A Great Movie About Jihad

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Hotel Mumbai,” which arrived in theaters late last month, is an Australian production “based on true events” that may have faded from memory or were not known in the first place. For the record, in 2008, Islamic jihadists launched a series of attacks in Mumbai, India, that claimed 166 victims from many nations.

As the movie opens, jihadists in small boats make landfall, guided by a Pakistani-based controller, codenamed “Bull.” The well-equipped team targets a train station, restaurants, and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where most of the action takes place. The portrayal is very authentic with the terrorists, who invoke Allah as they throw grenades and gun down innocents young and old, male and female. This realism, unfortunately, tapers off with the various guest characters in the hotel.

These include the naïve American ordering a hamburger, the malevolent Russian who served in Afghanistan, and an elderly woman who wonders about a Sikh waiter’s beard and turban. The portrayal likely understates the bravery and suffering of hotel guests and the story neglects the real heroes.

The Indian special forces, known as the Black Cats, are late to the scene but quickly take down most of the terrorists. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in “True Lies,” “they were all bad,” but the most important member of the death squad gets no screen time at all.

Daood Gilani, born to a Pakistani father and American mother, made five trips to Pakistan to train at camps operated by the terrorist organization called Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT), which coordinated operations with Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. Gilani in 2006 changed his name to David Coleman Headley to ease travel to India. Between 2006 and 2008, he made five trips to Mumbai, giving his handlers key intelligence on the targets, including videos.

“Hotel Mumbai” does not reveal that the Chabad House Jewish community center was a primary target and the victims included Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum. Neither does the movie show that Headley, busted in 2009, got a sentence of only 35 years. The Indians, by contrast, hanged Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist the Black Cats managed to capture alive.

As the film notes, the Pakistan-based mastermind of the operation has never been caught. Any sequel will have to wait but the takeaway is clear: If you only play defense against jihad, many innocent people are going to die.

If “Hotel Mumbai” inspires any great American filmmakers, they might try the actual events of December 2015, when Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik gunned down 14 innocents and wounded 20 others at an office party in San Bernardino. The movie could show the terrorists’ meticulous planning and chart the back stories of the victims. The action could show local police taking down the terrorists in a ferocious gun battle. This victory was achieved with no further loss of innocent life, and before the pair could carry out their planned attacks on schools and freeways.

As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather,” people might like a story like that. On the other hand, with the American movie industry dominated by the Left, such a film won’t be coming to the big screen any time soon. In today’s political climate, viewers might expect a movie with Ku Kluckers in MAGA hats attacking an LGBTQ convention at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Frustrated film viewers might track down a copy of Richard Grenier’s 1982 novel, The Marrakesh One-Two, in which wealthy Arab oil interests tap filmmaker Burt Nelson to make a movie about Mohammed and Islam, the equivalent of Hollywood biblical epics. “The Arab world depicted with murderous realism,” said the first-edition endorsement from U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who served in the mid-1970s as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The model here is “The Message,” (1977) by Moustapha Akkad, starring Anthony Quinn and subtitled “The Story of Islam.” Akkad made millions on the “Halloween” horror movies but was killed by a terrorist bomb in Jordan in 2005. You can’t make up this stuff, and any film about Islam entails a certain risk.

The “Hotel Mumbai” filmmakers knew that but went ahead anyway. The film is certain to draw protests from CAIR, Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and possibly some squeamish Republicans. Even so, everybody should see “Hotel Mumbai” to learn about “true events” and because it may be the most realistic portrayal of jihad to date.

Photo credit: Bleeker Street/ShivHan Pictures

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.