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article imageReview: ‘Recruiting for Jihad’ is an eye-opening Hot Docs selection Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 30, 2017 in Entertainment
‘Recruiting for Jihad’ introduces Hot Docs audiences to a Norwegian Islamist who uses his well-honed people skills to enlist soldiers for ISIS.
Globalization has led to unprecedented interest in world affairs. Not only do foreign events influence local politics, but people’s basic interest in what’s happening “over there” has grown exponentially. Add to this the immediacy of news and the internet, the great wide world is smaller than ever. A consequence of this connectivity is (often superficial) knowledge of international tragedies or crimes. One of the activities to come to light is the recruitment of Western Muslims for ISIS. Recruiting for Jihad documents the life of a well-known, Norwegian Islamist missionary.
Ubaydullah Hussain is an intelligent, magnetic man raised in Norway; he is also a recruiter with ties to ISIS and acts as the spokesperson for The Prophet’s Ummah, a local Salafi-jihadist organization. Investigative journalists and directors Adil Khan Farooq and Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen follow Hussain for three years as he gives them unparalleled access to his everyday affairs, and gladly shares his views on the world and Islam. While shooting, the filmmakers are introduced to a number of Hussain’s “friends” — but the same young men they’ve met just weeks earlier are later seen in the news linked to terrorist attacks. When the filmmakers’ footage is confiscated by police, Farooq and Rolfsen find themselves at the centre of a debate about the freedom of the press vs. the protection of citizens.
Hussain’s candidness throughout the documentary is quite surprising, but in line with his desire to counter the stereotypes surrounding Islam and its followers. Conversely, he is full of contradictions: on the one hand, he claims to be open-minded and tolerant of non-believers; but on the other, he wants the world to live under Islamic law and supports a violent means to achieve this end. It becomes apparent the film is reaching its conclusion when Farooq begins to pose tougher questions about the paradoxes in Hussain’s beliefs and why he hasn’t joined the jihad to which he so freely sends his brothers. This enlightening exposé reveals far more about Hussain’s methods and ideologies than he likely intended, painting him as a coward who continues to enjoy the luxuries of a lifestyle he supposedly despises while feeding a distant war machine.
The international premiere of Recruiting for Jihad is screening as part of the “World Showcase” program at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Directors: Adel Khan Farooq and Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen
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