Having recently watched the film myself, I can safely say that “American Sniper” gives a simplistic and myopic view of Muslims, as there are no attempts to distinguish between actual terrorists and peaceful Arabs or Muslims. To the film and its characters, they are all savages. This is likely the reason that many Muslim students have become concerned for their safety and dignity on campuses where "American Sniper" as been scheduled to screen.
At Eastern Michigan University recently, students interrupted a screening of the film “American Sniper” in a display of non-violent protest against the university’s decision to show the movie. Four of the protestors were subsequently arrested, after having been given warnings by officers, and the screening was rescheduled for the last Friday of the winter semester. Geoff Larcom, executive director of media relations at EMU, promised a “moderated discussion” after the second screening of the film, but for those of us who the movie paints as savages, a moderated discussion does not ease the concerns we have about safety and fair treatment on campus.
After its theatrical release, The Guardian and The Huffington Post reported a drastic uptick in anti-Muslim posts on social media. Users were referring to Muslims and Arabs as “ragheads” who “…are vermin scum intent on destroying us,” as well as other derogatory and discriminatory posts. These messages were no doubt inspired by the film’s negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims by Chris Kyle’s - and his comrades' - repeated reference to members of these communities as “Hajjis” and “savages.”
EMU is supposed to be an environment for learning and expanding one's awareness and perspective. “American Sniper” is about delivering an absolute “us versus them” narrative that ignores the reality of its protagonist, the events it portrays and the people that it defines as “them.” For Geoff Larcom to call for a discussion that “promotes empathy and understanding,” after the showing of such a movie, highlights either a fundamental misunderstanding of the effects of media on audiences or a lack of concern about the perspective of Muslim and Arab students. The choice to screen this movie by the university was disrespectful and potentially dangerous, and, rather than acknowledge that and admit an error in judgment, we have four students who have been arrested for taking action to protect themselves from prejudice aggravated by this movie and for protecting the rest of us from a piece of propaganda.