Screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the film Hotel Mumbai exposes the ideology behind terror attacks. Producer Anthony Maras, an American-Australian filmmaker, attended the premiere screening that I was also fortunate to attend. The film is based on the 2009 documentary Surviving Mumbai about the events that unfolded leading to the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The reviews for Hotel Mumbai, which is scheduled to be released publicly in 2019, are very positive. Reviewers speak of the ‘human element’ and rightly so. Hotel Mumbai is very subtlety directed and produced, focusing on the victims and survivors of the horrendous terrorist attack referred to as “the 9/11 of Mumbai”. Nowhere in the film is there any mention of the country that the terrorists came from or the faith they belong to.
As well none of the reviews mention the mastermind behind the attacks – a man by the name of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the leader of a group associated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks. In January 2017, Saeed was placed under house arrest but released in November much to the dismay of the international community and especially India.
The facts are that between November 26-29, 2008, ten Pakistani men associated with the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba stormed buildings in Mumbai, killing 164 people. Nine of the gunmen were killed during the attacks, one survived. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman, was executed in November 2012.
They traveled from Karachi, Pakistan to Mumbai, India, via boat. Along the way, they hijacked a fishing trawler and killed four crew members, throwing their bodies overboard. They also slit the captain’s throat.
The terrorists docked at the Mumbai waterfront near the Gateway of India monument. According to the police, they hijacked cars, including a police van, and split into at least three groups to carry out the attacks. The attackers used automatic weapons and grenades.
For me, what came through in the film was something that we at the Clarion Project and Muslims Facing Tomorrow have been trying to expose for over two decades: ideology. It is the ideology and this plays out clearly throughout the film.
In the film, the mastermind of the attacks speaks constantly to the young terrorists who have been primed and prepared to carry out these attacks. Kudos to the actors who played the terrorists as they show how robotic they are in their movements and totally brainwashed to follow the directions of their leader without questioning. The mastermind (who is not named in the film) pumps them with hate and continuously urges them to fire their weapons and kill everyone in their way, focusing on a Rabbi and taking foreigners as hostages. The terrorists who at times refer to the leader as ‘brother’ do exactly as he says which is to cause the maximum amount of death and destruction. They carry machine guns and grenades in their backpacks and fire indiscriminately at men, women and children because the mastermind is whispering into their ears that these are ‘the enemy’ and that killing them is the will of God.
The film obviously is very dark and disturbing because it’s based on true events. However, throughout the film there are glimpses of compassion, camaraderie and courage, especially by the hotel staff. The cast is impeccable. Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) plays Arjun, a young Sikh hotel staffer who cares for the guests because they have been taught that that the “Guest is God”.
Very different from the kind of God that the terrorists have been told to obey.