Bound by Faith
Bound by Faith
Muslims denounce film
THOMAS FROESE -- Times-Journal
When it comes to religious bigotry, there may be no greater
creator than Hollywood.
The world's largest religion with about 1.9 billion
In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a religion that has
not found itself the victim of stereotypes in the world of the silver
screen, Christian or non-Christian.
The most recent example, according to the Islamic
community, is The Siege.
"In a sense, certain Islamic actions have set the
stereotypes, but Hollywood has promoted them," said St. Thomas resident
The recently-released action-thriller shows radical
Islamic terrorists attacking the United States through New York City.
Scenes of Islamic devotion juxtaposed against violent
acts leave a lasting impression, as screen heroes Bruce Willis and
Denzel Washington lead America's defence.
But like True Lies, Executive Decision,
and Not Without My Daughter, this show fills moviegoers with
hollow stereotypes of Muslim life, said Hammoud, 30.
Information tracts at theatre doors are being given in
some centres to help set the record straight. But knowing how to respond
is tough, said Hammoud.
"The movie makes people think we just like to build
bombs in our basements," he said. "If we speak out against it, that's
seen as proof we're extremists. If we say nothing, we're still seen as
A native of the war-torn Middle East, Hammoud believes
recent sabre-rattling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein can also burrow
anti-Islamic falsehoods further into Canadian minds.
About 20,000 Muslims live in the greater London region,
including two dozen families in St. Thomas. Some feel they're fighting a
losing battle against community shaming, said Hammoud.
Not wanting to have his photo published for this
article, for him, smalltown pressures appear real. To deal with them,
he's Anglofied his name to Mike at times.
"We feel we're fighting a losing battle," he said.
"People don't want to know us."
He cites a 1996 incident. After a March for Jesus
through downtown London, a Christian minister prayed publicly against
the "darkness of Islam" in Saudi Arabia.
Hammoud responded by helping to organize a March for
Tolerance, which ran the same route seven days later, to reflect both
the human worth and community value of area Muslims.
Having traveled as an adult through some of the Arab
world, including Iraq, he knows all-too well how the name Allah is
abused. Death can fall like a hammer on those speaking against the state
religion in some Islamic nations.
"(But) it's not the will of the people," Hammoud said.
"They're dependent on them, for things like food."
People in certain Islamic states also don't have the
wherewithal, such as a free press, to protect themselves from such
tyranny, he said.
"That's why we came to Canada."
He recalls how Valium could be bought over-the-counter
to quell people's nerves in his home city of Beirut, ravaged when
Muslim, Christian and Jewish factions pitted brother against brother in
Lebanon's 1976-1992 civil war.
It's a picture as good as any of how the average Middle
East resident feels when that region's panoply of religious expressions
are wrapped around corrupted cultural and political power structures.
In the way the west separates tenets of the Christian
faith from historic crimes committed in Christ's name, values of the
Islam faith, says Hammoud, need to be detached from Islamic fanaticism
seen on both the silver screen and the 11 o'clock news.
Shahab Vafaie, a 47-year-old supervisor at Ford's St.
Thomas Ford Assembly Plant, agrees.
"There's nothing in the Koran that says you should do
this type of thing," said the St. Thomas resident who's lobbying Ottawa
on behalf of Bahai facing Islamic persecution in Iran.
For his faith, Vafaie's father was thrown in Iranian
jail from 1982 to 1989. According to the Bahai Community of Canada, at
least 20,000 Bahai have been executed in Iran in the last 150 years.
The Bahai are known locally as the faith group that
launched a legal complaint in the 1980s about the long-time teachings of
the Elgin Area Bible Club in public schools.
That led to Ontario courts banning such "religious
indoctrination" of any single faith group throughout the province's
public school system.
The Bahai suggest the world's major faiths are all
valid, and should be used to unite humanity under one religion.
Founded on teachings of Jewish peasant Jesus Christ.
Basic tenet is that Jesus Christ completes the Trinity of
God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Holy Book is the Bible.
The world's second largest religion with about 1 billion
adherents known as Muslims.
Founded on teachings of Turkish conqueror Mohammed
Basic tenet is that God (Allah) is singular, and Mohammed
is his primary prophet. (Jesus Christ is a secondary prophet who did not
die through crucifixion and did not rise from the dead.)
Holy Book is Koran
Source: (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1995)
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