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Sheiks and Hollywood Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

May 02, 2001|SALAM AL-MARAYATI | Salam al-Marayati is director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles

The decision to ban Pokemon on religious grounds in some Arab Muslim countries exposes the reduced level of thinking in the Muslim world.

If Islamic law were to be relevant, the first consideration for banning anything should be their sheikdom style of governments. But one cannot change culture by decree, and Pokemon, for all of its shortcomings, is a component of a global culture. To consider it part of a grand conspiracy reflects a weakness in one's faith.

The religious establishment of the Middle East should be comforted, however, by the track record of another group that relies on conspiracy thinking for a living: Hollywood. It is odd to equate the two; but in more ways than one, the influence they exert over our culture and the repercussions felt on the streets are immensely similar.

With the sheiks, it is a Jewish conspiracy that fuels why children are glued to the TV tube, not bad parenting. It is an easy fix to distract leaders of Muslim countries from the real issues of their social ills, namely the paralysis of free-thinking as a result of their authoritarian governance. They bash Western culture while relying on American economic lifelines. They have become completely defenseless without U.S. military sponsorship.

And Hollywood loves Muslim conspiracies--movies like "Executive Decision," "Delta Force," "True Lies" and the soon-to-be released sequel, along with a number of uncreative television productions. Chuck Norris is working on yet another epic of stereotyping for CBS involving dark Muslims praising the Lord for setting off nuclear bombs against White America.

Forget that CIA training in Afghanistan produced the most-wanted Muslim terrorists. Forget that the Midwest, not the Middle East, produced the worst terrorist on American soil, Timothy McVeigh. Terrorists are not religious; they are criminal.

But Hollywood is as deaf to criticism as the sheiks they love to ridicule. Yes, Hollywood is much more sophisticated and hides behind the cloak of free speech. The sheiks hide behind the cloak of Islam. They are opposite sides of the same coin. The two victims of the madness are free thinking and religion.

Judaism, Islam and other divine religions will flourish in spite of the hatred. Freedom of expression will also prevail. Better it be with our support, only after we embrace the truth--even if it comes at a personal cost.

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