Published May 24, 2006
THE HAGUE – The Dutch creator of a video game-based movie, which the U.S. government says is being used as a recruitment tool by Muslim militants, says that his home-made creation was nothing more than a bit of fun.
The 11-minute video shows a man in Arab head-dress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. invaders, and it was shown to a U.S. Congressional Committee this month as evidence of a militant campaign to recruit Muslim youth on the Internet.
"It was just for fun, nothing political," said Samir, a 25 year-old Dutch gamer, in an interview with Reuters. "It has nothing to do with recruiting people or training people."
Samir, who did not want to be identified by his full name, is a Muslim who was born and raised in the Netherlands and is a fan of U.S. movies and rap music.
His short movie is based on a popular video game, "Battlefield 2," which usually shows U.S. troops engaging Chinese or Middle Eastern forces.
Samir borrowed part of the soundtrack from a satirical movie, "Team America: World Police," including the words: "As quickly as they had come, the infidels were gone. It was on that day I put a jihad [holy war] on them."
He also added a soundbite from President George W. Bush, days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, in which he described the war on terrorism as a "crusade."
The phrase gravely offended many Muslims who took it to mean Bush was calling for a war against Islam.
At the May 4 congressional presentation, lawmakers were told that the video had been posted on militant Web sites designed to encourage youngsters to take up arms against the United States.
"You can see where the games are set to psychologically condition you to go kill coalition forces," said Eric Michael of Science Applications International Corp., which is being paid $7 million by the Defense Department to monitor 1,500 militant Web sites.
SHOCKED AND AFRAID
Samir, a clean-cut youth who will start work at a hospital this summer, posted his video in December on an online community forum for "Battlefield 2" to solicit feedback on his production skills and said he was shocked when he learned it was shown in the congressional presentation.
"Government agencies should do more research before coming to conclusions," said Samir, over french fries and a milkshake at a Burger King restaurant in The Hague. "The movie wasn't what they presented it to be."
Samir, who now fears that U.S. intelligence services are monitoring him, is thinking twice about making a long-planned trip to New York City for fear of being interrogated.
He pointed out that the U.S. Army uses a video game, called "America's Army," to recruit soldiers.
Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, pointed out that U.S.-produced media — including video games — is itself a rich source of material for pro- or anti-American messages.
"There is a lot of material out there that can be used and interpreted," Thompson said.