans is carried out by Muslims and Arabs, there is a basic truth to the movies that gives these stories the authenticity that allow viewers to suspend disbelief. By analogy, there do exist organized-crime organisations centred around certain Italian-American clans. To that extent, the use of identifiably Italian characters as organized-crime figures is also grounded in reality and is thus fair game for Hollywood.

Accordingly, objections to the effect that Hollywood could not get away with substituting blacks or Jews in these movies’ hateful roles miss the point. There are simply no Jewish versions of Osama bin Laden or black versions of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Should there ever be, we are likely to see their fictionalized counterparts in Hollywood movies. The genuine question—does Hollywood ignore other ethnically based terrorist and criminal groups? — can be answered in the negative. Kazakhstani and Russian nationalist terrorists and mafias, for example, appear in such recent films as Wolfgang Petersen’s Airforce One (Columbia Pictures, 1997) and Phillip Noyce’s The Saint (Paramount, 1997).

Arabs and Muslims infrequently appear in sympathetic roles: This complaint has a much firmer basis. The solution to the problem should be readily available: to see the reality of a diverse and respectable Arab American and Muslim community reflected in film. But this is different from attempting to censor the depiction of Arab and Islamist terrorism, which is also a reality. Yet the fact remains that, to date, there have been very few films featuring sympathetic Arab or Muslim characters. Such characters as appear tend to be unpleasant people or figures of ridicule. For example, Charles Shyer’s Father of the Bride II (Touchstone Pictures, 1995) depicts an uncongenial, excitable, and crass Mr. Habib (Eugene Levy), the neighbour of the film’s protagonists, George and Nina Banks (Steve Martin and Diane Keaton).

Films that present an Arab in a sympathetic lead-role, like Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s Party Girl (First Look Pictures, 1995) which features Mustafa (Omar Townsend), a Lebanese schoolteacher, as the romantic lead, are praiseworthy but uncommon. Criticism aimed at rectifying this situation is justified.

Hollywood stereotypes do not amount to defamation. Pleas “to explore” and provide “explanation” of terrorist motivations are in effect a shorthand for demanding radically self-critical Western introspection and acceptance at face value of Islamist apologia. Accordingly, an assertion that Hollywood has a duty to depict Islamist terrorism in a sympathetic light amounts to something much larger than a plea for cultural and intellectual sensitivity.

Are Hollywood’s depictions of Islamist terrorism disproportionate, as alleged by Marayati? Is the relevant question “How many Hollywood Italians are involved in organized crime?” Or “How many organized-crime figures depicted by Hollywood are noticeably Italian?” Ethnic groups tend to focus on the first question, because their concern is to secure a favourable portrayal of their group. But that is not the job of a screenwriter. If major organized-crime families have arisen among other ethnic groups, and if Hollywood screenwriters persist in portraying all organized-crime figures as Italian, then they can indeed be accused of laziness and using out-dated stereotypes. Marayati’s use of State Department statistics on global terrorism implies that the distortion is of this second, relevant kind. But these figures by themselves cannot indicate what proportion of anti-American deaths emanate from Arab or Islamist groups. Closer inspection of State Department figures indicate that, for the four-year period 1996-99, of the 48 Americans who died in terrorist attacks, 42 of them lost their lives in attacks carried out by Muslim or Arab terrorists. Movie-going audiences are most familiar with these often spectacular and well-reported attacks, and this is reflected in action films.

Sinister motivations do not underlie depictions of Arab and Islamist terrorism. Assertions of national security paranoia derive from a belief in a campaign of government manipulation that involves integrating imagined threats into the genres of popular culture such as action movies.

As we have seen, Hollywood reflects the perceptions and anxieties of the times and realities familiar to its mass audience, of which Arab and Muslim terrorism aimed at the West is one. Conspiracy theories that view Hollywood as a virtual public relations division of the State Department are unsustainable, as are the more extreme variations on this theme that amount to an accusation of a malign Jewish conspiracy far more sinister than any depiction of Muslims and Arabs in the cinema.

