Islamo-phobia poster- Photo Courtesy of Omar Sarikaya
CAIRO – 2 March: Turkish director Omar Sarikaya’s ambitious Islamo-Phobia attempts to showcase the traumatic effects of prejudice and discrimination against Muslim refugees around the world in an effort to break stereotypes about Islam.
Abigoted teacher puts down a student for wearing a hijab; the other students refer to them as “terrorists.” At a restaurant, customers start to leave because they see one woman wearing a hijab.
A mosque is set on fire by arsonists. All of these are scenes from an upcoming movie, but they might as well be real-life stories of refugees living in Europe and the U.S. today. Speaking about his upcoming movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Turkish director Omar Sarikaya says Islamo-Phobia is a story that needs to be told, particularly in light of current events.
Following the journey of Amina and her son Omar, two refugees who escaped from Bosnia in 1992 and headed to the Netherlands where, years later, as a student at the University of Rotterdam, Omar continues to be haunted, the huge production “aims to defend Islam’s image in front of other countries that do not know the truth about Islam, especially in this critical period where most European countries and the U.S. suffer from Islamophobia,” explains Sarikaya. Egypt Today chats with Sarikaya, discussing the ambitious film’s message and the universal notion that cinema is a common language understood by the whole world.
What’s the idea behind this movie?
Islamophobia literally means the extreme fear of Islam and Muslims, an irrational hostile understanding due to discrimination and prejudice. The Islamophobia Europe is currently suffering from is hostility, prejudice, discrimination, hate and racism against Islam. In addition, most of the world suffers from anti-Semitism, anti-Russian sentiment and anti-African sentiments. The movie will showcase the traumatic effects of prejudice and discrimination against Muslim refugees. Every movie changes something in the minds of its audience, channelling their thoughts and ideas in a certain direction.
What perceptions are you hoping to change with IslamoPhobia?
Does every Christian or European hate Islam? No. Is every Muslim a terrorist? No. Is Islam a religion that promotes violence? Of course not. Islamo-Phobia will work to make everyone watching ask himself/ herself these three questions. Viewers will realize the answers at the end of the movie. Our mission through Islamo-Phobia is to provide a practical visual answer to these questions. We want every viewer to strongly believe that Islam is not based on terrorism. The film will portray the true meaning of peace, love, unity, respect, compassion and, most importantly, mercy. Without any kind of exaggeration, Islamo-Phobia tackles the most important principles in the world, which are peace and tolerance, which if rightly understood will make for a better world full of justice and happiness.
How would you categorize the movie?
Islamo-Phobia is a peace, charity and solidarity film that consolidates the concepts of compassion, mercy and blessing. The film is an epic feature-length movie of approximately 130 minutes. Islamo-Phobia will be filmed in Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, the United states and Egypt. Its genre is drama, action and romance. The movie will be executed with the highest of Hollywood standards. Islamo-Phobia is a film that defends contemporary Islam and carries a message of tolerance towards all religions. It will participate in the most prestigious film festivals around the world to widely spread its message to the largest segment of people. Our aim is to be nominated for the Oscars and receive a Nobel Prize for peace. We target that over 300 million people will watch Islamo-Phobia. We’ve already shot almost 30 percent of the movie and my plan is to shoot about 25 percent of it in Egypt in front of the Giza Pyramids. The film will be released this year.
Tell us about the movie cast.
We have actors and actress from 48 countries who are participating in this peaceful mission. The most famous are Belgian megastar Jean Claude Van Damme, American star Daniel Baldwin, famous American actor Chris Mulkey, Egyptian-Italian actor Fabio Abraham, American actress Bobbie Phillips, American-Turkish actor Adam Dormi, Italian actress Antonella Salvucci, Spanish actor Jesus Sans and French actor Aksel Ustun, among others.. All these actors and actresses are joining the movie as vol-unteers because this is a non-profit movie. None of them will be paid because they all strongly believe that this movie is a step toward world peace. This indicates how important a movie like Islamo-Phobia is.
How will you finance it?
I will produce Islamo-Phobia along with an English production company, with logistic aids granted from the Dutch and the Turkish governments. The production company is responsible for accommodation, food, catering and travel expenses. Producers, co-producers and writers will be paid for their own efforts, on a deferred basis, which means that they will get paid only when the film is released and if there is net profit. All the investors and sponsors will get their money back, but without any kind of profit. The profits of the movie will be fully dedicated to charity work and humanitarian aid under the UNICEF umbrella. Cast and crew members will get credit on IMDB and the film will be distributed on blue ray, DVDs, VOD (video on demand). There will be a world premiere for the movie.
Going back to the film’s message, why is there so much Islamophobia in Europe today?
One of the main reasons is the cruel and inhuman acts of terrorist organizations that have emerged in the Islamic world, especially after the 9/11 attack, in addition to the terrorist attacks in Western countries carried out by Muslims. Such acts are wrongfully reflected and somewhat distorted in Western media and public opinion. However, it is not the Western countries but it is those Muslims who are incomparably the biggest targets and victims of those terrorist organizations and their cruel acts in their own countries, resulting in loss of lives and devastation. There are various strategies prepared to counter terrorism at the international and national levels. It would be useful to know how these strategies, directly or indirectly, address Islamophobia. One of the main aims of this movie is to discuss the role of terrorism in spreading Islamophobia, and to analyze the relationship between counter-terrorism policies and Islamophobia.
Can cinema help eliminate Islamophobia?
Cinema is an effective tool in eliminating Islamophobia. What we need to do is not to wait for others to portray Islam and introduce it in their cinema with a wrong image, we must go to them with subjective movies like Islamo-Phobia telling them what the real Islam is, and how it sends a message of peace to all the other religions. The movie will highlight the coexistence of the three religions by presenting three families, one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim, illustrating how they [live] alongside each other. It highlights how, despite politics separating the families, they remain cohesive, mutually supportive in critical times. The bonds between them remain strong and firm and the families remain united to ward off a great danger that threatens them all during the movie.
Why did more than eight Arab countries refuse to finance the movie at the same time that Israel offered to fund production?
Eight Arab Islamic countries refused to finance the movie, but I refused the Israeli offer to produce the movie. Unfortunately we didn’t get any help from any Arab country despite the fact that a number of them are rich. Only the mayor of Antalya-Turkey helped us a little bit. The rest of the Muslim countries didn’t help us because IslamoPhobia promotes the real side of Islam. I think these Arab countries don’t like what we are doing because it’s for peace. These Arab countries should be ashamed of themselves.
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