An Iraqi video artist’s "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit is stirring controversy at the Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute campus in Troy, New York.
The artist, Wafaa Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, modded an Al Qaeda propaganda video game, Night of Bush Capturing, in order to craft a message about his views on the inhumanity of the ongoing war. From the RPI website:
Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber in the game (left). After learning of the real-life death of his brother in the war, he is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush.
This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq.
The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media.
But RPI’s College Republicans have expressed outrage over Bilal’s appearance, terming the RPI Arts Department, which is sponsoring the event, "a terrorist safehaven:"
Our tuition dollars are hard at work in the RPI arts department which is proudly hosting a video game debut that simultaneously embraces Islamic terrorism and advocates the killing of the American President…
This is something RPI should be ashamed to have its name even mentioned with, let alone be sponsoring. Hopefully, the folks in the arts department will get enough phone calls from outraged alumni and come to their senses.
The College Republicans also express concern that Bilal’s appearance is part of a program funded by a New York State grant.
Via: Albany Times-Union
GP: A number of GamePolitics readers attend RPI. We’d love to have them weigh in via comments…
UPDATE: Geeks Are Sexy has a lengthy interview with Bilal, who said:
I don’t know if it crosses a moral line, because it’s still virtual, right? So, if games like “Call of Duty” or other games are fine, why should this be any different?
…I think it’s a strategy of engagement. I don’t see it as crossing the line at all – but rather calling attention to something really disturbing, this game and the Web site, and the rhetoric as well…
We’re going to see more and more of games as a tool to capitalize on political issues, and as people, and the medium, become more sophisticated, we’re going to see more and more of this.