- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

American dreamer

“The current king of the thriller, best known for the 1999 megahit ‘The Sixth Sense,’ [director M. Night] Shyamalan is well aware of his relationship with his audience — it’s one he’s fostered carefully. But unlike with his movies, there’s no hidden agenda or signature plot twist here, because Shyamalan is as palatable and American as the cheeseburger. … ‘My instincts are accessible,’ he says. … ‘I like Coke. I like Michael Jordan. I like “Seinfeld.” These are just my tastes. And it just so happens that those are what the world also loves.’

“Born in Pondcherry, India, Shyamalan was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where he went to a Catholic school because his Hindu parents thought he’d benefit from the discipline. Awed when he saw ‘Star Wars’ and further inspired by ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ Shyamalan had made 45 short films by age 15. After NYU film school and two low-budget indies … Shyamalan transformed himself, and Hollywood, by writing and directing ‘The Sixth Sense,’ a brooding blockbuster with a stunning ending.”

Tom Roston, writing on “The Night in Question,” in the July/August issue of Premiere

Terrorist mind-set

“America attacked Somalia, Sudan, Iraq. If you attack any Muslim in any place, it’s like you attack them all in all places. They have the right to retaliate. …

“We don’t make a distinction between civilians and noncivilians, innocents and noninnocents. Only between Muslims and nonbelievers. And the life of a nonbeliever has no value. There’s no sanctity in it. …

“We are not hypocrites. We don’t say: ‘I’m sorry, it was a mistake.’ We say: ‘You deserved it.’ We assume the purpose is to kill as many people as possible, to spread the terror, so that people in the West think: ‘Look what happened to us!’ …

“Terror is the language of the 21st century. If I want something, I terrorize you to achieve it. …

“The word ‘terrorism’ is not new among Muslims. Muhammad said: ‘I am the prophet who laughs when he’s killing the enemy.’ It is not only a question of killing. It’s laughing while we are killing.”

Omar Bakri Muhammad, suspected al Qaeda terrorist, in an interview in the Portuguese newspaper Publico reprinted in the July issue of Harper’s

Secular faith

“Everyone knows that the place of religion in the public sphere is facing serious challenges. There is some confusion, however, about where those challenges come from. …

“What we are observing here is not what it may appear to be — a struggle of religion against no religion. It is instead a battle pitting one religion, broadly speaking, against another. On one side we have, primarily, the biblical faith of Jews and Christians. On the other side, secularism. …

“For each element of Judeo-Christian faith, secularism has its counterpart. Like Christianity and Judaism, secularism promises eternal life — well, long life, which is the central point of the most common strain of secular faith and which explains the pop-cultural focus on moral commandments having to do with physical health: Thou shalt not smoke. Thou shalt not get fat. Thou shalt fight global warming by taking the bus to work. …

“There is a secular creation account — evolution through random mutation and natural selection. …

“There is even a flood story, told in the new movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’”

David Klinghoffer, writing on “Worshipers at the Secular Altar,” June 17 in the Los Angeles Times

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