REVIEW BY Robert D. Crane
In order to give a Muslim perspective, last night I went to an advance showing by Fox of the new movie, Kingdom of Heaven, on the conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims during the time of the Crusades. It is a great movie about the new, young king of Jerusalem who is motivated as a “good guy” crusader by his mission from God to turn Jerusalem into a kingdom of heaven, when everyone else seems to be determined to turn it into a pit of hell.
No Muslims should have any objections, except to the fact that there was no battle by Saladin to capture Jerusalem (the final battle took place somewhere else), and perhaps to the fact that the hero and the already married heroine got into bed together almost immediately after they met each other. But, this is Hollywood with profit as the bottom line.
Probably 30,000,000 Christians, however, will have an absolute fit, because it shows the Knight Templars as religious extremists who deliberately fomented war against the Muslims at a time when most of the Crusaders, who had been in Jerusalem for almost a hundred years, were on very peaceful terms with all of their neighbors. The simple message of The Kingdom of Heaven is that those who focus on violence as an inevitable or even inherent part of religion are all distorting their own traditions.
One comment I had that I did not tell the Fox representative is that the question raised several times in the movie, “Why did we Christians come here to Jerusalem,” could be seen as a real dig at the political Zionists.
In response to my estimate that tens of millions of Christians will be horrified by this horror-filled movie, the Fox representative seemed to be overjoyed by the prospect because controversy is precisely what sells films. Many movie-goers may be upset because too many people were beheaded, mostly by Christians. Other more cynical people may be bothered more by how the producer created the images of mass slaughter and made totally improbable results appear quite natural. For example, they may question how the producer thought he could get away with photos of the hero’s totally mangled arm, when a few frames later he was perfectly O.K. Many times it looked like he was being sliced to pieces, often by fellow Christians, but he always seemed to emerge somehow without a scratch. This was really a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie set in 12th century Jerusalem.
My assessment is that it will never get an Oscar, but it could be a box-office bonanza. It has a very clear “peace now” message, but the medium of showing the horror of war, suggesting the pit of hell into which we seem to be falling today, may be too much for people who see too much of this already in documentaries on real life.
BACKGROUND Collected by Sheila Musaji
We will need to wait until the film is released to see if there is really any controversy.
4-25-2005 We just received the following update from CAIR
MUSLIMS CALL NEW FOX CRUSADER FILM ‘BALANCED’
CAIR says ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ avoids negative stereotypes
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/25/05) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said today that the new 20th Century Fox epic “Kingdom of Heaven” is a “balanced” portrayal of the Crusades, despite earlier concerns that the film might offer stereotypical portrayals of Islam or Muslims.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) based its judgment on a private screening of the Sir Ridley Scott film at Fox studios in Los Angeles. “Kingdom” is scheduled to open in theaters nationwide May 6th.
To watch a trailer of the film, go to:
Representatives of CAIR’s Southern California office (CAIR-LA) and the group’s national headquarters took part in the screening. They said the film, which focuses on the 12th century period between the Second and Third Crusades, highlights the humanity of characters on both sides of that centuries-long conflict.
“Our overall impression is that ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a balanced and positive depiction of Islamic culture during the Crusades,” said CAIR-LA Communications Director Sabiha Khan. “Muslims are shown as dignified and proud people whose lives are based on ethics and morality.” Khan said one of the film’s positive messages, that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace, will provide an opportunity for increased interfaith dialogue.
“It is unfortunately a rare occasion when a Muslim filmgoer can leave the theater feeling good about a movie’s portrayal of Islam,” said CAIR National Communications Coordinator Rabiah Ahmed, who also attended the Los Angles screening. “This film managed to show the horrors of war without associating those horrors with a particular faith or culture.” Ahmed thanked Fox for its screening of the film and for taking care to avoid religious stereotypes.
Earlier this year, CAIR met with Fox television network officials over concerns about the depiction of a “Muslim” family at the heart of a terror plot in the drama series “24.”
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
To read CAIR’s Mission, Vision Statement and Core Principles, go to: http://www.cair-net.org/default.asp?Page=About
5-2-2005 Finally, A Film Sheds Muslim Stereotypes http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0502/p12s01-almo.html
5-5-2005 Crusades Still a Battleground 800 Years On http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3270930a1860,00.html
SEE ALSO our collection of articles about the Crusades http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/2003nov_comments.php?id=466_0_23_60_C