American Muslims Object to `Rules of Engagement'

(RNS) Arab-Americans and Muslims are angry about Paramount Pictures'new Marine Corps drama, "Rules of Engagement." The film, starringSamuel L. Jackson as an officer facing court martial over shooting Arabsin Yemen, opened April 7 and earned $15.1 million in its openingweekend.

The film shows Arab children pointing weapons at U.S.soldiers,scenes which prompted the 30,000-member, Washington, D.C.-basedAmerican-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to deplore the film's"uniformly negative" depiction of Arabs.

"This film has numerous images of armed children," said ADCspokesman Hussein Ibish. "The basic plot is not problematic. What'sproblematic is the treatment of and depiction of an Arab society. Therearen't any positive images."

The Council on American Islamic Relations is asking the Pentagon tosuspend military cooperation with filmmakers who stereotype Muslims. Inan April 11 letter to Secretary of Defense William Cohen, CAIR executivedirector Nihad Awad wrote that the film, "seems to justify the killingof Muslim men, women and even children. It also offers a very negativeand inaccurate image of Muslims and Islamic beliefs."

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In a March 30 letter to the ADC, a Paramount spokesman said, "`Rulesof Engagement' is not anti-Arab but, anti-extremist. This film is not anegative portrayal of any government or people." The letter noted thatgovernment officials in Morocco, where the film's Yemen sequences wereshot, approved the script.

Still, Ibish said because of Arab internal tensions, Moroccansapproving a script about Yemenis would not guard against stereotypes,and that racism is viewed differently in the United States than the Arabworld. "Moroccan government officials might not have the same concernsas Arab-Americans do," he said.

Last fall, Arab-Americans were elated at the layered portraits ofArabs in Warner Brothers' Gulf War drama "Three Kings." Praise for thatfilm came after years of Arab-Americans complained to Hollywood aboutArabs-as-terrorist stereotypes in films such as "The Siege" and"Executive Decision."

Ibish said that since January, the ADC has made repeated requestsfor meetings with Paramount executives over "Rules of Engagement," butno meeting occurred before the film opened.

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