Earlier this month, the University of Michigan canceled a showing of the movie after Muslim students objected to its “negative and misleading stereotypes” of Muslims — and replaced it with a screening of “Paddington.” But even the lovable bear offended people, who felt it was ridiculous that a school cancel a movie about an American war and replace it with a children’s tale. The university reversed the decision.
In Virginia, George Mason University continued to show the movie despite some objections. A student group there got 243 signatures on a petition earlier this month asking to stop the film from being screened on campus. “This is a film that perpetuates misleading and negative stereotypes about the Muslim community that many organizations on campus work hard to dispel,” the petition read. “Not only this, but it romanticizes war and glorifies the idea of violence. As thinking humans, we should recognize the issues of morality presented when such a film is shown on campus and sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement whose mission is to ’embrace diversity.'”
Rose Pascarell, vice president for university life at GMU said in a statement that when the school screened the film for three days in April, it received one complaint from a student and heard that others were signing an online petition. “We continued to show the film through April 11,” Pascarell said. “At the moment, there are no further plans to show the film.”
At U-Md., more than 300 people signed a petition asking that the screening be pulled, which read, in part:
This war propaganda guised as art reveals a not-so-discreet Islamaphobic, violent, and racist nationalist ideology. A simple Google search will give you hundreds of articles that delve into how this film has fueled anti-Arab and anti-Islamic sentiments; its visceral “us verses them” narrative helps to proliferate the marginalization of multiple groups and communities – many of which exist here at UMD.American Sniper only perpetuates the spread of Islamophobia and is offensive to many Muslims around the world for good reason. This movie dehumanizes Muslim individuals, promotes the idea of senseless mass murder, and portrays negative and inaccurate stereotypes.
Members of Student Entertainment Events, the U-Md. student-led group that planned to screen the movie, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An announcement posted online read, in part, that the group “is choosing to explore the proactive measures of working with others during the coming months to possibly create an event where students can engage in constructive and moderated dialogues about the controversial topics proposed in the film.
“SEE supports freedom of expression and hopes to create space for the airing of opposing viewpoints and differing perceptions. In the event this opportunity develops, we encourage the University of Maryland campus citizens to join us in crafting this type of ongoing community dialogue. While not easy, we want to start having these hard conversations.
“The program will not be offered to campus community this semester.”
A U-Md. spokesperson said: “The feedback we have received today has been overwhelmingly in favor of screening the film. When we make clear that the student organization SEE always planned to move forward with showing the film — and that the screening will happen in the early fall for free in Hoff Theater — concerns have been addressed across the board.”
Maryland Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) strenuously objected. He sent out a blast e-mail Friday asking people to contact U-Md. and University System of Maryland leaders to decry that decision. “Our First Amendment Rights are under attack,” his letter read.
“We cannot let the complaints of a few students result in the cancelation of showing an important movie honoring an American hero and accurately portraying the horrors of war. Please take action now to ask key decision makers to change their mind and show the movie…”
Maryland Del. David Vogt III (R-Frederick) posted to the American Mirror:
As a Marine combat veteran and former Marine of the Year, I am extremely disappointed in the University of Maryland’s decision to silence the story of a man who valiantly served our great nation.Just like the men and women I had the privilege of serving beside in the Marine Corps, Chris Kyle put on his uniform every day to protect and preserve liberty, the open discussion of ideas, and the opportunity for every American — regardless of race, religion, culture, or gender — to succeed and achieve the American Dream.If the University of Maryland does not reverse the decision to cancel a screening of “American Sniper,” then I will organize and sponsor a screening for students myself.