“Based on true events,” Hotel Mumbai explains up front, a helpful introduction for a nation that has forgotten the 2008 jihadist attacks in India that claimed 166 victims from many nations. This movie is an Australian production, a good thing because the American film industry, long dominated by the left, would never be up to this level of cinéma vérité with Islam.
As Hotel Mumbai opens, jihadists in small landing craft prepare to kill infidels in the name of Allah. Their Pakistani-based controller, codenamed “Bull,” adds the familiar Allahu akbar to his deadly instructions for jihad. The well-equipped team of young jihadists targets a train station, restaurants, and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where most of the action takes place.
Viewers see the pious Muslims invoking Allah as they toss grenades and mercilessly gun down victims, young and old, male and female, with Americans a prime target. Bull instructs the jihadists to leave their phones on, so he can hear the screams. Viewers will be hard pressed to find a more realistic portrayal of what Islamic terrorism is all about. On the other hand, viewers might wonder about the authenticity of the various guest characters in the hotel.
These include the naïve American ordering a hamburger, the malevolent Russian who served in Afghanistan, the elderly woman who wonders about a Sikh waiter’s beard and turban. The portrayal likely understates the bravery and suffering of hotel guests and staff and neglects the real heroes.
The Indian special forces, known as the Black Cats, are late to the scene but quickly take down most of the terrorists. Unfortunately, the most important member of the jihadist death squad gets no screen time at all.
As this writer explained in January of 2013, their key planner was Daood Gilani, born to a Pakistani father and American mother. He made five trips to Pakistan to train at camps operated by the terrorist organization Lashkar e Tayyiba, (LeT), which coordinated operations with Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.
In 2006 Gilani changed his name to David Coleman Headley to facilitate travel to India, and between 2006 and 2008 he made five trips to Mumbai. There he shot surveillance videos of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the Chabad House Jewish community center, a train station and a children’s hospital. After each trip he traveled to Pakistan and gave the videos to LeT.
That intelligence work enabled the terrorists to kill innocent civilians with great efficiency while being guided from Pakistan. Hotel Mumbai does not reveal that the Chabad House Jewish community center was a primary target and the victims included Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.
Nanny Sandra Samuel safely escaped with Moshe, the Holtzberg’s toddler son. Rivkah was pregnant at the time and the jihadists tortured the victims before murdering them, all the while following instructions from their controller in Pakistan. So for all its welcome realism, Hotel Mumbai fails to show the full horror of the attacks and the fathomless depravity of the jihadists.
David Coleman Headley, who helped set it all up, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 35 years. Indian officials thought the sentence was too light and in 2012 duly hanged Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist who the Black Cats managed to capture alive. As the film notes, the Pakistan-based mastermind of the operation has never been caught.
Hotel Mumbai recalls another Australian film, the 1980 Breaker Morant, set during the Boer War. As Morant (Edward Woodward) says, that guerrilla conflict was “a new kind of war for a new century.” The combatants no longer wore uniforms, and the attacker could be any civilian of any age. In similar style, Hotel Mumbai dramatizes the new kind of war for this century.
Islamic jihadists attack based on commands from the Quran. They attack non-Muslim “infidels” hoping to please Allah and gain a heavenly reward. So the jihadists show no mercy, and sing praise to Allah as they kill. And since jihad is based on Islam, it is not going to diminish any time soon, if ever.
Many countries will surely ban Hotel Mumbai as “Islamophobic,” “racist” and so forth. In America, CAIR will doubtless be protesting in force, along with Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and other prominent Democrats, possibly joined by a few spineless Republicans. More reason for viewers to show support at the box office.
Hotel Mumbai might inspire President Trump to adopt the Bush doctrine of no distinction between terrorists and the regimes that harbor them. Since the Mumbai victims included six Americans, the president might team Navy SEALs with India’s Black Cats to find Bull and take him down with extreme prejudice. As the hit on Osama bin Laden shows, the SEALs can get the job done.
A film of that operation would make a great sequel to Hotel Mumbai, based on “true events” with an important lesson. If you only play defense against jihad, many innocent people will die.