Campaigns based on such conspiracist thinking should be revealed as politically motivated attempts to manipulate American pluralist sensitivities in the service of an essentially illiberal endeavour. Specifically, attempts to smear an ethnic or religious group (namely, Jews) as the originators of an alleged campaign of institutionalized racism perpetrated with a view to consolidating a supposedly paranoid foreign policy is itself an assault on democratic values, a first instalment in the quest to delegitimise Jews as citizens.

15 Responses to Demonizing Arabs in the Movies? Exploring Islamophobia

  1. [...] me that amount to an accusation of a malign Jewish conspiracy far … Original post by Richard Landes Share These icons l [...]

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Maybe Professor Shaheen could try to scrutinize the films made by Arabs in and out of the Arab world. I used to watch Arabic films, mainly Egyptian, on Israeli TV on Friday afternoons years ago.
    Sex and love were major subjects, just as in America and elsewhere. Yet I noticed a certain racial stereotyping. Cuckolds had Black [African] features. Further, darker, more African-looking characters were objects of ridicule [being cuckolds is part of that].

    Then we come to the stereotyping of Jews in Arab film and film in other Muslim lands. Here the depictions of Jews in the crudest, most hostile ways, most hate-eliciting ways, are common. This is true in Egypt with which Israel is supposed to have had a peace treaty since 1979. It also includes Lebanon where al-Manar, the TV broadcasting network run by Hizbullah, has broadcast several film series [made for TV] that are hate-eliciting in the grossest Medieval sense. Al-Manar broadcasts are so bad that the French body in charge of braodcasting [le Conseil pour l'Audiovisuel??] forbid relays of al-Manar broadcasts in France or on satellites controlled by France.
    Syria and Saudi Arabia too wouldn’t want to miss the boat, Syria sharing with al-Manar. This is Nazi-like propaganda.

    And I forgot to mention the palestinian authority and the Hamas in Gaza. Constant Judeophobic hate incitement. If I am not mistaken, IMRA and MEMRI have given a lot of coverage to palestinian authority & Hamas broadcasting. As far as I know, the more Fatah-leaning PA broadcasts don’t much differ in intensity of hatred and incitement from the Hamas broadcasts. The situation is so bad that a woman guest at the Foreign Ministry to hear the foreign minister’s speech yesterday to the World Affairs Council, asked Tsipi Livni why something wasn’t being done against the hate broadcasts on palestinian authority TV.

    By the way, I recall the Judeophobic stereotypes in American and British movies, like the Lawrence Olivier version of Oliver Twist, like Merchant of Venice. . . Must we go on?

    It seems to me that Professor Shaheen has a lot of work to do in the Arab backyard. However, if he goes to Egypt to complain about the hostile, anti-Jewish stereotypes in films, he may find that he’s just another kaffir. So don’t expect him to even admit that there’s a problem with the Arab film or TV.

  3. David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 06/25/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  4. Hillel Stavis says:

    Lest we forget – The pervasiveness of Jewish names in Hollywood, if anything, guaranteed a cleansing of Jewish pride and themes from that industry’s 100 year history. To wit: The 1937 Warner Brothers production, “They Won’t Forget” starring Claude Raines was the screen version of the infamous Leo Frank trial and his subsequent lynching in Marietta, GA in 1915. Scripted by Robert Rossen, the communist blacklisted writer of “All the King’s Men” fame, the story line omitted any and all references to the centrality of antisemitism that characterized the trial and lynching. Frank’s non-Jewish stand-in is repeatedly referred to as “that Northerner”.
    If “The Siege” were produced today, the equivalent would be the representation of Islamic terrorists as “Those Easterners” most likely portraying them as all-purpose non-white, sainted tiers-mondists.

    Great points on “The Siege”. I would only add that the supreme villain in the film, augemented through the veiled threats of Niwad and CAIR, is Bruce Willis, the white, American General.

