The ‘integration’ of foreigners – by which are meant foreign immigrants - and ‘intercultural dialogue’ – primarily between Islam and Christianity – being grave concerns as well as catch phrases in Germany, people were caught unawares when a Turkish Rambo film – overtly anti-American and covertly anti-Jewish - went on to become a box office hit, mainly with Turks living in Germany.
Poster of "Valley of the Wolves" in Berlin
In July 2003 11 Turkish special forces officers operating in Northern Iraq were arrested and humiliated by US soldiers. The incident was first converted into a popular TV-series, and ultimately into the most expensive Turkish film of all times, with a whopping 10 million dollar budget. Released in Turkey on February 5, 2006, it has drawn more than 2 million viewers to date and has been praised right up to the highest government circles, Turkish nationalism having its own rules. “Kurtlar Vadisi Irak” or “Valley of the Wolves – Iraq” was released in Germany on February 9, and has already found 200,000 or more viewers. Until the wolves began to howl, that is.
Hollywood couldn’t have done it better. Lieutenant Süleyman Aslan of the Turkish special forces in North Iraq cannot take the humiliation and commits suicide, but not before informing his best friend, agent Polat Alemdar of the Turkish secret service who picks his best men and sets out to avenge his friend.
What follows is a gruelling discovery of the atrocities by US troops in Iraq right down to an illegal – and unthinkable – organs trade organized from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison under the guidance of a Jewish US military doctor.
To have the biggest single group of foreigners and foreign immigrants in Germany – namely the Turks – suddenly cheering on the Turkish Rambo against American and Jewish villains in Iraq, seems to have been a rude awakening for most politicians in Germany. The reactions, too, have been anything but happy.
First the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union or CSU of the southern state of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, called upon cinema-owners to stop screening the film, labelling it “racist and anti-West”.
Charlotte Knobloch, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany accused the film of stoking anti-Semitic sentiment.
CSU general secretary Markus Söder went a step farther two days later and demanded that the Turkish community in Germany must denounce the film – and threatened consequences for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
Even Reinhold Bütikofer of the Greens was heard to comment that “people shouldn’t be allowed to make money out of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism”. Bütikofer expressed the fear that the film could add fuel to the fire in the light of the ongoing cartoons controversy.
Other voices are being heard by and by. Member of the European Parliament for the German Liberal democrats (FDP) Silvana Koch-Mehrin has drawn the unavoidable parallel between the film and the Mohammed caricatures: that both are in bad taste, but both fall under the purview of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. And she has been supported by the State Secretary of Culture Bernd Neumann of the conservative Christian Democratic Union or CDU.
Neumann is against banning such films because bans do not solve the problem, which is that “the film expresses the sentiments of many citizens of Turkish origin”.
The Turkish Community of Berlin has been even more categorical: the association has called Stoiber’s statements “hypocritical”, since Stoiber has never demanded the ban of US propaganda films of similar content and intent.
Even the Bavarian CSU is beginning to show signs of backtracking in that the Bavarian government is planning to organize a “round table” on freedom of the press and freedom of artistic expression.
The depth of anti-American sentiment in even the most pro-West of Muslim countries should not come as a surprise to those in the know. What should surprise is that it has been combined – according to a very American recipe for commercial success – with action-packed cheap entertainment and what they call ‘timing’ (vide the cartoon row), to give the West a taste of their own medicine.