Community Organizes Proactive Response to "The Siege"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) hosted a joint press conference on October 14 to voice concerns about the soon-to-be-released 20th Century Fox film "The Siege" which, it is feared, will increase stereotyping and hostilities toward the Arab and Muslim communities.

"The Siege" is set in Brooklyn, N.Y., and involves a bombing campaign by "Muslims" which prompts the American military to declare martial law and carry out a mass arrest of Muslim- and Arab-Americans. The scenario is similar to the detention of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

CAIR is calling on local Muslim leaders and communities to take part in a proactive response to the film. The positive campaign will involve informational leafletings outside theaters nationwide on the premier date of the film (November 6). The leaflets will be handed to moviegoers as the enter the theaters in order to offer accurate information about Islam and the American Muslim community and to invite them to a mosque open house on the following day.

CAIR met with the film's producer and director in New York in April to offer a point-by-point analysis of the film's script. The organization suggested a number of changes, some of which were accepted. Unfortunately, the producers refused to change the plot line associating Islamic practices with violence.

CAIR's major concern with the film is that it links Islamic religious practices, including prayer, religious washing, the call to worship, Islamic dress and beards, Quranic recitation, and even the color green with terrorism. The film's makers have refused to remove these references. Other points of concern are that negative stereotypes are introduced and reinforced, but are left almost completely unchallenged. Additionally, it makes the trustworthiness and peaceful intentions of American Muslims and Arab-Americans suspect. The overall impression of those who have seen "The Siege" is that, despite some positive content, many who see the film will view the next Muslim or Arab they meet with increased suspicion and hostility.

CAIR is organizing a number of responses: (1) asking mosques and Islamic centers and organizations to be available to those who wish to learn more about Islam and the local Muslim community; (2) distributing a "Siege Campaign Kit," which contains sample news releases for local leafleting and open houses, a sample informational flyer/invitation to be handed out to moviegoers, a sample "Welcome to our Mosque" brochure, a point-by-point analysis of the script, talking points for local spokespeople, tips for staging leafletings, and a step-by-step guide to organizing a mosque open house; and (3) forming local committees to coordinate the community’s response to the film. To become involved in the campaign, contact CAIR at (202) 659-2247.

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