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The Separation and the Quran
Why an Oscar-winning Iranian movie needs to be positioned shrewdly by the US to gain back the ground they lost after the recent act of burning of the Quran

America witnessed a surge in the number of hate crimes against Muslims post 9/11. A report by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology explored that the number of anti-Muslim attacks in America in 2001 increased exponentially from 354 to 1,501 following 9/11. At the same time, the US simultaneously invaded two Islamic nations – Afghanistan and Iraq – to fulfil their interests. Consequently, Muslim nations now largely consider the US as an anti-Muslim country.

In the last few years, the American government and the elite intellectual class has attempted quite some to change their cultural moorings and accept Muslims as part of their country. The Muslim population is growing at a very fast rate in US. As per a study, the total Muslim population is going to grow to 6.2 million in 2030 from 2.6 million in 2010. But the recent Quran burning incident at a NATO base in Afghanistan involving five American servicemen, and the more recent killing of 16 Afghan civilians by an American army man has decimated the bridge building process to a large extent.

But then, all is clearly not lost. Where politics and military have failed, the arts might have a solution. The Academy Awards (or Oscars), given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), is considered the pinnacle of achievement for any movie professional. In the 84th Academy Awards, held on February 26, 2012, an Iranian movie titled A Separation directed by Asghar Farhadi, bagged an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. No Iranian movie had ever won an Oscar previously. In addition, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani ever to win an Oscar Award for her documentary Saving Face. But really, it’s not that these two did not deserve the Oscar – the outstanding and brilliant quality of these two Oscar winning packages puts that suspicion away – the more important point is that the Academy could have so easily outmaneuvered its members’ votes to deny the Oscars to both these productions – what with the abysmally low level of relations that America has managed to engineer with Iran, Pakistan and the Muslim world in general.

The fact that the Academy went ahead and awarded these two productions is a largesse, especially considering that not just does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have members of Jewish decent but also that its President, Tom Sherak, is a Jew.

But then, this largesse is one that the US administration should have shrewdly and strategically used in an expansive way. The news of two “Iranian and Pakistani Muslims” winning an “American” award from an academy with “Jewish” members should have been carpet bombed by the US administration through paid media to promote the rigmarole goodwill message to the Muslim world. Such a public relations move over a period of two months would have allowed America to gain back much of the ground that it lost post the past few anti-Muslim incidents that have occurred. While Obama was busy churning out apology notes for the Quran burning, there was no note of congratulations from the state department to either the award winners or to Iran and Pakistan as a whole. That the US administration has failed to even recognize the power of the strategy is either a gross diplomatic blunder (well, Obama is busy preparing for his elections), or plain political miscalculation. Of course, Iran for its part really needs to now recruit a decent, global public relations media manager. For almost a week post the win, Iranian TV kept insipidly cheering how Iran had again won over Israel because of the Oscars.
From the very beginning, Barack Obama’s administration has been very actively trying to befriend the Muslim world. The UN Alliance of Civilizations, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the clear warning to Israel to not attack Iran, are examples of how the US administration is trying. Then it’s a wonder that the US didn’t catch on to the fantastic opportunity presented by these two movies.

By:- Amir Hossain

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