In late January 2015, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab American civil rights organization in the United States, sent a letter to Bradley Cooper, the star of American Sniper, and Clint Eastwood, the movie’s director, informing them about the film’s role in increasing anti-Muslim sentiment. While ADC requested a public statement from the two men condemning the threats fueled by their film, they have yet to respond to the request.
And, while there is no proof the film played any part in the Chapel Hill Shootings, we must remember that Islamophobia, like many other forms of bigotry, feeds off a social and cultural environment that accepts and reinforces those views. There is incontrovertible proof that, since September 11, America has become a place where discrimination against Muslims is both tolerated and nurtured:
As David Harris-Gerson wrote in the Daily Kos about these figures:
The figures shown above are believed to be drastically underrepresented, since reporting is voluntary and the Muslim-American community is deeply wary of law enforcement. Is it any wonder, given that innocent Muslim citizens and communities have been the target of illegal spying and surveillance by U.S. police and are routinely profiled on the streets and in airports?
Did American Sniper lead to the deaths of 3 young American Muslims in Chapel Hill? Judge for yourselves. At the very least, it contributed to an environment where Muslims are dehumanized and little value is ascribed to their lives.
The relevant portion of ADC’s letters to Cooper and Eastwood appears below:
I am writing to bring to your attention the increase of serious threats made against the Arab and Muslim American communities. 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. We are in receipt of hundreds of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans from moviegoers of the film. Many of these threats are made through social media forums, such as Twitter and Facebook. The threats advocate for the murder of Arabs, one going as far as to say, “Great f**king move and now I really want to kill some f**king rag heads.” In another threat a user wrote, “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some f**kin Arabs.”
ADC takes these threats seriously and is reaching out to you in an effort to help 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. I am asking if you are willing to make a statement against the violent rhetoric being exhibited. The statement should make it clear that we cannot tolerate hate and bigotry here in America. Your visibility, influence, and connection to the film would be a tremendous force in drawing attention to and lessening the serious dangers facing the respective communities.