Director Ed Zwick’s new movie, The Siege, has sparked controversy among Arab groups that say the film promotes negative stereotypes about their culture.
In the film, which stars Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, martial law is imposed in the Bronx, N.Y., after several terrorist acts occur and Arabs are forced into internment camps.
GW’s Muslim Students’ Association, along with local Muslim groups, protested the Friday premiere.
“We postered theaters and handed out fliers made by (Council on American Islamic Relations),” MSA President Ali Husain said. “We also had our own fliers. Basically, we really wanted to get out as a whole on the day it opened.”
Husain said the preview of the film depicts sessions of Islamic prayer followed by scenes of terrorism.
“One of the intents of the movie was to talk about the dilemma of being Arab American in a time of terrorism,” Zwick told The Washington Post. “We were trying to be complex, layered and not reduce people to stereotypes. We do describe terrorism as part of a religious realism. That is unfortunate, but that is the truth.”
“The directors ironically claim that the movie actually lowers stereotypes,” Husain said. “I don’t agree at all. If one were to analyze the preview alone, an obvious connection is made between religion and terrorism.”
Hala Maksoud, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president, told The Post the film could increase harrasment and discrimination toward the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States.
Members of GW’s Arab Student Association said they do not plan to protest but are strongly opposed to the film.
“Hollywood makes such a large movie and one of its focuses is on the negative stereotypes of Arab terrorism and distrust,” said Maha Jweied, co-president of ASA. “No one wants these stereotypes reinforced.”