Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood Goes to the Movies

The majority of headlines about the Muslim Brotherhood these days describe the tensions accompanying their role in the political landscape as elections loom in late November; internal rifts, careful diplomacy, alliances broken and reformed.
But under the surface of this political positioning, something else is happening. Over the summer and into the fall, youth members of the Brotherhood have been building a collection of short films called Ikhwan Cinema. In each, a kitschy portrayal of Egyptian societyteaches a moral lesson. In one, a civil servant demands a bribe, only to receive a phone call telling him his son is injured in the hospital. When he arrives at the hospital, he finds out that he can only get his boy to the emergency room with a bribe, fulfilling a kind of corruption-condemning karma.
Why create these videos? The Brotherhood preempted the question by releasing statements over the summer,arguing that "there is a noticeable link between violence and corruption and the messages that are portrayed in films and other forms of media." These videos are meant to be an antidote to that trend.
The Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other Islamic voices in Egypt, have been campaigning to clean up corruption and violence with Islamic principles for years. What I found amazing this time were the reference points. The Brotherhood's online statements linked to an American peer-reviewed article called "The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children" by Aimee Tompkins and a book chapter called "Media-made Criminality: The Representation of Crime in the Mass Media" by Robert Reiner. Elsewhere they referred to an article about how the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was linked to violence in popular culture.

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