Radical Islam Threatened by Hollywood

Not long ago, I ran across an article on the web—an Associated Press release—that included the following passage (quoted verbatim):

Elsewhere in the northwest, a car bomb exploded close to a movie theater in the city of Peshawar [in Pakistan], killing at least six people and wounding 80 others, witnesses and police officer Saleem Khan said. Authorities blamed militants that have targeted theaters before in the region, believing them to be un-Islamic.

The article, entitled U.N. seeks $543 million for Pakistan refugees, was originally published at this link. It has since been updated by the Associated Press and no longer includes the passage cited above. The same news story, Bomb at Pakistan movie house kills 6, may also be found at this link, which also contains a similar passage as follows:

Militants have targeted movie theaters in the region in the past, charging that the businesses violate the tenets of Islam. Pakistan’s Dawn News television channel reported that some theaters in the area have recently received threats from the Taliban, and that a few theater owners have shut down.

I find these passages to be particularly eye-opening as they clarify and put into sharp relief what radical Islam and, for that matter, any sort of religious extremism, represents to the world of culture and the arts—which naturally includes cinema. Religious extremists are invariably threatened by the arts because the arts represent freedom of expression and a representation of the truth. Religious extremists, like the Taliban and other repressive theocracies of the world, which base their very existence on propaganda and authoritarian dogma, invariably find themselves at odds with artists and artistes of all kinds.

Islamic radicalism has always been about repression—the suppression of individual freedoms and the violation of human rights. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the same fanatical theocracies that have no qualms about resorting to outright brutality to protect and further their social, political and religious agendas—a fact that the world is witnessing only too clearly with recent events in Iran—would feel threatened by culture, the arts and, most recently, by Western cinema, as evidenced by the recent bombings of movie theaters in Pakistan orchestrated by the Taliban.

From the earliest of times, Islamic culture has been characterized by a particularly intense hostility towards imagery or rendering. Some of this fanaticism may be justified by Islamic apologists as an attempt to assert the peculiar brand of monotheism that Muslims adhere to. And, of course, there is no denying the cultural achievements of the past, in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad, Iraq. However, it cannot be denied that the radical Islamic movement of recent times, as epitomized by the likes of the Taliban and Al Quaeda, have displayed a pretty ruthless hostility towards all forms of artistic representation. And this destructiveness has been felt only too keenly in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut and Baghdad, which are now wastelands thanks to decades of sectarian violence and brutality.

In March 2001, in fact, the Taliban ordered the destruction of two gigantic, ancient statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan—an act of ruthless vandalism against art and culture—against historical artifacts of immense archaeological importance and cultural value—an act that many believe was an ominous precursor to the destruction, only six months following, of another pair of monoliths of immense socio-cultural importance, namely the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the great Western cultural center of New York City. Arguably, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 is an undeniable expression of a deep-seated hostility for Western art, culture and, in this case, architecture, on the part of radical Islamic factions.

After all, if Islamic radicals like the Taliban, Al Quaeda and the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran have no problem with murdering thousands of innocent civilians (by sponsoring terrorism) or engaging in brutal misogynistic practices or controlling their populations with an iron fist through religious dogma, can it be at all surprising that they would find Western cinema threatening? One has to wonder: how many Hollywood movie stars would feel the least bit comfortable having any dealings with the likes of the Taliban or Al-Quaeda or the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? And, furthermore, how agreeable would Hollywood or Las Vegas, with their culture of over-the-top extravagance, be to the average Islamic radical?

I have no doubt that when the likes of Osama bin Laden condemn Western and, in particular, American culture as inimical to the tenets of radical Islam, what they have in mind are such cultural centers as Hollywood and Las Vegas—cities whose culture has always been about extravagance and excess of every kind. For a religion that enforces draconian dietary regulations and forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, Hollywood would have to be a profound anathema!

No wonder that the Taliban and other Islamic radicals feel compelled to bomb movie theaters in Peshawar, Pakistan!

Horizon Cybermedia, on the other hand, is about preserving art and culture in the face of brutal religious extremism. We are about championing the cause of freedom, especially in the venue of artistic self-expression. For us, the worst possible of all scenarios would be to be subjected to an Islamic theocracy that denies us our basic freedoms and human rights—freedoms such as those that enable us to produce art, culture and cinema!

Check us out at our website http://www.explorationtheseries.com, which features our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, a travelogue documenting our sojourns to remarkable venues the world over.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Misinformation Age

Recently, I was watching a History Channel documentary about the Dark Ages on TV. At first glance, it looked like a bullet-proof, extremely convincing historical account that told a very clearly mapped-out story of the collapse of the western Roman Empire and civilization and the onset of a millennium of chaos and turmoil in western Europe, known as the Dark Ages. Backed up by a series of historical re-enactments to corroborate the claims made by the academics, the case they made seemed to be irrefutable on the surface.

