Skip to comments.Welsh star in race row (LOTR's John Rhys-Davies makes anti-Muslim remarks)
Posted on 01/18/2004 9:25:33 PM PST by Michael2001
ONE of the biggest Welsh movie stars in Hollywood kicked off a race storm last night after making anti-Muslim remarks.
Outraged Islamic leaders in Wales demanded an immediate apology from Lord Of The Rings actor John Rhys-Davies, who claimed an increase in Europe's Muslim population was a "demographic catastrophe" threatening "Western civilisation".
The 59-year-old Ammanford actor's comments were originally made in an interview with American journalists from World magazine, but this week they were used by the far right British National Party in a leaflet to campaign for support among cinema-goers.
Last night Rhys-Davies stood by his views which follow Robert Kilroy-Silk's inflammatory anti-Arab column. But he criticised the BNP for hijacking his words for their own ends.
In the interview, Rhys-Davies, who plays heroic dwarf Gimli and recorded the voice of computer-animated character Treebeard in the Hollywood blockbuster, interprets Tolkien's story of good versus evil as a metaphor for modern race relations.
He said: "There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren't bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well.
"By 2020, 50 per cent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent.
"I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilisation. That does have a real resonance with me."
The 6ft tall actor, who wore facial prosthetics and performed on his knees to portray the 4ft 2in dwarf in Lord Of The Rings, even says he is aware that his beliefs could end his career, which has seen him star in the Indiana Jones films and James Bond movie The Living Daylights.
"I am for dead, (traditional) white male culture," said Rhys-Davies, who divides his time between his homes in Los Angeles and the Isle of Man.
"Many do not understand how precarious Western civilisation is and what a joy it is.
"From it, we get real democracy. From it, we get the sort of intellectual tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you.
"I'm burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it's painful. But I think there are some questions that demand honest answers."
The BNP reproduced some of his comments on their website, where they ask people to print them off and distribute them at showings of Lord Of The Rings.
BNP leader Nick Griffin last night defended using Rhys-Davies' words for their Stand, Men Of The West leaflet, which he claimed was popular with film-goers in the Valleys.
"He is not a racist in terms of race hate and nor are we," he said.
"We just feel his views dovetail with our message as the comments in the interview quoted reflect our opinions too."
Rhys-Davies said it was "distressing to find yourself on a BNP leaflet", adding: "But on reflection, these people can't really do any great harm unless you allow them to."
The actor's over-the-top views were criticised by Tolkien Society publicity officer Ian Collier.
He said: "The Tolkien Society is not a politically-aligned organisation and we do not in any way condone the use of his works to support messages of racial hate, just as Tolkien himself objected strongly to the use of Northern Myth by the Nazis.
"There is documentary evidence that Tolkien did not agree with these views and we are saddened to see this kind of misrepresentation occurring."
The views were greeted with contempt by the MP for Rhys-Davies' former home town, Ammanford.
"I condemn these comments as being racist and ill-informed," said Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr.
"It is obvious that this man who now lives in the lap of luxury in Hollywood is out of touch with realities of the nature of present day European society.
"His attack on Muslims and comments about the threat that they pose to Western society shows his ignorance of world events and the true teachings of Islam.
"Ammanford people will feel very let down by a man with such close connections to the town."
Last night Mohammed Javed, chairman of the Muslim Society for Wales, said: "We want an apology. This could stir up racial hatred in society. It's ignorance, he should learn more about Islam and the religions before he makes these comments.
"They are based on his ignorance and nothing else."
Chief executive of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) Naz Malik agreed.
He said: "I do not know why he has said these things. If 50 per cent of people in Holland under 18 are Muslims in 16 years time, so what? In Britain the fastest growing race is mixed race, people of dual heritage. It is a cause for great celebration that our cultures are mixed.
"We live in a global society - we celebrate what is good in cultures and challenge what is bad in civilisations.
"Does he ever listen to any music other than European? Does he eat Indian food? Does he ever appreciate art other than that from Europe?
"I feel sorry for this actor because he must feel very insecure about his future. I feel sorry for his close mindedness."
Wales Friends of Searchlight's Ian Titherington accused the BNP of hijacking the actor's comments.
He said: "Tolkien's Ring Trilogy is generally considered to be the best fantasy story ever written.
"It really shows how desperate the BNP are, to try to make political capital out of a cinematic re-production of fantasy."
LAST NIGHT we spoke to John Rhys-Davies from his Hollywood home and asked him to defend his opinions.
Here's what he said...
I BELIEVE in racial equality not racial discrimination. All I was commenting on was that there are cultural changes taking place in Europe that I consider to be unacceptable.
The fact that a minister of the French government has to fly to Cairo to talk with one of the religious heads in one of the mosques to get his approval for a ban on headscarves can be seen in two ways.
One, is how wonderfully culturally sensitive. The other, it seems to give an authority to a wholly unelected figure well outside Europe's jurisdiction.
I am really proud to be living in a society that accepts women as our equals, that accepts civilised discourse that allows people to hold different opinions without coming to any act of violence.
Here in America when that earthquake happened in Iran the reaction of everyone I knew was horror and dismay, the reaction of everyone when they heard that the old woman had been brought out alive long after they thought there was anyone there was absolute awe at the extraordinary capacity of the human spirit to survive. Contrast that with people jumping up and down and clapping at the 9/11 disaster in certain countries.
I don't think that Western society is opposed to Islamic society at all. I think a very important part of Islamic society is opposed to Western society.
It is time that ordinary Muslims stood up to be counted.
Most societies can benefit from a good stirring of genes, but most cultures are tolerant of each other. I do not see Buddhists throwing bombs into Christian churches, I do not see Christians blowing up Hindu temples, I do not see those sorts of challenges.
When we are prepared to overlook certain things because we don't want to rock the boat, this is wrong.
The greatest act of racism is to expect that other people will not behave according to your values and standards.
Yes, I am for dead, (traditional) white male culture. It's pretty damn good, pretty damn marvellous, pretty wonderful. That's not to exclude other cultures, but it's not to diminish mine.
I'm sorry that might be perceived as infringing some sort of racial taboo, it's certainly not intended to be a racial remark.
We are losing the ability to sit down and be able to have a tolerable argument.
I do not want to see a society where, should I ever have any, my granddaughters have their fingernails pulled out because they are wearing nail varnish.
I hope that my friends and relatives in Wales are not going to be shocked by what they are going to read about.
Do not brand me a racist because I am most certainly not.
But I will stand by this: Western Christianised Europe has values and experience that is worth defending.
Well, he's right about that. Unfortunately, a calm, dispassionate discussion about, say, race, is off limits today.
So, I guess he will be "whitelisted," eh?
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