“Don’t take the deal,” my friend said in a hushed voice over the phone. I was confused. The deal that he was referring to was my first major break in Hollywood, my chance to go from unknown, struggling screenwriter to a respected professional. And what made it stranger was that he was calling from the very production company that had just made the offer to my agents. It was the summer of 2002 and I had just finished a screenplay on the Crusades, one that had been inspired by the horror of September 11 just a few months before.
There have been many movies on the Crusades in Hollywood, but my story was unique, for it was told from the Muslim point of view. It was a story about the great Muslim leader Saladin who conquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders and then, instead of taking revenge on his enemies, went on to build a multi-cultural society where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in peace. It was a movie written to show that there was more to Islam than what the world had been shown by a handful of madmen on 9/11.
The script had gotten a great deal of attention, and now I had an offer from one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood to buy the project. I was elated, and then stunned when my friend who worked for this producer called and told me to reject the offer. “I will lose my job if they found out I was telling you this,” he said over the phone. “But the boss has no intention of making your movie. He plans to buy the script in order to bury it and make sure no one else will ever be able to tell this story.”
And in that one moment, I learned a terrible truth about how Hollywood works, as well as the truth behind the claim that Hollywood is a liberal industry that represents the moral conscience of America. As I learned that day, many people in Hollywood were what I have dubbed LEFI: Liberal Except For Islam.