By Inayat Amir
A documentary by award-winning journalist and Singapore-based freelance documentary filmmaker Shehzad Hameed Ahmad that explores the roots of radical Islam and extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Southeast Asia has bagged the award for the Best Documentary at the Madras Independent Film Festival 2022.
The 50-minute documentary titled “Islam’s Battle Within” gives a rare insight into the Jamia Haqqania Akora Khattak aka the “University of Jihad”, an ideological nerve centre of the Taliban and other splinter groups in Southeast Asia i.e. Jemaah Islamiyah.
Shehzad Hameed took to social media to make the announcement and share the synopsis of the documentary.
“Filmed across Pakistan and Indonesia, the documentary investigates the birth of radical Islam during the Afghan jihad in the 1980’s as we gained unprecedented access to the University of Jihad near Peshawar to film the rise of Talibanisation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he wrote.
The documentary also investigates why thousands of religious seminaries, established at the peak of the cold war with CIA and Saudi money, continue to operate and spread radical Islam.
It also highlights how the rise of puritan Salafism transformed Asia’s pluralistic Sufi Islam and continues as the guiding philosophy for hardline religious groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Funded by the CIA and Saudi Arabia, we unearth the reasons behind the weaponisation of Islam during the cold-war battle between the Mujahideen to fight the invading Soviet Army in the 1980’s, asserted the award winning journalist.”
“Islam’s battle within” provides wider cues to fathom how proponents of these extremist ideologies link terrorism with Islam and as a result common people, especially religious minorities, pay the price with their lives.
Hameed aslo wrote in the synopsis that “This Salafist ideology has spread to many parts of Muslim world, including Indonesia, where we film with the Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line Islamist organisation in Aceh, that wants to transform the country’s pluralistic constitution into an ISIS-styled caliphate with weaponised blasphemy laws.”
The documentary features voices of reason who are battling to win the battle of narratives inside Islam.
The Documentry can be watched here:
Inayat Amir is a staff member of the High Asia Media Group