UPDATE: The University of Michigan called their decision a “mistake” and returned to their original plan to show the film at the same location and time. Meanwhile, E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, said the decision to drop the film violated “freedom of expression.”
(ANN ARBOR, MI) — Arab-American students from the University of Michigan protested the university’s Center for Campus Involvement on Monday, after the center announced they would screen the controversial film, “American Sniper.”
A petition started by sophomore Lamees Mekkaoui garnered 280 signatures on Tuesday, which prompted the university to cancel plans and respond to the controversy.
“Student reactions have clearly articulated that this is neither the venue nor the time to show this movie,” said the Center of Campus Involvement in a prepared statement. “We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students and staff alike.”
“American Sniper” has come under fire by left-leaning audiences for its “polarizing” views on the Iraq war. The film has also been accused of presenting a positive portrayal of snipers, who allegedly took pleasure in killing Iraqis.
The film follows the story of a U.S. Navy SEAL in Iraq, who is fighting to “protect his comrades,” according to the film’s synopsis.
Many Arab-Americans have expressed outrage over the Clint Eastwood film, calling it a “disturbing” portrayal of Muslims in American media.
“Middle Eastern characters in the film are not lent an ounce of humanity and watching this movie is provocative and unsafe to MENA and Muslim students who are too often reminded of how little the media and world values their lives,” said a collective letter to the university from “Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim Students” on campus.
“The University of Michigan should not participate in further perpetuating these negative and misleading stereotypes.”
Film critics have also responded with mixed reviews, including many insiders who call it “patriotic.”
The university has since cancelled the event, but a student activities representative said the screening will be rescheduled to include a panel discussion.