Among the Believers explores the rise of the Red Mosque network in Pakistan; this terrifying documentary looks into how this seemingly unstoppable force trains legions of children to devote their lives to jihad. The filmmakers are granted access inside the Mosque and its network whilst following their leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, who believes that Pakistan should hold the strictest form of Islam, Shariah, as law. This controversial organisation believes that they are performing the work of Allah and spreading the word of the Quran whilst eradicating those who are practicing improper Islam.
This film is truly amazing, it has such intimate access to the Mosque and is done in such a way that it doesn’t feel intrusive. Abdul Aziz is very open in his interviews and well timed shots of the school and its pupils aren’t captured in a way to guide your opinion but to leave you to make your own decisions. The film explains the birth of The Red Mosque; it started with US and Saudi funding as a base to train Pakistani men to fight the Soviets. Once the fight had been won the US dropped its funding, this caused tension between the Mosque and the Americans, and then all it took was Aziz’s father to meet Osama Bin Laden to spark the anti-America campaigns.
One of the things I found to be most shocking about this film was how they recruited pupils for the school. Due to the sheer amount of poverty in Pakistan a lot of families are unable to provide for their children, this makes the Red Mosque quite appealing as they are in a position where they can teach them, feed them and give them somewhere to sleep. Many of those who join have no choice.
Once in, they spend all day learning the Quran with the promise that they will be rewarded in heaven along with their relatives and parents. Their knowledge is tested and they are beaten for error: you can see the genuine heartbreak in one of the boys eyes as can’t remember the last part of the passage. This really got to me, the man conducting the test hands him back his copy looking disappointed and walks away.
These radical ideological battles are shaping Pakistan and the Muslim world, those involved genuinely believe that the work which they are doing is right and the work of God. The film also talks to surrounding schools and looks at how they are trying to combat the problem; one man has donated his land and turned it into a school, although it requires heavy guard.
The seemingly powerless government is unable to do anything due to the sheer level of followers. After 9/11 the US declared the War On Terror and it was decided that the Red Mosques would be demolished. This caused massive uproar and protest and ended with ISIS showing their support for the Red Mosques by bombing a school.
Films like this show the profound affect of fighting violence with violence. Establishments like the Red Mosque won't stop until something is done about the poverty, only then will children have a better option than to turn to places like this for an education. The whole film is a complete eye-opener to the sheer scale and impact that radical ideologies impact the lives of young children and how they shape Pakistan today.
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