What is so irresistible about the smell of paradise?

“…The Islamic revival has taken many forms, from Hezbollah in the Lebanon to Bhumiputra in Malaysia. Most of it is a peaceful and genuine search for a new balance between religion and secularization, between local traditions and the ongoing march of globalization.”
Two polish filmmakers ask:
“What inspires the Osama’s of this world? What drives people to fight against (the) Western world with the Qur’an in one hand and a rifle in the other, with Truth as their only argument? What drives people who are prepared to sacrifice their life utterly convinced that this is the only way to save or create the world as they want it to be? “
Marcin Mamon and Mariusz Pilis travel around the world for a decade meeting with “warlords, clan-leaders, emirs and mullahs” along the way. On this journey with starts in Chechnya in 1995, and ends in Waziristan, along the Afghan-Pakistan border, in the summer of 2004, they encounter for the most part “common believers of Dar al-Islam, the abode of Islam.”
(The above quotes are from the filmmaker’s website)
For a much closer look at the film

, here’s Neil Seiling’s review, which I received in the Mosaic Intelligence Report newsletter dated May 1, 2007.
“The Smell of Paradise is a very up close and personal look at a variety of Muslim mujahidin, generally fighting against the Russians or Americans. It's a road adventure, with no great structure or story arcs. Rather, it's more a procession of people who open up to the camera and present a face of the Muslim resistance that people in the West almost never see. The filmmakers had amazing access in risky situations and the result is a solid look from the point of view of the mujahidin. Some audiences might see the film as being too cozy with alleged terrorists and it's true that the filmmakers aren't hard on the subjects of the film.
The film begins with an introduction from the Polish filmmakers and their desire to engage with the leaders of various mujahidin groups and to enter "their world and their thinking." The filmmakers don't challenge what is said and use language in the narration that is supportive of the subjects, or at least they don't frame the subjects in a negative way. The evocative music, often slow and haunting, is also very respectful to the presentation of the people and the issues.
The harrowing nature of the doc, and the real risk taken on by the filmmakers, is shown by the fact that the first three people interviewed died soon after the interviews were conducted. For example, Chechen resistance leader Yandarbiev was interviewed in Qatar and soon thereafter died in car bombing instigated by Russian agents who were then tried in Russia, found guilty, and then released right away to public acclaim in Russia.
The film goes into the historical context on Chechen/Russian battles over centuries. Contrary to assumption that guerrilla resistance by religious 'jihadists' is a recent occurrence, the speakers invoke religion as having been key to Chechen/Russian conflicts going back hundreds of years and they say no wars were ever fought by a secular Chechen state against the various Czarist/Russian/USSR state forces.
A later speaker lays out the motivation of the resistance and cites the comforts of knowing that Paradise waits for people "of truth and faith" and who lead a "dignified earthly life." He concludes with invoking "the smell of paradise" that is the title of the film. His comments are a telling contrast with Western assumptions that what the mujahidin consider to be Paradise is a place where the main motivation is "70 virgins" et al.
The film moves from interviews with Chechen rebels to following them to Afghanistan when the Taliban was still in power. What follows are interesting stories of encounters with Mullah Omar, but also several intense anecdotes of bad behavior by the Taliban, critiques that sting all the more coming from people who would also be considered fundamentalists.
The film then moves to encountering Ismail Khan in Herat, but unfortunately does very little on the context on Khan's life as a major Afghan warlord and political power player before and after the Taliban's rule.
The road trip ends on the Afghan/Pakistani border where a local tribe feels squeezed by exiled leaders like Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden and their sympathizers, and also by the Americans who they feel acted badly and didn't keep their word.
A recurring theme through out the doc is on the incommensurate world views of the mujahidin and other fundamentalists with the political philosophy and world view of Western democracies. The mujahidin reject democracy out of hand as being too tied to the world of people and not conscious enough of the dominant position of God. There isn't room for compromise and The Smell of Paradise certainly points to continued conflicts between these positions.”

To watch the film, catch it on Mosaic Link TV
Or download here

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