Young Winnipeg Muslims respond to Islamic terrorist attacks

Current and former University of Manitoba students have taken to the Internet to give voice to young Western Muslims in the wake of terrorist attacks overseas.

“Letter to a Terrorist,” an online short film produced by Winnipeg filmmaker and U of M alumnus Nilufer Rahman, is a dramatic and poetic reflection of the fears young Muslims face in their own communities resulting from the actions of violent Islamic extremists abroad.

Published online in early December, the video garnered more than 120,000 views and 3,600 shares by Jan. 2, 2016.

“Our main objective was to be an outlet to express the feelings that many young Muslims living in the West may feel – maybe in America or in Europe,” said Ayat Mneina, a research associate in the department of community health sciences at the U of M, who appears in the film.

“I think it spoke to many feelings that some people may have in response to these incidents, where people are confused to take accountability or take responsibility or to defend or explain the situation.”

“There is a multitude of feelings and this is just an outlet to express them.”

The message of the film is conveyed through voice-over narration in both English and French.

“People hate me because they hear my name and they see you,” says a woman in the video, addressing a hypothetical terrorist.

“They see my face and they see you but I am not you. I hate what you do. I never want to be in that dark place that gives you license to kill and maim so mercilessly and cowardly.”

“They ask me to apologize for what you have done,” says a male voice. “I am sorry for the loss of innocents, sorry for the grief of those who are left to mourn, and sorry for those of us who are left to bear the burden of your toxic hate.”

The catalyst for the film was the Nov. 13, 2015 attack in Paris, where gunmen killed 130 people in six different locations in the city.

“It was produced in response to the Paris attacks,” said Mneina. “Many of us in the film are active Canadian community members and Canadian Muslims – we don’t shy away from the fact that part of our identity is being a Muslim.”

She said including both English and French narration not only displays the diversity of the faith but also helps the film reach a wider audience.

“The voiceover that went on in the video was something that expressed lots of different people’s feelings with two official languages and we wanted to reach out to as many people as we could,” Mneina said.

The film was produced by Snow Angel Films – an independent film company Rahman established in 2010 with her sister Saira.

Five actors were featured in the short film; two alumni of the U of M, Mneina and Shahzād Musaddiq and two current U of M students, Bilal Rahimi and Salam Sayed.

The film can be viewed at the Snow Angel Films Facebook page and on Youtube.