College Republicans Protest Iraqi Artist's Jihad Game Mod

March 4, 2008 -

An Iraqi video artist's  "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit is stirring controversy at the Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute campus in Troy, New York.

The artist, Wafaa Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, modded an Al Qaeda propaganda video game, Night of Bush Capturing, in order to craft a message about his views on the inhumanity of the ongoing war. From the RPI website:

Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber in the game (left). After learning of the real-life death of his brother in the war, he is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush. 

This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. 

The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media.

But RPI's College Republicans have expressed outrage over Bilal's appearance, terming the RPI Arts Department, which is sponsoring the event, "a terrorist safehaven:"

Our tuition dollars are hard at work in the RPI arts department which is proudly hosting a video game debut that simultaneously embraces Islamic terrorism and advocates the killing of the American President...


This is something RPI should be ashamed to have its name even mentioned with, let alone be sponsoring. Hopefully, the folks in the arts department will get enough phone calls from outraged alumni and come to their senses.

The College Republicans also express concern that Bilal's appearance is part of a program funded by a New York State grant.

Via: Albany Times-Union

GP: A number of GamePolitics readers attend RPI. We'd love to have them weigh in via comments...

UPDATE: Geeks Are Sexy has a lengthy interview with Bilal, who said:

I don’t know if it crosses a moral line, because it’s still virtual, right? So, if games like “Call of Duty” or other games are fine, why should this be any different?

...I think it’s a strategy of engagement. I don’t see it as crossing the line at all - but rather calling attention to something really disturbing, this game and the Web site, and the rhetoric as well...

We’re going to see more and more of games as a tool to capitalize on political issues, and as people, and the medium, become more sophisticated, we’re going to see more and more of this.



Re: College Republicans Protest Iraqi Artist's Jihad Game ...

Nancy and SienaAlum probably need to do some research into the US constitution.  I think it would be interesting if US citizens were held to the same standard as immigrants who go through the citizenship tests - I doubt many would pass.  If we're talking about deportation I think those who don't think the constitution is important ought to be first over the border.

Jerry, you make terrorism look so black and white. I bet you could slap together of all the bad things that Americans do, and label the U.S. as terrorists.

Oh look, Bush threaten Canada into war.
Oh look, Bush has invaded our country.
Oh look, Bush attack areas with no proper reason, killing thousands of innocent people.
Oh look, Bush is after our oil.
Oh look, Bush's people are making video games about killing us and calling us terrorist.

Wow, with a rep like that, you could say that Bush is a terrorist leader. With people supporting the Iraq war, it makes them look like members of the terrorist group. But that isn't the case. Just because Bush showed us the worst of Iraq doesn't make them terrorists.

A person spoke to Americans saying "Could I tell my side of the story?" but there have people saying "No, you are our enemy, was won't listen to you. You are a terrorist". So he replies, "Then I would get my message across through a game mod". The people say "NO! you are terrorist. You are making propaganda. We shell stop you"

Jerry, I bet you could make the table turned and start debunking my points one-by-one. When I read some of you early posts, I assumed that you were just listening to the media, and I was going to start making jokes about what if everything the media say was true. But I read some quotes you made that needed some deep research.

I still don't 100% agree with you, but I now don't take you as a media sponge. Calling us all idiots just seems ignorant considering that this website believes that everyone should have the freedom of speech.

Aah, Neocons. This is why the name "republican" has died. It used to mean "less government involvement" and "more focus on privitisation" Now it mean "LOL BUSH IS AWESOME LONG LIVE GOD KILL THEM ARAB SAND N******"

(no offence to muslims who read this blog regarding the "sand n*****, but that is definitely how neocons think)


I doubt there is anything new in this. Lets be realistic the mantra has been "Bush Lied, People Died" "No Blood for Oil" "Kucinich in '08" for the last couple years. This guy wanted to make a sensationalists game, the CR walked right into his hands. Both parties will get their 15 and the show will go on.

This is an interesting way to protest the war, though I don't think it's very on-message. It sounds more like a "I hate Bush" statement, than an outcry of the war. Still, I see nothing wrong with it, since it's a form of free speech.

Yet, Bilal should be very careful. I'd be interested to know what is exactly allowed in the game. The game is named "Night of Bush 'Capturing'," but is it possible to harm Bush? I wonder this, because making a threat on the life of the President is a federal crime. If the federal government is feeling bored, they might claim the game as serious propoganda calling on players to attack the President, and charge Bilal. I realize that's not the case, but the government is always looking for an excuse to smack down protests (and video games, really).

