Death With Dignity

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Abstract

Reviews the film, The War Within directed by Joseph Castelo (2005). To appreciate The War Within is to appreciate that we have entered a new era of international conflict, one in which old ideas about combatants and their motivations limit our understanding of a central concept in this new paradigm–the meaning and role of suicide as a military and political tactic. Against this backdrop of preconceived notions of disheveled religious zealots, unshaven and with pupils dilated in excitatory anticipation of the spiritual offerings to be bestowed on them only a button-push away, steps Hassan, a young Pakistani engineer educated in the United States and France. Hassan has come to New York City to fulfill a suicide mission as part of a terrorist cell intent on bombing Grand Central Station. His motivations appear to arise from his torture at the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency for his alleged role in a demonstration in Afghanistan, in which his brother was killed. The War Within takes us down a pathway by which an individual comes to accept suicide as a means to achieve political (and religious) purposes and yet leaves him rather normal in his outward appearance, although troubled and challenged when confronted with tangible, human experiences of warmth and affection. Hassan is the focal point of the film and is himself an enigmatic character–at times he comes across as cold and aloof, even dissociated; at other times, he seems on the verge of breaking into a revived love relationship with Duri, the sister of his friend Sayeed, whom he previously knew in Pakistan. Ultimately, he eschews the relationship because she has been with another man, either revealing his attachment to fundamentalism or borrowing from it to put greater distance between his mission and his former Pakistani life. This movie is an attempt to direct our eyes away from our subtly nuanced perceptions of our own culture, which we have come to understand and to feel a comforting familiarity with despite the internal (and sometimes physically violent) radicalism that it displays over a range of issues, including eco-activism, abortion, and racial (in)equality, and to see another culture as less monolithic than our psychological tendencies incline us to do. The War Within gives us a thought-provoking glimpse of the sources of variance in Middle Eastern values, some of which lead to expressions of violence and death with a form of dignity that is root bound in religious convictions and that is the antithesis of our own. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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