Film Festival & Symposium - Living Conflicts in India, Pakistan, and Palestine: Religion, Secularism and the Search for Peace


Thursday 14 April 2011
1:30 - 6:00
West Hall 135


To view films online prior to the April 14th symposium, RSVP on the ticket request page and follow the instructions on the confirmation page.

Films will also be screened on campus at the following times and locations:

"In the Name of God" Tuesday, April 12, 9 - 10:15am, Coor 195

"Little Town of Bethlehem" Tuesday, April 12, 4 - 5:15pm, West Hall 116

"Pakistan's Taliban Generation" Thursday, April 14, 9 - 10:15am, Coor 195 


At the end of colonialism in the mid-20th c. secularism, along with universalistic ideals such as human rights, was adopted as one of the main principles guiding the political ethos in decolonized and newly emerging independent states. Maintaining a secular identity was viewed as a vital link to the survival of democracy and the maintenance of peace in India, a nation of plural religious identities. Pakistan's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, declared that the state would not have a religious identity and would maintain an equal distance from all religious groups. Likewise in Palestine, the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization saw in secularism the possibility of binding the Arab Palestinians - Christians and Muslims - together in a common national cause.

Nearly eight decades later, secularism in India, Pakistan, Israel and Palestine is increasingly contested by the rise of religious fundamentalism and the emergence of new forms of religious extremism and violence. The politicization of religion in these regions provides us with a deep lens through which to examine the implications and influence of secularism and explore whether new articulations of religious tolerance and religious diversity are also emerging. In the film festival and symposium "Living Conflicts" we will address the issue of the growing disenchantment with secularism as a path to peace on the ground in India, Pakistan and Israel/Palestine. Why does secularism appear not to be working in these spaces, and why has religion become the source of the conflict? What are the best ways to articulate the challenges to secularism in India and Pakistan? Will Palestine emerge as a secular or religiously divided country? Is secularism the only means through which to guarantee ideals such as peace and human rights? How do we make sense of the role of religion in civil society as a response to these questions?

Alongside watching the documentaries, we will have a symposium to discuss with filmmakers, historians, and film studies scholars the importance of the visual medium in forming public opinion, as a critical space of public debate and for asserting religious or secular ideals. Do people respond and react to what they see and act out their violence? Are the images we see on film representing reality? Should filmmakers play a role in reorienting the public away from violent religious nationalism and towards secularism as a politically and culturally acceptable public project? What part can film and other forms of media play in expressing these tensions or providing a vision of what is possible?

This documentary film festival and symposium will provide an opportunity to engage with and reflect upon life and the struggles of people living in conflict zones and the art of representation for deepening awareness of the contestation between secular and religious forms as pathways to peace in the 21st century.


1:30 – 3:45pm Session I: India and Pakistan - "In the Name of God" and "Pakistan's Taliban Generation"

Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker
Fazeelat Aslam, filmmaker
Furrukh Khan, commentator

4:00 – 6:00pm Session II: Israel and Palestine - "Little Town of Bethlehem"

Jim Hanon, filmmaker
Issam Nassar, commentator

Anand Patwardhan Session 1: India and Pakistan - "In the Name of God"
Fazeelat Aslam Session 1: India and Pakistan - "Pakistan's Taliban Generation"
Furrukh Khan Session 1: India and Pakistan - Commentary and Discussion
Jim Hanon Session 2: Israel and Palestine - "Little Town of Bethlehem"
Issam Nassar Session 2: Israel and Palestine - Commentary and Discussion