Did none of you read the article? He didn't create Night of Bush Capturing, radical Jihadists did by modding Quest for Saddam. Then Bilal in turn modded Night of Bush Capturing to personalize it to his own story. That is the "art" of it.

@Shih Tzu

Did you know its a lot of fun to put your head in front of a moving semi truck? What you don't believe me? well how do you know until you try it?

Some times you don't need to try things, to know what there like. You know why? because we have information on it, thats why.


I don't think Every Muslims follows it to the letter, because if they did they would all be killing people. I don't want you to think that I'm trying to be jackass. Just being strait with you, if they followed the qur'an to the letter, they would be killing people, thats all. And there are many more versus like that in the qur'an that I can show. But its your book so Ill let you look for it. Unless you ask me, if you ask me Ill show you them, save you some time. If not then I won't.

Also, I checked the numbers, and I need to clarify it. The religion its self led to 10 million killings of the Buddhists. What I mean by that is, the Muslims did it in the name of Allah, in the name of there religion. Mohammad led 27 invasions and killed one million people. Just wanted to clear that up.

Ugh, can we ignore Jerry, please? The discussion about the mod and the CR response to it has got to be more interesting than the ignorant ramblings of this individual. Don't feed trolls.

E. Zachary Knight wrote:
"So Political opinion pieces cannot be art?"

Thank you for completely misinterpreting me. What I'm saying is, this wasn't a "political opinion piece," or "art." I'm asking seriously, how is it? How is it a political statement? If it was to draw awareness to the plight of innocent Iraqi families, how does it do that? Bilal modded himself into a Al Queda propoganda piece. What does that say, other than "Hey, maybe I could be a terrorist, too?"

I have opposed the Iraq war since it was proposed, and I'm no fan of Bush. He's an incompetent puppet that eagerly believed faulty intel in order to justify a war he wanted. But I don't see Bilal's actions as any form of protest or political statement. It's just too lame in its concept. Rather, I see this as a half-assed attempt to put meaning on an otherwise foolish mod, in order to save face after the fact (or to get credit in school, or whatever). Putting himself in Night of Bush Capturing is just controversial and "edgy" enough to gain kudos from war-protesters that don't think too hard, and to stir up a bunch of ineffectual College Republicans with nothing better to do with thier time.

Whatever you want to call it (political statement, opinion piece, art), it should at least make sense.

Just to clarify, in the above post I was not stating that Bilal was a terrorist, or even that he was claiming to be one. I was making a point as to what possible message could be derived from "personalizing" a terrorist propoganda game. I know how specific you have to be here.

@Jerry - OMG!! You are to much brother man.

Are you really a post secondary education level student or are you really JT's illegitimate son?

I think I know the answer to that one...

2 Chronicles 15:13

That was when the king started removing more idols. Then bound the people to an oath to seek the Lord. All who did not obey the covenant where to be executed.

That covenant was only for Israel, and we are no longer under that covenant anymore. Show me where Jesus said to kill everyone. Show me where Jesus led 27 invasions. Show me where Jesus killed 1 million people.

Mohammad wrote the Qur'an and waged war! GET IT NOW?

Notice, when I brought up the qur'an, I used facts? I did not take it out of context like you did with the Bible.

As for the next verse, I wont even bother to look it up because you did not even bother to research the first one. So what would be the point? Try to get it right next time.

The people burning flags are not blowing them selves far as I know. And last time I checked, the US was free, maybe not? Must have missed your point there.

I was waiting for you to say hate-mongering. After all, I'm only using facts, and I live in reality, I'm such a hate-monger.

The hardest thing to disprove is faith, and seeing that Jerry has digressed to the point whereby he is simply attacking any other religion than Chistianity (which I must point out has perhaps the most violent past of any major religio) I suggest we ignore his bigotry.

I myself am much more interested in discussing this mod than I am in fuelling his own religious zealotry (anymore so than I am now doing by posting this).


www dot venganza dot org is the home of the Church of the Spagetti Monstor.
Feel free to look around, you may find it has as much realism as your version of a good faith, but without the hatefilled bile.

Funny how the world turns, from 'Christian' witchhunts and 'no one expects the spanish inquisition' to Bushtian Muslimhunts and 'no one expects Homeland Security.
a terrible analogy, i know, but i'm only on my 2nd cup of coffee.

As for the actual topic, its nice to see open discussions on Freedom of Speech on our chosen media. =:)

Here's a link to the schools webpage for the exhibit:

Blueteam Says:
"What point is the guy trying to make, anyways? "

The event description says:
"This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media."

There is a live webcast of a lecture, at 7:30 tonight, Chicago time.

