This new documentary by filmmakers Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi makes a sterling attempt to a semblance of an understandable explanation of the ongoing internecine war in Pakistan between the government authorities and the Taliban insurgents. They start with the cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi who heads up the Red Mosque network of schools known as madrassahs which essentially takes in young children from families to poor to raise them. The desperate families are happy to accept the offer of free board and keep and education even though very few of them have any concept of the hardcore religious militarism that they will be schooled in.
Ghazi makes every effort to present himself on camera as a rational learned man who not only wants to bring his young charges up obeying his very precise version of Islam, but also wants somehow to replace the chaos that the Military regime has left Pakistan in and implement the strict Sharia law. The first real clue as to how deep the indoctrination goes is when one of the teenage boys who spends hours every day rocking away learning the Koran, admits that they are only taught to memorize it completely but without actually understanding a single word.
Then in 2007 the Government desperate to crack down on Aziz’a activities and so they laid siege to his Red Mosque HQ in Islamabad. The battle raged for 8 days and 150 students were killed, but Aziz escaped by wearing a burqha. Whilst he was content to sacrifice the life of his mother, and his only son to ‘the cause’ for the goodness of Allah, he made sure that he personally survived.
Over the next 7 years Azia and the Taliban sought revenge for this fatal siege and so conducted some 3700 terrorists attacks destroying government buildings, including 1200 schools, and killing over 50,000 people. Then after the particularly callous massacre at Pershawar school which killed 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age, people finally took to the streets and demanded that the Taliban, and Aziz in particular be brought to justice once and for all.
Aziz knows that by accepting these very vulnerable children into his very rigid school system and relentlessly indoctrinating them, he is building a future force that will be so loyal to him and his extreme Muslim ideals that they will willing give up their own lives to obey him and become ‘martyrs’. The alternative for the very poor families is pretty stark too as when young Zarina escaped from the Madrassah she then had little choice than to obey her father and marry even though she was barely 12 years old.
Even coming to this compelling documentary knowing that people in this region who hold extreme religious views consider most of us in the West as infidels and their enemies, it is still very disturbing to say the least, to hear this violent rhetoric full of such hate passionately recounted by young kids of elementary school age. Trivedi and Ali Naqvi don’t attempt to offer any possible ideas on resolving any of these deep rooted problems, but by observing them without comment or narration, they do an excellent job of sharply nudging us out of cosy existences as to how wretched reality is in this part of the world.
To find out where/how to see this film : http://www.amongthebelieversfilm.com/