    It is useful to also note that Hollywood’s only Islamic producer, Mustapha Akkad, Aleppo born creator of the gory “Halloween” series and producer of the bizarre, 1976ill-fated biography of Muhammed, “The Message” had this to say about the cornucopia that made him rich:

    “The media runs the world. Absolutely. No tanks or planes. The media and the public companies. This is what The Protocols of [the Learned Elders of] Zion [is all about].
    “The Zionists, last century, were persecuted in Europe. So they immigrated to the United States. They had a target. They were united. And they did not permit [statements] critical of Zion. They went all the way to control the world and to control the minds of the people through the media. There’s a lesson to learn from them.

    “They (the Jews) have control of the media here. We know it. They did not do it through tanks or machine guns. They planned of course. They united. Did you see Pat Buchanan’s book [The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization]? He makes sense.”

    “The Message” was greeted with the precursors of the raging seethers and whiners post 9-11 at its Paris premier in 1976 in spite of the fact that it was produced by Mr. Akkad and vetted by 5 distinguished “doctors” of Islam from Al Azhar and other prestigious middle east universities. Adhering to the prohibitions of Sunni Islam, The Prophet’s visage was not permitted to be shown in the film, instead using a halo-effect, subjective camera with a heaven-sent, echo chamber to simulate his voice and the words of the Koran. But even this was too much for the Salafists. One of the Prophet’s companions, Abu Hamza, was (gasp) actually depicted by Anthony Quinn (a head-separating no no, it would seem ). Never commercially released in the US, the film is now available on DVD (make sure to have two or three sixpacks of RedBull close at hand). A blogger who is a definite Islamophile and who has researched Akkad and his (blasphemous) opus says it all in his disclaimer:

    “Erik Sofge is a freelance writer. And he thinks Islam is pretty cool, so please don’t hurt him.”

    Akkad, you may recall, was blown to bits along with his daughter at the Radisson Hotel in Amman a few years ago at the hands of Zarkawi and Al Qaeda.

    Of course, the absurd and ahistorical insertion of sainted Muslims into history and classics (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”)is erased from the ledger by Shaheen as is the clever and dangerously naive recent film,”Syriana”, which concludes its revelations about the skullduggery of the CIA by depicting Islamofascists carrying out a suicide mission against – what else – a US oil tanker – rather than the invariable actual targets, Israeli civilians and soldiers fighting to defend the worldagainst religious fascism. The pure, white-robed suicidistas appear earlier in the film, blissfully studying Jihad at an eden-like summer camp that resembles a vegan, contemplative, Buddhist meditation workshop that would easily obtain funding from Robert Redford’s Sundance Foundation.

    Oh yes, let’s also include in this panoply of artisitic betrayal, “Paradise Now”, Hany Abu Assad’s Golden Globe Award winning encomium to murderers of Jewish children and the complete shelving of Pierre Rehov’s “Suicide Killers”. “Dream Factory”? Biensure. Hollywood seems more and more a wholly owned subsidiary of Mecca – utterly dhimmmi-ized.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Hillel,
    Akkad’s films are disgusting. Btw, his film of Muhammad is called “The Messenger” [Muhammad is called "rasul ul-lah" = messenger of Allah] if I rightly recall. Are you sure that it wasn’t released in theaters in the US?
    It’s good that you mentioned Akkad’s fitting end. His horror films may indicate something about the character of the man who made them –and about his religion which he would have agreed had been such a formative influence on him.

  6. Richard Landes says:

    one of the amazing things is the way arab attitudes towards hollywood illustrate the moebius strip of cognitive egocentrism. jews become prominent in hollywood (or journalism for that matter) by effacing their own identity (as hillel points out). arabs look at the prominence of jews in the media and say, “if 30% of the media were arabs, we’d use it to propagandize, so that must be what the jews are doing.”

    note that Akkad’s comment:

    “The Zionists, last century, were persecuted in Europe. So they immigrated to the United States. They had a target. They were united. And they did not permit [statements] critical of Zion. They went all the way to control the world and to control the minds of the people through the media. There’s a lesson to learn from them.

    is very close to Hitler’s remark about reading the Protocols:

    We must beat the Jew with his own weapon. I saw that the moment I read the book… down to the veriest detail I found the Protocols immensely instructive [on such topics as] political intrigue, the technique of conspiracy, revolutionary subversion, prevarication, deception, organization.

    they project their malevolence on the jews, and then hate the jews for their own schemes.

