Sunday, September 4, 2011

In the Name of Hate, Dramatic License Gone Too Far

When September 11 happened, it was supposed to symbolize a uniting of this country and its people under the flag of the United States.  Instead, it became a turning point in the collective hate of this nation.  Its been a long time coming, but 9/11 was the catalyst and I don't understand why.  Blaming the actions of 20 Muslims on all 1.97 billion Muslims in the world is like blaming the actions of 100 members of the Westboro Baptist Church on all of Christendom.  Its illogical, unethical, and UN-AMERICAN.  We are supposed to be the United States of America.  I do not see anything united in this country except lines on a map.

I could write a book on the recent rise of Islamophobia, but I thought I would start small and give an examination of a movie I first saw last year and comparing it to facts and the book that preceded the movie.  The movie is called 'Not Without My Daughter', starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina.  It was based on a book of non-fiction written by Betty Mahmoody, the protagonist and William Hoffer, who is known as a writer of crime dramas and biographies.  Now, I will begin with an overview of the movie and how dramatic license censured the details that can be found in the book.

Sally Field plays Betty Mahmoody, an American woman who mets and falls in love with Iranian-born Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody, or Moody for short.  He has lived in America for 20 years and works as a doctor.  Together they have a child, Mahtob.  A little bit of trivia for you, Mahtob is the Farsi word for moonlight.  Basing on the events of the Iranian revolution of 1979, Moody comes under pressure from both sides of his life, the family in Iran and the people of his hometown in Michigan.  The pressure eventually becomes too much, he finally caves to his families wishes and convinces his wife Betty that they should go for a 2 week visit to Iran.  When in Iran, we meet Ameh Bozorg (which is basically a title meaning Dear Aunt), Moody's sister and many members of the extended family.  From the beginning, they all hate Betty because she is an American.  We see Ameh Bozorg and her husband and Moodys other relatives always yelling at her and making her life miserable.  Long story short, the whole movie is full of cliches, stereotypes, and Betty's desperate attempt to leave Iran.  She eventually does with the help of some American sympathizer, Iranians who fund and aid in Betty and Mahtob's escape back to the USA.  One of the things that surprises me the most is that in the movie, it looks so easy to escape across the desert of Iran and into Turkey and she just walks up to the embassy and cut to credits.  She could not have escaped the way she said because that time of year is like winter anywhere.  There was snow all over the mountains.  This is a detail that she talks about in this book but is nowhere portrayed in the movie.  Did she make the story up to gain compassion or publicity?  Who knows, nobody will ever know the truth.

Now onto the little details that were conveniently left out.
In the book, there is a lot of background material concerning how Betty and Moody met and the life they led prior to going to Iran.  Whether or not Moody was right in his decision to go to Iran, there were signs for many years prior to their feigned vacation that Moody was becoming fanatical.  He hosted meetings in his house for the local pro-Iran extremist groups for the local college.  Betty knew that he was considering going to Iran, and even actively planned the trip.  Upon arriving in Iran, most of what is seen in the movie is true.  However, there are lots of exaggerations.  One of the persons from the film, an American-born friend of Betty's who lived in Iran, Ellen, is portrayed as a betrayer of Betty's trust.  In a later interview after Betty's return to the states, Ellen denies her portrayal as a two-faced woman.  Another fact you learn from reading the book is that Moody's family in Iran were not as bad with Betty as they were portrayed in the film.  Nasserine, who in the film is portrayed as friendly and sympathetic is actually one of the worst persons to Betty.  Another character oft vilified in the movie is Ameh Bozorg, but she is in fact one of the persons who began seeing Moody's descent into madness and keeping him away from Betty when he has a temper.  She also stalls Moody while Betty escapes.

This movie plays on all of the typical stereotypes of Islam and of Iran.  Nobody is perfect, but it is very UN-AMERICAN to vilify anyone or judge them on the basis of what they see in the media.

But it seems that hatred and ignorance have become common place, despite the fact that this is the 21st century.  There is NO excuse for ignorance.  You have books, internet, smart phones, and plenty of innocent people who are willing to share their knowledge with you.  Don't close yourselves off and give in to hate.  Nobody gains anything from it.  Muslims died in 9-11 too, and I don't mean the terrorists.

Oh, and one last rant.  All of this controversy over the Ground Zero mosque and the one in Tennessee is rubbish.  If people would actually read the articles instead of the headlines, they would know that there is no plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero or in Tennessee.  There are already mosques in those two locations.  The mosque at Ground Zero was housed in a small space that had been in the same location for many years before 9/11 and was also damaged during the terrorist attacks.  Plans to expand it were underway since 2009 and didn't make national headlines in 2010, only to be used as fuel for the anti-Muslim Right.  The plan at Ground Zero is the same as the plan in Tennessee, to build a multi-use center akin to the Christian YMCA, a space that can be used for meetings, classes, children's activities and day care and will have a worship space as well.  The Muslim community in Tennessee has been there since 1997 and has always been welcomed and treated as equal.  With more than 200 Muslim families in that community, many were praying on the sidewalks because they have ran out of space in their mosque.  So they bought some land and planned a similar project that would house classrooms, a gymnasium, and a prayer space.  No minarets, no prayer calls at dawn, just a normal looking building.  Instead of support, they have received death threats and even arson committed on the site of the new building.  Is this what the Christian right want in this country?

This is all that hate can bring.

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