A new movie about the Crusades was just released by acclaimed director Sir Ridley Scott. The movie’s main characters, the Crusaders, are – in Scott’s words – the “bad guys.”
The movie, called “Kingdom of Heaven,” is presented from the perspective of a young French knight who goes to Jerusalem to fight to free the Holy Land from its Muslim conquerors.
It was feared (or perhaps, hyped?) that the movie might offend Muslims and be released amid a controversy as white-hot as that which accompanied Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” – but, by and large, the movie has been well-received by Muslim audiences.
Laila Al-Qatami, speaking for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the movie, “one of the better representations of Muslims we’ve seen out of Hollywood.”
In interviews, Scott said he wasn’t worried about offending Arabs or Muslims, because he was aiming for “historical accuracy.” Scott said he felt the best way to ensure historical accuracy was to consult Muslim scholars so that he would “present a balanced portrait.”
All the editorials and commentaries I’ve read quoting Scott’s interview made a point of mentioning the Muslim scholars’ input and the “balanced portrait” comment.
When a Hollywood filmmaker promises a “balanced portrait,” it usually means revising history to fit the modern view of political correctness.
When Mel Gibson produced the “Passion of the Christ,” one of the main points of controversy was that Gibson consulted Bible scholars. Rather than hailing the film as a “balanced portrait” that came because of such scholarly consultation, the critics said involving Christian scholars made it a “Christian propaganda” film that offended everybody from Muslims to Jews to atheists and presented an “unfair portrait” of everyone from the Jewish authorities to the Roman soldiers.
Noted a glowing review by MSNBC, “Saladin presents a stately, upstanding portrait for U.S. audiences accustomed to Arab villains.”
In reality, Hollywood has studiously avoided the use of Arab villains. Most movies about terrorism substitute neo-Nazis, IRA terrorists or Columbian narco-terrorists – anybody but Arab terrorists. The U.S. audiences that have become accustomed to Arab villains are news audiences, not moviegoers.
MSNBC included some quotes from the film’s leading man and lady, Orlando Bloom and Eva Green. “It’s so relevant today,” Bloom said. “The last caption of the movie is, a thousand years later, we’re still doing the same thing, still fighting one another over the same religious divides, and Jerusalem is still in conflict. It’s like: When are we going to learn?”
That makes a lot of sense. The conflict over Jerusalem during the Crusades was an effort to push back Islam’s steady drive of conquest toward the West and prevent the Islamic goal of the destruction of Christianity.
The conflict over Jerusalem today is over Islam’s effort to push the Jews into the Mediterranean. What lesson does Bloom think we need to learn? Accept Islamic domination and get it over with?
Then there was this gem of wisdom offered by Evan Green: “I think Muslims will be extremely proud and happy, because they’re seen as noble, chivalrous characters,” actress Green said. “Especially in this Crusade, the Arab people behaved in a more noble way than the Christian people. Saladin was such a great character. He was the hero of his time.”
Good ol’ Saladin and the noble Islamic warriors who dedicated their lives to the destruction of all “infidels.” What a shame those ignorant and ignoble Christians couldn’t leave the proud and chivalrous Saladin and his Islamic warriors alone!
The following is from an eyewitness account of Saladin’s chivalry at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, as recorded by Ernoul, a Frankish prisoner who survived the battle:
Saladin asked him: “Prince Raynald, if you held me in your prison as I now hold you in mine, what, by your law, would you do to me?”
“So help me God,” he replied, “I would cut off your head.”
Saladin was greatly enraged at this most insolent reply, and said: “Pig! You are my prisoner, yet you answer me so arrogantly?”
He took a sword in his hand and thrust it right through his body.
The [military slaves] who were standing by rushed at him and cut off his head. Saladin took some of the blood and sprinkled it on his head in recognition that he had taken vengeance on him. Then he ordered that they carry the head to Damascus, and it was dragged along the ground to show the Saracens whom the prince had wronged what vengeance he had had.
The historian Gibbon noted that, except for the Crusades, “the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”
As Bloom’s character, Balian, declares in the film: “If this is the kingdom of heaven, then God can keep it.”