December 27, 2016 -- This chilling tale of the takeover of a nation by a religious fanatic is the best argument yet for the idea of separating church and state.
Directors Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi have given us a clear view of how dangerous religious extremism is in this film which focuses on the influential Muslim cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi and his network of Red Mosque Madrasas (these particular schools, or madrasas, are Islamic religious schools with an extremely narrow curriculum) in Pakistan where his own brand of Islam and Sharia Law are taught to young students.
Impoverished families in Pakistan and nearby countries routinely allow the madrasas to teach their children because the madrasas provide free food and housing. The youngsters in the madrasas spend long days learning to recite the Koran (also spelled Quran). At one point the filmmakers ask a young student what a particular passage of the Koran he recited actually means. The student doesn't know. It is like teaching students to recite the Bible in Latin, but not teaching them the meaning of the words.
The film follows two students, Zarina and Talha, both aged 12. Zarina escaped from the local madrasa and is going to a secular school. Talha becomes radicalized and refuses to go back home when his father comes to the madrasa and tries to persuade his son to return home. The secular school where Zarina studies is being threatened by religious extremists and Zarina's family comes under pressure to arrange a marriage for her.
The film also describes the explosive history of the Red Mosque, and the role that the United States government, Saudi Arabia, and Osama Bin Laden had in bankrolling it in the 1980s. President Ronald Reagan supported these religious extremists (he is shown shaking hands with their leaders) because of their key role in driving Soviet troops out of Afghanistan.
This strategy backfired when the Red Mosque aided the rise of the Taliban, which in turn supported Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This led to the 911 attacks and the twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, an unending series of terrorist attacks and the rise of ISIS. Noted nuclear Pakistani physicist and civil activist Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy presents some of this history in the film. He is also seen speaking out against Abdul Aziz and his form of extremism.
The bloody conflict in Pakistan continues between the government and radical Islamites. In 2007 the government laid siege to the Red Mosque in Islamabad, killing 154, including the mother, brother and only son of Abdul Aziz. In the film, Abdul Aziz religiously justifies his son's death, and his own escape from death, by fleeing the fight in female clothing. It was the first of many such clashes. An equally bloody attack by extremists against the Peshawar School killed 132 school children and nine other people on December 16, 2014.
The film contains many chilling scenes of radicalized children, led by poverty and circumstance into a life of militancy. In one scene, a youngster shouts this message of hatred and defiance to a smiling Abdul Aziz. He has taken in many such castoff children, fed them, nurtured them and turned them into weapons in his war to turn Pakistan into a state ruled by his particular brand of Sharia Law. This film rates a B.
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