The aforementioned Omar and Bethlehem have garnered a lot of attention and awards for their coverage of the issue of Middle East terrorism, but the terrorism-related film that stuck with me the most was Horses of God. On May 16, 2003, fourteen suicide bombers in Casablanca staged synchronized attacks on two restaurants, a hotel, a Jewish community center and other sites, killing 33 victims and injuring more than 100. The incident stunned the nation of Morocco, which had been relatively immune from violent religious extremism. The expected government crackdown ensued, but one uncomfortable detail emerged…all of the bombers were young men who came from the same poor, dead-end neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
Horses of God, based on a novel by Mahi Binebine, records the transformation of two brothers and their friends from teenagers with little interest in either religion or politics to terrorists willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to kill innocent civilians. The turning point comes when older brother Hamid, a notorious troublemaker, returns from prison as a convert to Islam. His imam and the leaders of his local cell aren’t wild rabble-rousers, but calm and friendly—fanatics with smiles. As the others struggle to make a living, the terrorists’ appeal becomes more seductive.