Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Al-Jazeera : Fahrenheit raises heat in the Arab world

"Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's film critique of the Bush administration's war policy, has provoked strong reaction in the Arab world: Kuwait banned the movie. Jordan tried to edit it. Saudi commentators are denouncing it. Syria hasn't decided what to do.

Many moviegoers said that "Fahrenheit" made their bad impression of the United States worse and showed Americans what their own news media did not.

In Moore's portrayal, "Baghdad was happy and safe until cowboys Bush and Blair came," complained Saudi columnist Reem al-Saleh, writing in a Kuwaiti newspaper. "He ignored 30 years of muscle-flexing invasions, villages massacred by chemical weapons . . . millions of bodies and mass graves. He has no right to hide the full truth."

As a matter of fact many Arabs are seeing the film. Gianluca Chacra, whose Dubai-based company released "Fahrenheit" in the Middle East, said attendance is at blockbuster proportions - despite obstacles.

In the United Arab Emirates, the information minister, in an unusual step, asked to see the film first, then approved it.

In Jordan, censors wanted the Saudi content cut, but "higher authorities" approved the movie in full, Chacra said.

Kuwait banned the film.

Lebanon and Israel showed the movie. Syria is still considering the matter. Egypt will premiere it later this month.

Radwan Rizk, 47, a gym owner in Lebanon, thinks that the effect of Moore's movie was double-edged: It shook his idea of American democracy.

In Cairo, Noha Sayed Al-Ahl, 28, who runs an arts advocacy group, said Moore "really cares about America and the foreign policies of America and is brave enough to speak his mind."

In a Beirut gym, two women in their 40s discussed "Fahrenheit" during their exercises.

"I loved the movie because it showed that Bush was a partner in terrorism”, said Sana Rafeh, a preschool teacher.

Her gym partner, housewife Rabab Itani, said the movie's take on terrorism was too narrow: "There are Arabs and Muslims dying from America's policies every day."

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