Hot Docs 2017: Recruiting for Jihad

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Ubaydullah Hussain is an Islamist missionary who is also a recruiter, though he often denies the latter. Despite the philosophical rhetoric he spouts, when it comes to defining what a recruiter is, Hussain dedicates a large chunk of his time to helping young radicalized Norwegian men make their way to battle in Syria. Like a well-trained salesman, he slyly claims he is simply assisting those who desire to provide “humanitarian aid.”

In Recruiting for Jihad, filmmakers Adil Khan Farooq and Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen teamed up to give us unprecedented access to Hussain and the work he is doing on behalf of The Prophet’s Ummah, a Salafi-jihadist organization based in Norway. Farooq and Rolfsen’s camera observe Hussain as he shares his views on the West, talks about threats on his religion, connects with those in his community and tutors new Norwegian converts to Islam on how to get into Syria.

It is his actions regarding the latter that is infuriating. Hussain tries to convey deep sadness when, like a parent watching their child leave for college, he drops off the young radicals he has coached at the airport. However, he proudly proclaims later, when one of them is killed in battle, that “the best death is to die a martyr.”

It is this type of contradiction that fuels the final act, arguably the most invigorating part, of the film. It is here where Recruiting for Jihad not only wrestles with the media’s role to divulge sources when related to issues of potential terrorism; but also with Hussain’s loyalty to the cause. Farooq effectively takes Hussain to task when questioning why he himself has not joined the fight abroad. Hussain freely berates Western values while gladly taking advantage of the free education, healthcare and freedom of speech that his homeland of Norway provides.

Recruiting for Jihad is an eye-opening reminder that sometimes the most dangerous person is not the soon-to-be forgotten martyr, but rather the one who recruited them in the first place.

Screens::
Saturday, May 6, 1:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.