It should have been the happiest day of their lives. Instead, the 2005 wedding of Ashraf al-Khaled and his bride became a nightmare when a suicide bomber killed 27 members of their party in Amman, Jordan.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, al-Khaled vowed to break the silence in the Muslim community on a taboo subject, embarking on a mission to reveal the true cost of terrorism. Oscar®-nominated this year in the category of Best Documentary Short, KILLING IN THE NAME chronicles al-Khaled’s quest.
In the five years following al-Khaled’s wedding-day tragedy, approximately 88,000 people were killed by terrorists, with Muslims the majority of casualties. KILLING IN THE NAME follows al-Khaled as he tries to understand the factors that foster terrorism within the Muslim world, and start a dialogue with even the most hardened radicals. In addition to al-Khaled’s wedding, the film focuses on two other attacks: the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, and the 2005 explosion in Hilla, Iraq, which killed 130.
Zaid, an Al Qaeda recruiter tied to the wedding massacre, would not meet with al-Khaled but agreed to be interviewed on camera, saying the hotel where the wedding took place was targeted because Jews and “crusaders” would be nearby. Asked about Muslims dying at the hands of an Al Qaeda terrorist claiming to kill in the name of Islam, he replies that al-Khaled should not base his picture of all mujahedeen based on this “one mistake he has experienced.” He also says he would need just a month to instill his beliefs in someone to the point where they would want to kill themselves to carry out jihad.
In Feb. 2005, one of Zaid’s recruits, Ra’ed Al-Banna, blew himself up in a crowded square in Hilla, Iraq, killing approximately 130 others, including 100 Muslims. “It was a great killing, and until now, from what I’ve learned, it’s the greatest operation carried out by one person alone,” Zaid says. Al-Banna’s father, Mansour, who invites al-Khaled into his home to be interviewed, never saw his son as political or radicalized, and is conflicted about the death of his son, believing both that he was forced to commit his crime and that he is a martyr.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, al-Khaled meets Nasir Abbas, a one-time jihadist who testified against the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, the largest Islamic militant organization in Southeast Asia and a vital partner of Al Qaeda. Since becoming a vocal critic of the violent modern jihad philosophy, Abbas has met with hundreds of convicted terrorists.
In Bali, al-Khaled enlists a widow from the 2002 attack to travel with him to a madrassa in Java, where students are taught that the Bali bombers were heroes. The students argue that the widow’s loss of a husband is small in comparison to those who have lost much more in the name of Islam. Although al-Khaled quotes the Koran to explain that terrorists cannot commandeer the “name of Islam,” the students remain steadfast in their principles.
Since his trip to Bali, al-Khaled has honed his classroom skills, waging his own war on terrorism by speaking to young Muslim students. In one discussion, students admit killing only causes more killing. But he won’t stop until there is an end to the violence.
In addition to receiving an Oscar® nomination,
KILLING IN THE NAME was named Best Documentary at the 2010 L.A. Shorts Fest.
Director Jed Rothstein’s other HBO credits include “Pandemic: Facing AIDS,” “Coma” and “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech.” He received a 2002 Emmy® for research for “Kids Behind Bars.”
KILLING IN THE NAME is supported by the Global Survivors Network, which Ashraf al-Khaled co-founded along with Carie Lemack. GSN supports survivors of terrorism from around the world and helps them share their stories in an effort to prevent future acts of violent terrorism.
KILLING IN THE NAME is directed by Jed Rothstein; producers, Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy and Jed Rothstein; co-producer, Jessica Van Garsse; editor, Kate Taverna; director of photography, Tom Hurwitz; executive producer, Carie Lemack.