  7. Eliyahu says:

    Let’s bear in mind that the intelligent material in the Protocols about political intrigue, etc., is what the Russian compilers of the Protocols plagiarized from Maurice Joly’s Le Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavel.

    The power of the Protocols comes -in my opinion- mainly from what was taken from Joly.

  8. anthony tamburri says:

    Professor Shaheen has a lot of work to do with regard to the history of organized crime, as evidenced by the following statement of his: “By analogy, there do exist organized-crime organisations centred around certain Italian-American clans. To that extent, the use of identifiably Italian characters as organized-crime figures is also grounded in reality and is thus fair game for Hollywood.” Such a statement simply underscores the basic prejudice that still exists among white anglo-saxons who have absolutely no idea what it means to be of a certain ethnic group that is consistently “teased” and being told to “lighten up.” This is where the notion of “lived experience” comes into play, something which those who belong to the dominant culture have difficulty in perceiving.

  9. [...] ndes @ 9:50 am — Print This Post The term demopathy first arose in the context of the stark contrast between CAIR’s ability [...]

  10. rosiepowell says:

    My sense is, that when you insist that we shouldn’t show Arabs as terrorists because it stereotypes them, but you don’t object loudly to Arab terrorists, then you are just throwing sand in our eyes.

    But are Arabs portrayed ONLY as terrorists? That’s the rub. It’s one thing to portray different ethnic groups – including white Americans – as terrorists and other types of characters. It’s another when they are portrayed ONLY as terrorists. After all, the second worst act of terrorism in the U.S. was committed by a white American male with Christian leanings.

  11. rosiepowell says:

    When Abdullah’s got the courage to denounce and fight the Arab terrorists — as some of the Arabs on “24″ do — then I’m for the program. Until then, Americans have every reason to be concerned about Arab terrorists.

    You might as well be concerned about everyone, Arabs or non-Arabs. History has proven that many ethnic and religious groups have committed acts of terrorism. Why single out Arabs? Because of recent events? The tide can easily change.

  12. RL says:

    But are Arabs portrayed ONLY as terrorists?
    That’s the rub. It’s one thing to portray different ethnic groups – including white Americans – as terrorists and other types of characters. It’s another when they are portrayed ONLY as terrorists. After all, the second worst act of terrorism in the U.S. was committed by a white American male with Christian leanings.

    no. that’s one of the points of the article by Mandel. there are sympathetic Arabs. and that’s still not enough.

    as Eliyahu pointed out, the Arab media is not only filled with negative jewish stereotypes, their demonic, not just negative; and there’s nothing remotely resembling a sympathetic image to balance. so for western arabs, who have nothing to say about the terrible demonizing that characterizes the culture that a) they are defending, and b) produces the terrorists they object that we depict in our movies about them, then i’d say we’re dealing with illegitimate complaints.

    for you to worry about how we’re not being fair to them in the most stringent terms, and they’re defending an ethnicity that is profoundly unfair and shows no signs of wanting to change, then i think you’re making a big mistake… that is, if your goal is fairness. please, if you are in a conversation/dialogue with muslims/arabs/palestinians ask them about this problem in their media.

    and don’t take, “well you have to understand, the israelis have done terrible things to us” for an answer. you do not accept such an argument from your own culture, why should you from them? (and, to be blunt, what israel’s done to them is a fraction of what they’ve done to themselves.)

  13. ريمآ says:

    لماذا هذا الكره للعرب والمسلمين << اعتقد اني فهمت غلط !!!

  14. [...] are negative. There are many prominent Arabs who could be recognized as positive role models. In an article entitled Demonizing Arabs in the Movies? Exploring Islamophobia, Landes (2007) makes the point that [...]

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