Immigration is not just a hot-button topic in the United States, as director Bassam Hassad discovered when making his documentary, “The Other Threat.”
“This film was originally going to provide a different perspective on terrorism, a European perspective,” Hassad said as he introduced his film at a screening in Forcina Hall on Nov. 14.
“However,” freshman psychology major and screening attendee Anuschka Bhatia said, “Europeans were far more interested in immigrants, and often used terrorism as an excuse to complain about immigration.”
Thus, the “Other Threat,” the namesake of the film, is the presence of Arab/Muslim immigrants in Europe. Hassad focused on England and Spain because those were the sites of the recent terrorist attacks.
The College had the privilege of hosting a screening of “The Other Threat,” which will be released next spring, and a Q-and-A session after the film, led by Hassad. The screening was part of International Education Week, hosted by the Modern Languages and History departments.
The film began with a young immigrant from Morocco sharing his and his mother’s journey to Spain in an interview. Then Hassad used a mix of commentary, media clips and statistics to convey the message of his film.
Immigrants as well as political figures, such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, appeared in the documentary.
One topic discussed at length was that of the immigrants’ assimilation. Professor of French Moussa Sow explained the historical context of such an important topic in Europe.
“After Europe opened its borders after World War II,” he said, “many migrants came to the continent for labor. What happened is that they didn’t go back after. They brought their families over … Integration into Europe has been an issue for a long time.”
Another problem regarding assimilation is that immigrants don’t feel they know to what they should conform. “Some Europeans in the film claim Arabs have not done anything to assimilate,” Sow said. “Arabs themselves do not think there is a fixed identity to assimilate into.”
One British immigrant was quoted as saying, “What is British? Fish and chips? I love fish and chips. What else can I do?”
The idea is also presented in the film that immigrants would rather keep their own culture than “dissolve,” as they call it, into European society.
Racism is also discussed in the film. Hassad said in the discussion, “Now there is something called ‘You look Muslim.’ The word Arab has disappeared. Now you’re all Muslim.”
The discussion of immigration relating to terrorism was connected to the London bombings of July 7, as well as the idea that “radical Muslims are already there,” Bhatia said. She added, “Terrorists involved on 9/11 came from the outside. Those involved on July 7 came from within. This (was reported as) one of the main causes of heightened racial tensions within England.”
The film reported supporting statistics. According to one survey, Christians’ favorable view of Muslims is 27 percent, while Muslims’ favorable view of Christians is 82 percent. Also, hate crimes in England doubled post-9/11, but in London, they rose nearly 600 percent.
Spain is currently seen as the model for integrating Muslim immigrants. “But Spain has a growing economy and recent immigration,” Sow said. Thus, immigrants can be “absorbed” into the workforce, while in England, there is little to no benefit gained from the labor of migrant workers.
“I wish the film had shown alternatives, the positive steps Europeans are taking toward immigration, and provided more closure,” Sow said. “In France, for example, the Minister of Justice is a woman of North African origins and the Secretary General of Human Rights (has Senegalese ancestry). That’s the face of France now – or at least the one the new president wants to show.”
More information about the film, “The Other Threat,” or other films Hassad and his company, Quilting Point, have made can be found at theotherthreat.com.