Here's the artists bio:
"... was arrested and tortured for his political art work against Sadaam Hussein"

Still think this is Al Qaeda propoganda? It's derived from some, which was derived from US propaganda. It is something entirely diferent now.

Just read that RPI will not allow the exhibition on campus. It has been moved to downton Troy. Ok....Shirley, I think you are intelligent again. Good choice.


Wafaa Bilal is an American citizen. An American citizen who has the right to criticize HIS OWN COUNTRY however he chooses to do so. Sorry, but your assumption that he is not a citizen and therefore should be "deported" is actually... umm... racist.

Can we please all say this together:

On a happier note. I think it's great to see the Game Politics blog take this issue on and happy to see so much response here.

Curious...Looks like an interesting way of broadcasting a political idea. I can't speak for anyone else, but I would quite like to play that.

Oh, and shut up College Republicans.

Also, I like how the article was practically "COLLEGE REPUBLICANS OUTRAGES BY GAME MOD, and in other news, the RPI students prefer Democrats"

Well, without knowing the exact content of the game, it's hard to judge whether he really meant to make a point or is just looking for shock value to gain recognition. I really think there is a serious need for more games that show other points of view in the world, too many Americans can only see the world through CNN or Fox News goggles. Pull up the same international news story on CNN and BBC, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Typical. Someone creates something that expresses a deep, complicated opinion, and then freedom-hating (I can play the name-calling game too), ignorant "Americans" oversimplify, mislabel, and bitch about it.

This is the United States of America people. Wafaa Bilal has the right to express whatever views he has. No one has the right to suppress that.

I think, in part, it a case of holding up a mirror, and a lot of people being worried what they might see.

Why does the suicide bomber look like someone from the crusades with a machine gun?

Well, he wants to create dialogue about the war. It seems that the guy's family has been killed in Iraq, and his previous one is cast from the same sort of mold. (referring to his paitball online game)
Dissenting opinion? You bet.
However, as a rule I find politically inspired art/music a terrible bore. I'm kind of an aesthetic.

And here I went thinking that my hometown was rid of this bull.

My god, does every action in a game mean that the game is promoting it? One can't just select random elements from a game and say "LOOK THEY"RE PROMOTING THIS" and completely disregard every other similar mechanic in other games. Promoting an agenda FTL.

Then again I haven't seen the game, but most likely these college republicans haven't either.

You can bet that Fox News will be mentioning this soon as an act of "treason" and use their panel of "intellectual guests" to back them up. And once again great job missing the point and making the issue one-sided guys. *Claps*

Do all bombs really have that circular clock on them? Especially since he has a wired detonator in his hand, the clock just seems kind of useless, not to mention a bit dated.

Ah, the double edge sword of 'freedom'.
Yup, I have freedom to play COD4, Thompson has freedom to lie his arse off, and Bilal has the freedom to condemn the Iraqi war via his chosen media of gaming.
Well if we just stop this 'freedom' thing we can ban that game... woohoo.

I think this should have been filed under "Obvious" with the title "College Republicans think every issue is black and white"

I read a short-story many years ago that had the same themes. Boy's eldest brother is killed (turns out by accident, he was a bystander), but the local gangs end up recruiting him, and he becomes a crack sniper. One night he's taking shots at some troops, and finds himself facing off with another shooter on the rooftops. They trade shots, employing all the tricks in the book. He finally hits the other shooter, and crosses the street to check him out. He finds the body of his other brother.

Except the story was about Northern Ireland...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

DarrellBT -- "(no offence to muslims who read this blog regarding the “sand n*****, but that is definitely how neocons think)"

Um, actually, no it isn't how the neocons think. But, hey, let's talk about a story about misguided idiocy with even more misguided idiocy!

I haven't seen the "art" piece in question, so I'm not going to judge. I'll just point out how ironic it is that if the "artist" had done a piece like this about Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he'd most likely have been taken out and tortured and executed.

I've been going to RPI for almost a year now, and and on the topic of the College Rebublican(s), I really am concerned how this person got into RPI, as I purposefully went here to get away from the average moron. However, they still have a right to express their opinion, and everyone else has the right to ignore it.

P.S. - There are more members at RPI that support Cthulhu than any part of the Republican party.

I just want to state up front that the ideals of the CRs don't reflect the opinions held by the vast majority of RPI students. From my time at RPI, I can say confidently that most RPI students are tolerant and thoughtful and I don't want people to get the impression that most RPI students think like the CRs do.

That all being said, I am not at all surprised the CR would say something like this. I wasn't a member of either organization, but I knew people in both the CR and CD (College Democrats). The CRs tried to make a major fuss out of any event on campus that was even mildly controversial, mostly so someone would would actually pay attention to them. It is certainly not surprising that they would jump all over this. However, as I said before, most students don't share the opinions of the CRs, so take these comments only as a reflection of a small group of individuals at RPI.

