Abdel Kader Film Project – The story of a just Arab leader

oneblue.org is working with various collaborators in Los Angeles and Washington DC to fund and promote the making of a blockbuster Hollywood film about Abdel Kader Al Jazaeri.

From its earlier partnership with author John W Kiser and his Abdel Kader Education Project , oneblue.org has been responsible for developing projects such as a High School Essay competition in which students read the biography of the namesake of the city of Elkader, Iowa and write about overcoming stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims.

Why this film matters (from a Conflict perspective)

1. Current events in the Middle East beg the question of the relevance of “just leadership” in that region and contrast completely with the norms and behaviors of a leader like Abdel Kader. In fact, it is the very void in such leadership that has contributed greatly to the problems that we see today. Regardless of the extent to which the leaders of the Middle East are progenies of post colonial politics, solutions are not being sought in indigenous, more long-lasting traditional solutions much as they were in Abdel Kader’s world. They are largely based on outdated colonial constructs, ethnic divisions, opportunism, militarism, authoritarianism, historic gripes, retribution, intolerance and other attributes that go completely against the mores that Abdel Kader demonstrates through his philosophies and actions. This film promises to provide a cohesion of thought over principles of warfare during conflict in the Middle East and the greater Islamic World. While the world today is not at all as comparatively simplistic as the era of Abdel Kader and modern warfare poses far more complicated challenges, there are core principles that he applied during combat and in diplomacy that Arabs themselves and Muslims the world over have stopped reflecting on (as they have atrophied in ijtehad over the centuries). 

2. Given the recent beheadings of Coptic Christians by ISIL and years of targeted violence against minorities in the Middle East (and other Muslim countries like Pakistan), Abdel Kader exemplifies the basic concepts of Islamic rules of engagement during conflict when he prevents the massacre of 10,000 Christians in Syria. Retributive justice is a huge issue during conflict - this film will help highlight issues surrounding pluralism and tolerance in Islam.

3. Abdel Kader was not just a warrior or a Commander in warfare but a he was a diplomat as well. There are key elements of mediation, arbitration and negotiation that are evident throughout Abdel Kader’s dealings. Showing how he carried himself with dignity and resolve while dealing with the French is a key component of working with the enemy in a way that leaves room for dialogue and trust building. Looking at the greater good, rising above tribalism, applying universal concepts of Islamic justice in his dealings are key. He was born and raised in the rugged desert and taught everything in a tribal environment but he was enlightened to see beyond tribalism (and similarly sectarianism). For those who think there is a clash of civilizations, this film shows the East and West eventually coming together despite hardships.  

4. A huge part of the story of Abdel Kader is about Reconciliation. After all the trouble, the French grow to admire Abdel Kader, Abraham Lincoln honors him, a town in Iowa is named after him. He isn’t revered for becoming a doormat or puppet of the West but for standing up for what is just and right and conducting himself in a way that demonstrates intelligence, tact, humanitarianism, trustworthiness and strong leadership.

5. This movie can be a reminder to the West about the ramifications of its policies in that region, the historic role of the British and French and how Arabs have been subjected to the politics of cultures that are far different from theirs. It points to the need to let Arabs have self-determination in facing their problems. Right now the Arabs are seeking Western help in the conflicts in the region  but it is ultimately their own back yard, so while America and other western powers can influence the region, Arabs must take the lead in their own matters. The level of in-fighting is a reflection of the loss of “brotherhood” among the Arabs - something the general populace of the Middle East laments…that Arabs are no longer brethren and are fighting each other on a huge scale.

6. Everyone knows that media shapes narratives and thereby perceptions of “the other” during conflict. This movie promises to make a significant dent in the stereotypes and misinformation that continually grows around Arabs and Muslims. With the right producers and directors the messaging can be made very effective - not as propaganda but as a film that brings reason and accurate depictions into the fold. With the right cast, it will draw from talents that are world renowned and bring many audiences to see conflict in the Middle East and around Muslims in a more nuanced light. There have been no praiseworthy films that have made a significant change in perceptions. Mainstream media continues to reduce issues to soundbites and there are many TV shows and films that continue to fan the flames. The American film industry has global reach and can influence narratives on a global scale.

7. Many Muslims will ask (and have asked) why Abdel Kader Al Jazaeri is the subject of this film (or John Kiser’s book) and why not Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or Salahuddin. The answer is that Adbel Kader provides the closest contemporary example of dealing with colonialists, facing challenges within the context of modern day Arab struggle. He is far removed from the early days of Islam yet embodies Islamic principles in a very straightforward manner. There is a distinct connection to American history in Abraham Lincoln’s gift, the British Empire in Queen Victoria’s connection, Catholicism in Pope Pius IX, with explorer Sir Richard Burton etc. We have pictures, artifacts, accurate accounts…all tangible things that stand in testament to Abdel Kader’s greatness. 

contact: sarah@oneblue.org

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