Still, thinking back on it, what strikes me now is how flimsy and full of holes the case really is and how biased, speculative and propagandist this History Channel documentary, as a whole, was. Genuine academic scholarship or a deliberate campaign at misinformation and propaganda? You be the judge as I systematically dismember . . . I mean analyze . . . the documentary and the claims it makes.

For one thing, the documentary presents us with a series of supposed scholars or academics making various claims—presenting us with their interpretation of historical events, their examination of the repercussions of these events, their assessments of key historical personalities, etc. The scholars—who may very easily be pseudo-academics, for all we know—all had such obscure credentials that their claims could not really be taken seriously. Who were these characters—really? What publications could they attach their names to? How legitimate are their claims, as such?

Even if their claims can be corroborated or attached to authentic academic publications with true scholarly merit, what they are not telling you is that their version of reality, as expressed by them in the documentary, is really only one version among several competing versions, each having equal, if not greater, academic merit. All they are doing is presenting their interpretation of the facts as the authoritative truth—backed up by historical re-enactments to create the false impression that the viewer is actually observing history “as it happens” so to speak.

And furthermore, even if the version of history they give you is conclusively established as the only acceptable version, academically speaking, what they are not revealing to you is how much of the story is purely speculative and how much is based on hard evidence. Typically, what they do is take tiny shreds of fragmentary evidence of very dubious authenticity and then construct an elaborate hypothesis out of it. It remains unclear how much of the hypothesis is inferential and how much is pure fabrication based upon invalid assumptions or extrapolations from personal experience or even deliberately contrived to promote a socio-political agenda or justify a private opinion. For example, I saw another documentary in which a scholar made a pretty far-fetched claim—that he had uncovered evidence that centuries pre-dating Christ, another Jewish Messiah had lived, died and been resurrected in Jerusalem, so that Jesus was merely an imitator. However, the evidence he presented to corroborate his claim was so flimsy—a partially eroded rock-cut slab with some of the key text wiped out—that it became pretty evident that he was distorting the evidence to fit his claims.

Furthermore, even if the version of history that these so-called historians present to you is undeniably the only possible inference that could logically be drawn from the available sources, they do not reveal just how authentic or believable the sources are in the first place. Are they fragmentary archaeological remains acquired from the black-market? Or are they long surviving historical accounts where the original text has long since been lost to history and all that survives is a fragmentary copy that has, itself, been copied and recopied by hand countless times and may include any number of editorial errors or distortions?

So, if you analyze it carefully, it becomes pretty self-evident that what appeared, at first, to be an irrefutable case is actually so fabricated, contrived and full of holes that it can only be classified as pseudo-scholarship. It is actually propaganda—not history at all—and the historical re-enactments only underscore that idea. It is propaganda designed either to reinforce existing societal prejudices or to promote a socio-political agenda or to justify the actions of present-day politicians by claiming a historical precedent (of dubious authenticity). The irony is that any serious academic would be aware of this and how history itself is full of such attempts at propaganda and myth-making—which is why many supposedly ironclad historical accounts are themselves suspect and of dubious authenticity.

And, so, one has to wonder what is the hidden agenda that such propagandists are attempting to promote. Is it anything like, for example, the racist, racially supremacist agenda of Nazi pseudo-scholars? Or the left-wing, naïvely pluralistic social agenda of more liberal academics? Or is it an attempt, by some, to justify certain modes of criminal behavior by presenting us with a dubious historical precedent—suggesting, for example, that because xenophobia, polygamy, genocide and sodomy were acceptable practices in ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome and Judea, they should be excusable in the present day as well?

Horizon Cybermedia is about questioning such attempts at propaganda and eyewash by mainstream media sources. In this “Information Age,” in which social media are becoming increasingly prevalent and more and more people have access to revolutionary modern media technology, one has to wonder just how valid and accurate the information is . . . and how much of it are distortions or dishonest attempts at misinformation and propaganda.

The last thing we need is for universal access to media technology to create a “Misinformation Age” of widespread questionable information. However, it should also be noted that thanks to the universality of modern media technology, it is now easier to question universally-held assumptions and prejudices and the authenticity of so-called authoritative sources of information.

Please do check out our ongoing film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar at our website http://www.explorationtheseries.com. The current film is a visual tour of some of the key sites in the city of Calcutta, India. Future episodes visit the ski resorts of Big Bear Lake, CA and the rock-cut Buddhist temples of the Kanheri Caves near Mumbai, India. We look forward to your continued support, entertainment and information.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.