New Documentary: Never Again?
NEVER AGAIN is a feature-length documentary about the horrors of anti-Semitism and the power of survival and redemption. You will go on a journey with Holocaust survivor Irving Roth into the depths of darkness and surface in the light. You will also travel deep down the dark and twisted path once taken by a formerly radicalized anti-Semite and join Kasim Hafeez as he describes his journey and defends Israel on the world’s stage. This October 13 and 15, eight-hundred theaters nationwide will shed the spotlight on this modern-day hatred and bring you a newfound awareness of the power we have today to say “For Zion’s sake, we will not rest or be silent. NEVER AGAIN.”
Risen talked with Hafeez about why the need for this documentary now, his trip to Israel and what happened when his perspective shifted.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: The feature length documentary, Never Again?, hits theatres next week, what this is and why there’s a need for it now?
Kaim Hafeez: The organization I worked for Christians United for Israel, CUFI. They saw all the statistics point to the fact that anti-Semitism is rising in the United States and globally. We had the awful attacks in Poway and in Pittsburgh. So they felt they wanted to do something more, something to reach a much wider audience than we do generally. Irving [Roth] has been a friend of CUFI, he’s done a lot of work with us for many years. So we wanted to share his story. And then it was felt that we could essentially intersect Irving’s experience in the Holocaust, and my experiences growing up radicalized as an anti-Semitic, and then changing my views, and how they really dovetail.
Showing this while we look at the Holocaust in the historical context, we almost assume that that sort of anti-Semitism either doesn’t exist anymore or can’t; but also how easy this process of demonization of groups of people is. And it also dovetails with the friendship that me and Irving have developed over the years. So it was felt that something like this can educate, inform, and hopefully motivate people to take action against this rising anti-Semitism.
RM: You grew up in the United Kimgdom, and you hated Jews because that’s what you were told. Share how that perspective was formed?
KH: For sure. So I think when we use terms like brainwashed, we think of very dramatic things. We almost think kind of North Korean style, you’re sitting in a movie theater watching propaganda films produced by the government 24/7. Which I mean, makes sense when you think about it. But for me it was really the Muslim community because my grandparents had come to the U.K. from Pakistan. And we talk about radicalism in the Muslim community and extremism. And honestly the community I grew up in wasn’t radical or extreme, it was an immigrant community trying to find its feet in a new country, which is very different from the country that they come from. But there were certain ideas that were very prevalent and were almost factual. Like the Jews had way too much control, and controlled the media and were at war with Islam.
I wasn’t sat down and given a talk about how Jews were evil. That didn’t happen. But when these things are repeated over and over again, this idea that the Jews were evil was repeated in casual conversation. My father would make a point of saying that Hitler was a great man, he didn’t kill enough Jews. So when you grow up with this idea constantly, it just becomes a reality. And then as I grew up and got older and real extremism was starting to take grip, and you had a generation of British born Muslims of South Asian heritage, kind of really struggling for identity. Which part of that has to do with the kind of experience of growing up in Europe, regressed it towards more extreme interpretations of Islam, which again, had that common thread of anti-Semitism.
RM: In the film you talk about how there was a point where you even considered a terrorist training camp, share how you could even get to the point where you justify that thinking?
KH: I think we have this attitude, and I am speaking for myself, I’m not projecting this onto anyone. When we think of terrorists, we think, basically, a guy with an AK-47 on the back of a pickup truck – that is a terrorist. They look scary and nefarious and normally they’re going to have a middle Eastern accent of some sort. That is just kind of the default setting that we have. But I think part of it was I didn’t view my views as being terrorism. I mean, it comes down to dehumanization. I had gotten to a point where for me, the Jews, in the West in general, they were committing such egregious acts against, what I saw as me and myself – which they weren’t – or against Muslim communities, again, which they weren’t. But if you’re constantly given this idea and this narrative is built up, it becomes almost like a moral thing. You see this violence as moral and the right thing to do. And you can have somebody who doesn’t seem angry and violent and all these things, now you believe that you’re actually doing something good.
For me, the idea of going to a terrorist training camp or doing something violent, really justifying terrorism like I used to, I didn’t see it as justifying terrorism, I saw it as me supporting people who are fighting for a legitimate right, and because they are so oppressed because they are so wrong, sometimes you just have to fight with what you can. And so killing innocent women and children is understandable, and that is a very dangerous path to go down. Because once you’re justifying the murder of innocent men, women, and children, because of your ideas or what you believe, you go down a very slippery slope.
RM: Even in midst of this, you decided to go to Israel. Mostly as you mentioned, to prove that you were right, you weren’t going out to try to change your opinions, you were going out to solidify them, so to speak. But you still took the step to go. You were past the point of just wanting to depend on what other people told you tand you wanted to see firsthand. What happened when you went to Israel.
KH: For sure. I appreciate that you point that out. Because when I say that I went to Israel, people are almost like, “Wow, that’s so brave.” And it’s like, no, no, no. I was looking to validate my own bigotry. It wasn’t this intellectual kind of journey. So when I got to that point of going, it was simply because I was stuck between what I believed to the point of justifying murder of innocent people, and then I’d had this world of contradicting information to what I believed, but I couldn’t accept that I was wrong because I’d invest so much time. And this was a deeply held belief, this was completely factual to me, but all of the information was saying, “Well, actually, you’re wrong.” So there was this difficult situation.
So I went to Israel with the hope that I can get some clarity and essentially go back to what I believe is right and all is well. So I go, and to make a long story short, it was just seeing the reality firsthand. It wasn’t I landed and I was like, “Oh, okay. I was wrong,” and that was it. No. It took time. I was making a real effort to speak to people and just seeing everything I believed, essentially, kind of fall apart. And you’re still holding onto this thread of, “Something will justify my hatred.” And eventually I was like, “Well no, you’re wrong.” And it was one of the most difficult things for me.
And recently, in the making this film, I had got to a point, growing up in the West, not having some sort of awful problem. I didn’t grow up in the middle of a civil war or anything like that. I grew up in a fairly kind of good situation compared to a lot of people, but I’d got to a point where I’m in my 20s and I believe the murder of innocent people is justifiable. And when you kind of process that and go, “How have you got to this point?” You’ve got to ask some really difficult questions of yourself. And in realizing that, I realized how wrong I’d been. And for me, there was an almost, “Okay, now you know. You have a responsibility to tell the truth.” And to me, there was nothing controversial in it. But I thought I’m going to go back, tell people what I’ve experienced and people will be like, “Cool. You were there. Makes sense.” And it didn’t really pan out that way.
RM: NEVER AGAIN? comes out next week tell us how people can see it and the dates.
KH: It’s coming out October 13th and 15th in movie theaters. If you go to neveragainthemovie.com you can watch the trailer, find theaters that are showing it, and buy tickets. Also, if you don’t have a theater showing it, there is opportunities to have it screened at your church, there are resources and everything you could possibly want to know about the movie.
NEVER AGAIN? hits theatres October 13th and 15th, go to neveragainthemovie.com for details.