Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Miami Herald : 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Provokes Arab Reactions

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" is provoking strong Arab reaction. Kuwait banned it, Jordan tried to cut it, Syria has not decided, and Saudi commentators are denouncing it.

Many Arab moviegoers say with a twinge of envy that they wish the region, where free speech is for the most part restricted, had its own Moore. Some say it reinforces their bad image of the United States and shows Americans what their own media does not.

A few believe Moore is unfair to President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"When he condemned the war in Iraq ... he pictured it this way: Baghdad was happy and safe until cowboys Bush and Blair came," Saudi columnist Reem al-Saleh wrote in Kuwait's Al-Siyassah daily.

"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."

Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 and was driven out by the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War. Many Kuwaitis are grateful to the United States and enduringly suspicious of Saddam.

Gianluca Chacra, whose Dubai-based company released the film in the Middle East, said attendance is at blockbuster proportions.

"We were quite scared that due to the Saudi content it might not pass," Chacra said.

In the United Arab Emirates, the information minister, in an unusual step, asked to see it first, then approved it. In Jordan, the censors insisted the Saudi content be cut, Chacra said. They later took the film to "higher authorities," who OK'd it in full, he added.

Kuwait banned the film on the spot, Chacra said. He did not bother showing it to the censors in Saudi Arabia, where there are no movie theaters, only videos.

(click on the title for the whole article)

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