Picture this: you watch a video, a hauntingly clip of a famished child – skinny with a soot covered face – looking at the man interviewing him behind a camera. Malnourished, he’s asked what he wants to eat. “Khubz,” or bread, was his answer. He has been surviving on grass, others like him survived on salt and water. This is not the first heart-wrenching story of children, women, muslims and non-muslims alike who are subjected to violence and oppression. They never chose to be born into conflict and they are living deprived of basic human rights.
Around the time The Hunger Games films were released was a time of conflict and upheaval in the Muslim world. Now imagine a Muslim moviegoer and the bittersweet experience of watching her favourite movie franchise, while observing and the painful parallels reflected in ummah. The book trilogy turned film series is loaded with heavy themes including survival, humanity, inequality between the rich and the poor, suffering as a form of entertainment, and defiance.
I noted down some of my observations and how they mirror some of the struggles and conflict going on in the Muslim world.
- The Hunger Games
- There is scene where Katniss makes her way to the meadow through the fence that is meant to keep the people of District 12 in. I look at this act of barricading an already impoverished people and the first thought I had was of the aerial, land and water blockade on Gaza.
- Children and teenagers between the ages of 12-18 were forced to compete. This whole idea of exploitation of youth mirrors the forced labour and trafficking we see in the world today.
- ‘Reaping’ of tributes: the constant fear and gruesome reality of loved ones taken away and killed. The use of fear to intimidate and silence a people. Enough said.
- Katniss waiting for help from ‘sponsors’. As strong as Katniss is, she could not do it all on her own. The fact that the world or in her case the Capitol was watching silently was symbolic of desensitization. Was it just reality TV to them? It was actual reality, and a matter of life and death. Same goes with desensitization to news. We see so much that processing is hard work, switching off is much easier.
- The double suicide: Katniss and Peeta choosing “death” by consuming the poisonous berries (even if this was an act) rather than “winning” by killing each other showed defiance to conform to the rules of the games. It was a somewhat Romeo and Juliet-esque move.
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Katniss senses a rebellion rising. I liken this to a room full of flammable gas – light one match and boom! Katniss’ bravery in the games sparked this defiance in an already beaten down and oppressed people and thus true to the title – the rest catch fire. The change one humane act can do.
It is now time to elaborate on reflections from the final two Mockingjay movies. I remember them in particular because the sheer weight of the content hit hard. There were scenes that were too reminiscent of what our brothers and sisters face all over the globe: oppression, violence and unimaginable suffering. I have quoted the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad many times but feel like I need to do so again:
“Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
“Empathising with their pain is important, the believers are like one person; if his head aches, the whole body aches with fever and sleeplessness.”
3. Mockingjay [Part 1]
- When seeing the entirety of District 12 in rubble I thought of the many Palestinians who have been living amongst rubble for decades. Having to watch the bombarding of District 8’s makeshift hospital, the real life shelling by Israel on the hospital doubling as a shelter in Rafah came to mind.
- The labelling of those fighting for their rights as criminals.
- Media censorship
- Effie Trinket uttered a refugee joke about how the important ones should at least get to have some form of luxury. I find myself thinking of the refugees deprived of everyday necessities, making do with tents or makeshift rooms in schools.
- Peeta was taken and tortured. Palestinian civilians including children were held captive without trial – not to mention abused.
- The people of Panem were oppressed. Palestine is no different.
4. Mockinjay [Part 2]
There is a scene where refugees from the Capitol head out to get food and shelter and containers supposedly carrying food were sent down attached to small parachutes. Imagine the hope and longing they must have felt waiting for the slow descent of those packages. The cruelty when the parcels had turned out to be bombs is amplified that much more.
Children who had been earlier separated from their parents as they were passed to the front lines were seen reaching out for these parcels in desperation before the explosion. False hope, confusion, the sudden nature and abruptness of an unexpected assault played out in this scene.
I could think of many events that resemble this.
As this scene unravelled before me (I had not read Mockingjay) I saw people in the theatre in tears. I wondered if they cried for the same reasons as me, whether they had thought of the millions of refugees and children. That thought alone had me crying.
The killing of President Coin instead of Snow was another symbolic event in the movie. Coin had earlier issued to have another Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the districts. Some would question why it was Coin who was assassinated instead of Snow, it can be argued that this move by Katniss was to break the cycle of violence and oppression which otherwise would see history repeating itself.
What can we do now?
We help with what we can, give to charities and causes that set out to help our brothers and sisters in faith and those in need. If that is a stretch, then the very least we can do is keep being informed of the fate of the Muslim ummah and to raise some awareness to the their suffering. Hit those like and share buttons if need be.