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‘Pakistanis are the biggest victims of terror attacks’

‘Among the Believers’, a documentary that gives rare insight into the ideological battles shaping Pakistan and the Muslim world, will be screened in the Documentary section of 46th International Film Festival of India. The film has also been nominated for the UNESCO FELLINI Award at 46th IFFI. In conversation with NT BUZZ filmmaker Hemal speaks about the quest that lead her to Pakistan, terrorism and the need to defuse hatred

“Pakistanis are the biggest victims of terror attacks,” says Indian filmmaker Hemal Trivedi, producer, editor and co-director of the documentary ‘Among the Believers’.
This documentary, which has been shot in Pakistan, has intimate filming of cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS supporter and Taliban ally, and how his war of jihad against the Pakistani state.
Speaking about her journey in making of this film, Hemal says: “I thought of making this film after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai in the year 2008. I was very angry when this attack happened as I lost a dear friend of mine in the attack. The perpetrators of this crime were found to be Pakistanis. At that point of time I didn’t have a clear understanding of Pakistan as I didn’t have Pakistani friends nor had I read or heard from the Pakistani press. I wanted to know more about this country and the reason for this crime. I stay in New Jersey, USA. I started visiting mosques there, meeting people from the Pakistani community and researching the country. Through my findings I realised that Pakistan is a deeply divided country where the fringe minority wants to take over the majority. I realised that Pakistanis themselves are the biggest victims of terror attacks. My anger turned into empathy,” says Hemal, who won the Academy Award as editor of the movie ‘Saving Face.’
The film follows the lives of two teenage students who have attended madrassahs (Islamic seminaries) run by Aziz’s Red Mosque network. Throughout the film their paths diverge: Talha, 12, detaches from his moderate Muslim family and decides to become a jihadi preacher. Zarina, also 12, escapes her madrassah and joins a regular school. Over the next few years, Zarina’s education is threatened by frequent Taliban attacks on schools like her own.
“I met these children by sheer co-incidence and realised that they are both part of the Red Mosque. In Pakistan the area of deepest ideological conflict is education,” says Hemal, who was helped my co-director Mohammed Ali Naqvi and the Pakistani crew in shooting the film in Pakistan.
She spent six years researching terrorism in Pakistan and says that it has nothing to do with Islam but with the rise of intolerance and the empowering of this religious ideology by western forces. “Islam is not the reason. The problem of rising intolerance exists in every society and in every generation. This fringe minority has a point of view and whoever opposes it gets killed. But, this ideology was empowered in the 1970s during the Soviet Afghan war, by USA. The first textbook on how to be jihadi was written in the University of Nebraska, USA. Osama bin Laden was created by USA to combat Soviet Union. Jihadi ideology was formed by USA. It is America that made ISIS as they attacked Iraq for oil. That’s why I feel that Muslims are the biggest victims of terrorism. Also politicians have always used fascist since the ages. This theory was used by Chanakya also when he said ‘Sama Dana Danda Bheda.’ Bheda, which means to divide.”
Hemal elaborating on USA’s says: “It was America who sent ammunitions to Afghanistan and used its manpower in the Soviet Afghan war. And then when manpower was less, they turned to Pakistan. But, after this cold war, USA just washed its hands of everything and left these countries in a mess. All these jihadis were then used to fight in Kashmir.”
Hemal believes that this war created by terrorists is perennial and one can beat it by doing away with hatred. “Why do terrorists attack? I believe it is to make us angry and for us to fight back. But, we can defuse their ammunition and do away with war. Their ammunition is anger and hate,” says Hemal, who was brought up in a Gujarati family in Mumbai.
She further adds: “Part of this hatred comes from our conditioning. Like in India there is hatred between Hindus and Muslims as our history states that Muslims were invaders who stole our land and destroyed our temples. But, this was long time ago and I look at them as only invaders, not belonging to any community. Now to tell a Muslim to go to Pakistan is a very stupid thing to do because India is as much their country as ours.”
Speaking about rising intolerance in the country, Hemal says that the Government should not turn a blind eye towards the whole situation. “When the government turns a blind eye towards such situations, fascist elements come to fore. Then they could be used for political purpose. Thus, the Government should be vigilant.”
She, however, confirms that India is a secular nation and following our Constitution will help tackle these issues. “If we follow our Constitution perfectly we are capable of solving our problem. Our Constitution is one of the most sophisticated documents for political governance.”

(The documentary ‘Among The Believers’ will be screened on November 27 at Inox – IV at 7.20 p.m. and on November 29 at 8.50 a.m. at Inox IV)

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