Hot Docs 2017: Recruiting for Jihad Review

World Showcase

Adel Khan Farooq and Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen’s documentary follows the exploits of Norwegian Jihadist recruiter Arslan Ubaydullah Maroof Hussain over the span of two years. This documentary is more grey than black and white, and could lead to interesting debates and analyses by audiences. Based solely on information imparted in the film, I don’t feel well-informed about the directors’ relationship with the source material, or as informed about issues related to the protection of sources and journalists’ rights to “work freely” as I would like to be.

I am uncomfortable with a documentary about a Jihadist recruiter in which the filmmakers do not attempt anything to deter him from harming innocent people. However, I do realize the importance of informing others about what a person like Hussain is doing, or does naturally. Farooq, who acts as cameraman for the willing Hussain, certainly has an unprecedented level of access. Hussain says that he represents Islam correctly, that the world needs a new bin Laden, that the shooting at the Hebdo offices were a “wake up call,” the Boston Marathon bombers were “true lions,” and attends the funeral of Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, the armed assailant involved in the 2015 Copenhagen shootings, who killed two and wounded five. 

Being afraid of men like Hussain is what I’m conditioned to be as a Canadian citizen. Farooq is able to draw Hussain out into talking about himself and explaining a bit about his motivations. Hussain believes that the world would benefit from having Islamic law implemented (although not everyone has to be Muslim, which he doesn’t elaborate upon) and that ISIS is the only country engaged in this work, so that all devout Muslims are obligated to go to Syria and aid in whatever way they can. He claims not to care if Muslims aid in humanitarian work or take violent action, and says that Muslims who really want to do humanitarian work are prevented from doing so due to unfounded prejudices. 

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In the course of the documentary, Hussain travels to England and Denmark, meeting like-minded individuals. Farooq tells us about some of the people that Hussain meets – some like Thom Alexander, 24, die shortly after captured on camera, and others such as Siddhartha Dhar, are featured in execution videos. It’s evident that many individuals that Hussain “recruits” are seeking companionship and belonging (an issue touched upon in Layla M.). Ironically, belonging is found in what appears to be common hatred.

I appreciate that this film takes an unique perspective on terrorism; I just wonder where the responsibilities of the filmmaker and viewer lie, and where or how we must take action against intolerance and hatred. 

Screening: 

Sun, Apr 30, 7:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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Tue, May 2, 10:15 AM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Sat, May 6, 1:30 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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