Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
A New Film Countering Zionist
Hollywood's Anti-Arab Propaganda
By Paul Balles
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 26, 2011
Fordson High School is a
secondary school in Dearborn, Michigan. At times Dearborn has been a victim
of hostility toward its Muslim community. The city has the largest
concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East.
The school and
its football (American football) team is the setting for the new film "Fordson:
Faith, Fasting, Football".
In recent years, Fordson's team faced a
range of challenges, from racial slurs hurled at them while playing to being
falsely accused of being terrorists.
The film, about Faith (Islam),
Fasting (Muslims during Ramadan) and Football (the film's setting),
premiered on September 9th, two days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
The team had to train during Ramadan, and in order to fast for the
month, they set their practice times from 11 pm to 4 am.
Brunick, reviewing the film for the New York Times, notes that "...sound
bites of unidentified but recognizable talk radio and cable news mainstays
are the kind of provocations regularly criticized by media watchdogs."
A narrator in the film says, "We’ve been called many names: an Islamic
School, an Arabic School, a Hezbollah High School, camel jockeys, damn
Arabs, towel heads, sand niggers."
One of the students comments,
"It's real hate; you can feel it." But they're young, they're football
players and they want to win, not just on the football field but as Arab
Says the narrator, "But when all of this hatemongering is
mashed together with a sweeping orchestral march, the individual instances
of bigotry are transformed into something larger: a glimpse of how monstrous
our post-9/11 hysteria may appear to future students of American history."
In the film, residents of Dearborn react to the events of 9/11.
One man says, "Please God, don't let them be Arabs" about those who flew the
planes into the twin towers.
Another reflects, "We were hit twice;
once by Osama bin Laden and second by those who associated us with Osama bin
Very few films or TV programmes portray Arabs in a
favourable light. Those that do need to counter the negative images
reflected in the bigotry of a century in Hollywood.
Films like Oscar
nominated “Syriana” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” which display Arabs and Muslims
as people rather than stereotypes, can help break down the image that has
been built up for years.
As Professor Emeritus Jack Shaheen made
clear in his landmark study Reel Bad Arabs and his documentary based on the
book, Hollywood has a long and reprehensible record of vilifying Arabs.
In a 2008 interview for Lebanon's Daily Star, Jim Quilty noted that
"Regarded as a sort of 'Orientalism' for film junkies, Shaheen's book
inspired 'Planet of the Arabs,' Jackie Salloum's 2003 video that stitches
together nine minutes of reprehensible Arab representations like a
feature-film trailer. In 2006, the book generated Sut Jhall's documentary
'Reel Bad Arabs'."
In the same year as his documentary appeared,
Shaheen released his new book, "Guilty: Hollywood's verdict on Arabs after
9/11." In it, he reveals that instead of an improved image of Arabs, their
portrayal has worsened following 9/11.
A review in Publishers Weekly
points out that "In an index of more than 100 post-9/11 films, the book
depicts and debunks the most prevalent stereotypes of reel Arabs—exotic
camel-riding nomad, oppressed maiden, corrupt sheikh, terrorist.
Dehumanizing portrayals of Arabs have real consequences..."
to deserved improvement of the Arab image in the west will be paved with
films that portray Arabs as they really are.
It's time to put
ignorant stereotypes to rest by countering the propaganda with reality as in
the Fordson film.