My friend Inamul Haq rarely goes to theaters to see movies. In fact, he could probably count the number of movies he's been to on one hand. So when he agreed to go with me to see Kingdom of Heaven, the new historical epic about the Crusades, I knew he considered this movie of some consequence—particularly to his fellow Muslims.
Yet whether it was the weighty matters Kingdom of Heaven handled, or the sheer—and exhausting—spectacle of war we sat through, neither of us was in much of a mood to meet right afterward to discuss what we'd seen. So we decided to meet for breakfast the following morning at a restaurant, once we'd had a chance to rest and collect our thoughts.
Haq, as some of his friends call him, was ready to talk. "You know," he started off, "every movie has an element of drama in it, and maybe some exaggerations. It has to, in order to attract people. But this is the first movie I've seen where Muslims are not depicted as evil terrorists, traitors, or womanizers. The movie really shows both noble and ignoble men, particularly on the side of the crusaders. I can imagine most Muslims will be happy with the film."
"Do you really think so?" I ask. "Isn't there a chance that the spectacle of Muslims dying in Kingdom of Heaven will lead some Muslims to hate Christians even more?"
Haq looks down thoughtfully. "Yes, perhaps so—especially among radical Muslims who see the Crusades as merely the first attempt to colonize Islamic lands, an attempt that was followed up successfully by European powers in the 19th century. These Muslims look at the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq through the same lens. This movie may tell such Muslims that their struggle against the West—what Americans call terrorism—is ...1
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