The war on terrorism is being fought on an uneven playing field. Ironically, a group of Americans who could help counter this imbalance is denied access to most Muslim states while a group contributing to the imbalance experiences ready access.
For decades Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia have fostered the Islamic extremism plaguing the world today, coupled with complete intolerance for other world religions. Thus, Muslim mosques and madrassas vehicles of worship for believers and the potential conversion of non-believers — are allowed in tolerant Western societies but non-Islamic places of worship and schools are not allowed in the vast majority of Muslim ones. It is a one-way street.
The problem manifests itself in the quality of education in the Arab world.. Colleges are teaching religion and rote memorization with little focus on subjects stimulating creative thought such as science, math, history, and literature. A post-9/11 study conducted by China listing the top 500 universities in the world, failed to include a single Arab university.
This lack of education, endemic throughout the Muslim world for centuries, has hindered independent thought and creativity, breeding intolerance towards non-Islamic religions. Thus, we now are left to foster, from outside the Arab bloc, tolerance and creative thought within it — to a population lacking the education essential to comprehend there is more to the 21st century world order than the “Muslims-as-victims” role being fostered by a myopic Arab media. Yet a most effective tool we possess to impart such tolerance — non-Islamic religion — is unavailable in Muslim nations.
There is another group of Americans who could help level the playing field but choose not to do so. Ironically, while influential and fully able to exercise the creative thinking unavailable to Muslims, they direct their thinking in a way only ensuring its continuing unevenness.
They tend to view America through a distorted lens, seeing the bad and not much of the good. These are Hollywood’s “elite” — producers and actors — portraying America in a negative light in their films as we struggle to fight an enemy and ideology threatening our very existence.
It was not always this way.
In 1961, one of the greatest movie producers in American cinema shared his thoughts about Hollywood’s responsibility in making films. He said, “We should never lose sight of the fact that, no matter how entertaining a picture may be or how much money it may make, it can do our country a great deal of harm if it plays into the hands of our enemies…We have a great responsibility in this regard — far greater than almost any other segment of our country — and we must guide ourselves accordingly.”
This observation was made by Samuel Goldwyn — responsible for hundreds of film classics, whose name represents the “G” in “MGM,” — Metro-Goldwyn Mayer — the movie production/distribution company.
As we struggle to gently nudge a Muslim population exceeding one billion towards tolerance of other religions, our ability to do so is being undermined by a Hollywood creative mindset focused today on releases portraying America in a bad light or extremists in a good one in movies such as “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “A Mighty Heart.”
As we struggle against an extremist mindset effectively using our Western freedoms against us to win an ideological war, Hollywood assists the enemy. These films play before intolerant Muslim audiences, stimulating anger and resentment, while American military personnel are venturing into harm’s way to save Muslims today in places like Bangladesh.
For decades the US military has answered the call for humanitarian assistance around the world, quickly rushing to save lives. It is the only organization capable of so doing. And it remains blind — as it should — to the religious orientation of those it saves. It was the first to respond to the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh, claiming 143,000 Muslim lives; and to the 2004 tsunami, hitting heavily-populated Muslim states along the Pacific Rim, claiming 250,000 lives; and to the 2005 earthquake devastating Pakistan. Those Muslims rescued saw the caring side of America’s military; yet Hollywood chooses to portray a fictionalized sinister side of our military to the Muslim world. Who knows how many easily influenced, young Muslim movie-goers, motivated by Hollywood’s portrayal, seek revenge for this depiction.
The world has witnessed the violent reaction of Muslims to any criticism of Islam — a sensitivity observed by Hollywood in limiting its defamatory attacks to non-Islamic religions only.
This double standard was most recently evidenced by the children’s film “The Golden Compass.” While debate ensues over its message, we need only consider the stated focus of atheist author Phillip Pullman, upon whose book the movie is based. Pullman said his focus is “to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” One can only imagine the impact this movie will have upon Muslim audiences. They see it as a telltale sign of Western decline and its inability to protect the sanctity of the primary religion within its borders.
It is sad our Hollywood elites fail to see the harm their movies do to our country in the Muslim world today. It is sad they abuse the “great responsibility” with which they are charged. The ultimate role they play is of Vladimir Lenin’s “useful idiots” — Westerners naively aiding an ideology opposed to the very freedoms they so freely exercise — a role he came to greatly appreciate during his ideological struggle with the West.
While Communism ultimately lost that ideological war against Western freedom, it remains unclear whether its successor ideology, radical Islam, will incur a similar fate.