'Among the Believers' probes ideological rift behind Pakistan violence

Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:45pm EDT
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By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A battle for the minds of Pakistan's young people is behind the bloody conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives this year alone, according to two film directors whose latest work focuses on the country's divided education system.

In "Among the Believers," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi delve into the ideological rift at the root of the violence.

Trivedi, who is from India, said it was after the 2008 attacks in Mumbai - in which 10 Pakistani men armed with guns and grenades killed 166 people in hotels, hospitals and a railway station - that she decided to make the film.

"I wanted to make sense of my anger and I realized that Pakistan is a deeply divided country (where) there's a fringe minority that is trying to take over...from the vast majority of Pakistanis," Trivedi said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The biggest ideological divide in Pakistan today is in the field of education so I wanted to document that polarity in the education system by following children in madrassas and schools," she said.

Over a period of six years, the filmmakers gained access to radical cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, a supporter of the Taliban and head of the Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and to his vast network of madrassas, religious seminaries.

Ghazi and his followers preach the waging of jihad, holy war or struggle, to their students, and want Pakistan to adopt a strict version of sharia, Islamic law.

Madrassas provide students with free lodging and food, and teach them the Koran, which makes them attractive to poor Pakistani parents who want their children to get some education but can't afford to pay for it.   Continued...