Timbuktu

TIMBUKTU DEMONSTRATES WHY JIHAD MASKS FOR COLONIZATION
Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, but filmed in nearby Oualata, also dating back to the 12th century, Timbuktu begins by showing the peaceful lives of citizens of rural Mali—cattle farming, fishing, and an open market amid sand dunes and ruins of ancient structures. Arabic-speakers with weapons have arrived in the area. Their megaphones declare new rules based on sharia law: No music, no smoking, no soccer, women must wear gloves while selling food, veils to cover their heads, women and men must sleep apart, brides can be forcibly removed from their families, as portrayed in the film Difret. After a courtlike proceeding, the penalty is 40 lashes for minor crimes, death for serious crimes inflicted by gunshot or stoning, and material compensation for a family that suffers a human loss. Accidental death is not an acceptable defense for murder. The reaction of the Muslim leader of the local temple is to argue that such practices are contrary to the peaceful Islamic faith. Thus, rather than bringing order to the peaceful citizens, the outsiders (including the leader who smokes, violating his own edict) act as a colonial power, seizing territory and making citizens into subjects without rights. Citizens who do not flee choose defiance but suffer martyrdom. Based on an actual event, the film is perhaps the most eloquent critique of the hypocrisy of contemporary jihadism. Yet the film presents the paradigm of colonization—occupying and seizing power over new territory on a self-righteous pretext. Similar developments occurred when America’s native populations were subject to new rules backed by firearms, and they continue in other guises whenever those in authority abuse their power. The Political Film Society has nominated Timbuktu as best film of 2015 on the need to safeguard democracy, human rights, and a peaceful world. MH