Coming to a Campus Near You: ‘American Sniper,’ and Hard Conversations

A student offers roses to people showing up for a screening of the controversial film at the U. of Maryland at College Park on Monday evening. The Muslim Students Association had protested how the movie depicts Arab people. Greg Kahn for The Chronicle

Since its release, in January, the film American Sniper has been a vehicle for heated conversations about national pride or, depending on your politics, shame. And this spring, many of those pointed discussions have played out on college campuses, where the film has generated protests, counterprotests, and hard conversations about religion, race, and violence.

At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor last month, a student group canceled a screening of the film after a petition circulated objecting to its portrayal of Muslims. Counterprotests caused the college to put it back on, but in “a separate forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection.” A similar petition circulated at George Mason University, but a three-day screening went ahead, and some students organized to demand the film be screened again.

At the University of Maryland’s flagship here, complaints from the Muslim Students Association had prompted a student group to postpone a screening scheduled for earlier this month. But the college was then deluged with angry messages from supporters of the film, and the campus’s College Democrats and College Republicans stepped in to sponsor a screening followed by a panel discussion.

The swirling controversy in College Park presented a visceral picture of how college students take sides in, and can sometimes struggle to make sense of, battles that cut across a range of sensitive subjects at the fault lines of American society…

The students who object to it should simply not go and see it.  The Muslims have to realize that the whole world is not going to rearrange itself owing to their delicate feelings.