Monday, October 08, 2007

Hamburg Lessons, Al Quds Mosque, 2000

It won't be a box-office hit. 133 minutes of lessons imparted by an imam in a German mosque, translated into German and delivered by an actor sitting on a bench. No cut-aways, no documentary background, or reconstructions. Lessons, Hamburger Lektionen to be precise by director Romuald Karmakar. His previous film, The Himmler Project, used a similar method to recreate a speech given by Heinrich Himmler at a meeting of SS generals in which he outlined his famous "final solution".

The point is who, and when.

At the end of the 1990s Mohammed Fazazi became Imam of the Al Quds mosque in Hamburg. In January of the year 2000, during the last few days of Ramadan, Fazazi held a number of ‘lessons’ in the mosque’s prayer room, during which those present were able to pose questions on various aspects of life that they would normally have to submit in writing. These sessions were recorded on video tape anonymously and distributed in the mosque’s book shop, but also outside the mosque. After the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, it became known that three of the four suicide pilots, but also others – members of the so-called Hamburg Group – had attended the Al Quds mosque regularly, and were in close contact with Imam Fazazi.

Mohammed Fazazi was the spiritual leader of Salafia Jihadia, a Moroccan-based militant group and has been linked to the Madrid bombings as well as suicide attacks in Casablanca for which he received a 30-year jail sentence in 2003.

A quick summary of what he had to say.

Islam dictates every last detail in the life of the believer. Unlike Judaism or Christianity, it is the only "complete", "perfect" religion, to which the law, politics and private life must submit. The appalling physical punishments of Sharia serve to guarantee the well-being of the Islamic community, the Umma. And this community is in the process of fighting a war against the "unbelievers". The West declared war on Islam which is why Muslims living in Germany and other European countries are in hostile surroundings. The Germans, French and English are not non-believers with whom the Muslim can live together in peace by agreement, but rather wartime enemies who one may kill "by slitting the throat" at any time. Whether or not it comes to that depends on the balance of power. After centuries of colonial exploitation, the Islamic world is in a position of weakness. Muslims have to use their strength cleverly. Fazazi's audience – so the subtitles inform us – likes to giggle when the Imam gives this sort of advice.

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