Not so long ago, I saw a movie called Fuckland. It is the eighth film shot in the realistic, if stifling technique known as Dogme 95, pioneered by Lars von Trier. The story concerns Fabián, a callous Argentine, visiting the Falkland islands to impregnate a British woman there. Fabián reckons that if 500 Argentines do this every year, the island will be overrun by their children, and be thus de facto reclaimed from Britain. A coup drenched in amniotic fluid rather than blood.
I see a lesson here that must be understood if one is to imagine a peaceful resolution to the war on terror.
The Islamic world has begun to truly absorb the internet, in no small part due to the United States efforts in bringing open access to information. While internet access is certainly intended by our own strategists as a tool of democracy, Wal-mart, and the trivialization of local culture, the street finds its own uses for things. The Arabic world has found internet video.
Some of the imagery, at least what we see in our news reports, is shocking – terrorist training videos, glorifying the actions and methods of suicide bombers and insurgents. However, to focus on the content and the direct propaganda is to miss the greater impact.
Islamic video has a peculiar visual quality, full of garish colors and alien rhythms. At first glance it seems reminiscent of early video art, or at least bad 1970’s local television, which implies an innocent culture that is “still catching up.” This is not the case – informed by a generation of reality TV and samizdat Hollywood, Arabic video is rapidly forming its own guerilla aesthetic, one that fills a gap deeply felt by a culture which has been disenfranchised in the electronic revolution. They have skipped over broacasting directly to podcasting.
Now that the gates are open, their video is beginning to flood across borders, showing up on YouTube and Google Video, clamoring for attention alongside sitcom reruns, “banned” commercials, and some dude on a webcam. While the first efforts are fairly dry, discussions of Islamic religious perspectives and the like, there will be more to come, content that is accessible and relevant. This is a culture that has something to say, has the means to say it, and will not be bullied into submission in world discourse.
Seen in the large, both acts of terrorists and the west’s military response should not be seen as a classic “us or them,” but rather as two facets of the body politic attempting to reach a reconciliation. There is no “winning” the war on terror. Terror is a fact and a tool, not limited to a particular religion or philosophy.
If we are to move forward as a culture and as a species, it would behoove us to understand the roots of the messages coming from our fellows, and to rapidly work towards integration of Islamic values with our own. Within our own country we are continually consumed by the reaction between Christian and secular values – the process is the same.
Both sides must bend in this pursuit – Muslims must become more tolerant of differing viewpoints, and the west must absorb Islamic thought into our daily lives. Whether in respect or ridicule, the idea of Qiyamah must stand beside The Rapture in our thinking, Jihad must be understood as the same as the Christian “struggle”
Even if it were possible, by force or assimilation, to eliminate Muslim values from the world, this would do both the east and the west a great disservice. No one benefits from the destruction of a culture: they are like species, and too many have been lost already. The only path is for each side to allow itself to be impregnated by the other, to permit spiritual cross pollination to bring us to a common mindspace.
It will not be easy, but we will do this, إن شاء الله