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October 22, 2008

Religious POVs: Maher or Spurlock?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/religious_povs_maher_or_spurlock_20081021/

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Morgan Spurlock is a genius. Sure, his shtick is shlocky. And, yeah, he might be reusing the formula he created for “Super Size Me.” But his film last year, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden,” is an insightful look at just how vile religious extremism is. In essence, the film, which I watched earlier today, is “Religulous” without trying to mock religion.

The key to Spurlock’s success is visiting some of the craziest place on earth and just letting people talk. Whereas Bill Maher’s interviews felt manipulated and edited to their most uncomfortable, comedic core, Spurlock sits back and just listens—like a good journalist should. And the things he hears are terrifying.

Granted, Spurlock looks like a glorified tourist when he wanders the mall in Saudi Arabia and walks through the mountains of Tora Bora—I was just waiting for him to find bin Laden in one of the caves he wanders into: “OBL, wassup?” But unlike “Religulous,” which critics loved and the godly panned (I was one of the exceptions), Spurlocks quest more accurately communicates the danger of religious extremism and the hopeless of resolving the war between the Muslim world—not Islam—and the West.

There are a lot of salient moments in the movie, but the scene that disturbed me most was when Spurlock visits a large mosque in Saudi Arabia. From on high, his camera captures the imam’s sermon:

“O God, one leader to lead jihad for your sake. To liberate the land of Palestine. And the land of Iraq from the Christians. O God, the strong and noble one. O God, go after the Christians. O God, make wars in their homes. O God, release your armies upon them. O God, make the land of Palestine a graveyard for the Jews. O God, make the land of Iraq a graveyard for the Christians.”

Yeah, that guy’s not too interested in coexistence. Neither in this film are the loony Lubavitchers who chase Spurlock out of their Israeli hamlet, swearing at him and shoving him as he makes a beeline for his van. Also frightening are all the folks who live in a parallel reality where the United States uses its technological strength to create fake videos from the 9/11 hijackers.

“Where in the World’s” trailer is after the jump:

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