In “Pilgrimage to Karbala,” WIDE ANGLE offers a rare glimpse of Islam's past and present, joining a group of Iranian pilgrims on a breathtaking and perilous journey to Muslim holy sites in war-torn Iraq. In the summer of 2006, as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah fought off Israelis in Lebanon and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced down President George Bush at the United Nations, a bus full of Iranian pilgrims left Tehran on a journey to the holy city of Karbala, deep inside a shattered Iraq. In a documentary that is without precedent on American television, WIDE ANGLE follows this intense journey into the heartlands of Shia Islam, revealing how two ancient crimes, the murder of Muhammad's grandson and the disappearance of a six-year-old imam, became the founding legends of Shiism and increasingly dominate events and attitudes in the Middle East today. “Pilgrimage to Karbala,”
directed by award-winning filmmaker Kevin Sim, premieres Monday, March 26, at 9 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7
. As part of the program, series host Daljit Dhaliwal will conduct a post-film interview with a prominent foreign-policy figure to discuss America's involvement in the region. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, it was impossible for Iranians to make the pilgrimage to Karbala. Since the dictator's overthrow, Shia Muslims, who dominate Iran and are the majority in Iraq, can now make their pilgrimage -- and are doing so in increasing numbers. The journey is dangerous, to say the least. Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq are carrying out acts of horrific violence against one another. U.S. troops are battling insurgents; IEDs explode on roadsides on a regular basis; and Shia shrines and pilgrims, have become targets of Iraqi Sunni attacks. In fact, just as this group of pilgrims sets out from Tehran, reports come in of 14 new murders on the road to Karbala. In scenes that have never been captured on screen before, the busload of pilgrims joins the steady stream of Iranians flooding into the holy cities in Iraq. They are afraid, and their families have urged them not to go, but their faith is stronger than their fears. Indeed, for them, to die on pilgrimage to Karbala is a guarantee of holy martyrdom and, thus, an entry to paradise. The pilgrimage is also symbolic of a journey that many Shia see as a continuing struggle for Muslims in the world. Interweaving the stories of these pilgrims with the tales of Muhammad's grandson's martyrdom and the disappearing imam, “Pilgrimage to Karbala”
powerfully illustrates how these legends influenced the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the political and religious philosophy of President Ahmadinejad, as well as today's vicious power struggles between Shia and Sunni in Iraq and the growing fissure between Islam and the West. “Pilgrimage to Karbala” airs Monday, March 26, at 9 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7
This program was underwritten in part by:
Please visit our website at www.kued.org/jobs for information about job opportunities at KUED.