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Following what it calls a “significant amount of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans” in the wake of American Sniper‘s release, an Arab civil rights group sent identically-worded letters to director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper urging them to condemn threats against the Muslim and Arab communities made by moviegoers.
“A majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are result of how Arabs and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper,” the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s president Samer Khalaf says in the letter, noting that the organization has “hundreds of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans from moviegoers.”
A majority of the threats have come via social media, the group claims, including a tweet that reads, “Nice to see a movie where the Arabs are portrayed for who they really are — vermin scum intent on destroying us.“
Khalaf says in the letter that the group is hoping Eastwood and Cooper can “reduce the hateful rhetoric.”
“It is our opinion that you could play a significant role in assisting us in alleviating the danger we are facing,” Khalaf writes.
“In the midst of the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attacks, American Sniper catalyzes increased anti-Arab and Islamophobic tensions here at home,” Khalaf adds. “It is imperative for us, as Americans, to act now to prevent these verbal threats from turning into violent and physical hate crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans or those perceived to be Arab or Muslim.”
The ADC’s national legal and policy director, Abed Ayoub, told The Guardian, “We want Mr. Eastwood or Mr. Cooper to say ‘Don’t use our film to promulgate hatred or bigotry. Don’t use our film to push hate and bigotry and use it as a platform for these racist views.’ If they want to go further, they can say Arabs in America are just as American as the next person.”
The group also claims that the rate of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats resulting from the film has tripled, The Guardian reports.
The ADC, which claims to be the largest Arab civil rights organization in the U.S., said that its members had become targets of violent threats since early in the week before American Sniper went into wide release, Reuters reported. The group is working with the FBI and local law-enforcement officials to address these threats.
Ayoub told The Guardian that the last time the group saw such a sharp increase in threats was in 2010, when the prospect of building a mosque at Ground Zero generated controversy.
Khalaf told Reuters that the group isn’t calling for a boycott, arguing that doing so would have the opposite effect.
“If we boycott it, it will only cause people to want to see it more,” he said.
Warner Bros. spokesman Jack Horner told Reuters in a statement that the company “denounces any violent, anti-Muslim rhetoric, including that which has been attributed to viewers [of American Sniper, which Warner Bros. is distributing].”
“Hate and bigotry have no place in the important dialogue that this picture has generated about the veteran experience,” Horner added.
American Sniper tells the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, who recorded 160 kills in Iraq. The film has generated controversy over whether it glorifies murder and sanitizes Kyle, who called Muslims “savages” in his memoir.
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