@ Dog Welder

I’ll just point out how ironic it is that if the “artist” had done a piece like this about Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he’d most likely have been taken out and tortured and executed.

And that is why we have the First Ammendment. We have the right to criticize our government.

We also have the right to criticized other people's criticism.

I would like to see what this guy has done. It could be quite informative.

@Dog Welder

I would actually like to know what they think. But that is impossible because I can't read minds. Whatever they think is has to be something crazy and not too far off from the offensive remarks. Ann Coulter ring a bell?

@ Derek

Cthulhu for prez, '08!

its a cliche design gimmick(the clock) l atho if you think about it could be a 2ndary device just in case the primary device(hand detonator) fails.

Derek Says:
...I really am concerned how this person got into RPI, as I purposefully went here to get away from the average moron.

that made me laugh.
but he is a HP Lovecraft fan so perhaps we can forgive his small mind.
( ...RPI that support Cthulhu than any part of the Republican party. )

Dog Welder; I agree with your observation, but doesn't that prove the point that in the US you have the freedom to have a politically sensitive opinion and the means to express it.

Jabrwock; Nice post. Its never simple, and one persons terrorist is anothers freedom fighter. (Being a Brit who lived during the IRA bombings)
The Fear campaign promoted by the US' current administration is creating a very dangerous Muslimphobia that could push fragile people to extremes. Perhaps this game can be a conduit creating a common ground to discuss the topic without irrational fear.

I am 100% in favor of this mod existing, and the right of the artist to make it.

HOWEVER. Many college leftists are living in a dreamworld in which islam is a "religion of love". These same college lefties are the first to decry christianity as a hate group (which I happen to agree with). I just want to point out the hypocricy of these people.

DogWelder wrote:

DarrellBT — “(no offence to muslims who read this blog regarding the “sand n*****, but that is definitely how neocons think)”

"Um, actually, no it isn’t how the neocons think."

Um, actually it is. See, I used to be a neocon - I used to think like that all the time.

@ Derek:

"P.S. - There are more members at RPI that support Cthulhu than any part of the Republican party."

I see you're a member of Games Club or the RSFA, or both =)

I was class of '04, EMAC/PSYC. I trust the arts department and the newly formed gaming curriculum advisors to choose something worth putting on display. The "demented honking of the politically correct" will be in the background no matter what; that will never change.

And I'll add my voice to the chorus indicating that this is NOT indicative of the average RPI student's opinions.

I'm at RPI and I think this sort of thing is going to be interesting to attend. I plan on going to when he speaks Wednesday if I am not too busy.

Fox News going live in 5... 4... 3... 2...

What worries me about this CR statement is it has hints of the entire 'College does something unpatriotic, we should withhold funding!' mantra that I'm hearing come from some republican groups lately.

The hunt for
The war on

Well at least the hunt for bush seems mildly original.

Heh. Actually, looking at their site, these people are a joke anyway.

OMG!! SADDAM HAD WMD!!! HERE IS THE PROOF!!!! and then rambling after rambling on liberals.

So in summary, thier opinion on this game is pretty meaningless. I would not call these people the future political leaders, more people you expect to see in rally crowd shots.

Yeah I liked the site too, if thats the future of US politics then things really are going down hill.
Funny though aren't they.

To the republicans bitching about this: Tough shit. Freedom of speech cuts both ways.

@Erik - Amen. Are games art/speech or not? That's the trouble with freedom you know, the freedom to disagree and protest is included in there too. I'd also agree with @Are'el about the line between advocating violent activity. I also think that there is a strange fetish for Bush in all of the rhetoric, he is just part of a broader system that has implemented what is going on...

I do think it is exciting to have folks like this on RPI campus pushing our students thinking.

I really hope you notice the epic irony in your decrying the marginalization and stereotyping of one group (muslims) by marginalizing and stereotyping another (neocons)... just saying.

Night of the bush capturing is a game produced in the middle east.
This is a mod for that game.

Just an FYI since some people don't know that.

@Baron Saturday
I read the article, and that makes Bilal's actions all the more dangerous (to himself). He took terrorist propoganda, and "personalized it" with his own face. It doesn't take much to fuel the ire of the US Government. They could definitely claim this as a serious threat, and take action against Bilal. Hell, they detained and questioned a man in my county just for organizing a protest that involved standing in front of an Army recruitment office. I can only imagine what they might do to Bilal.

Additionally, I don't see how it can be called "art" to paste your face/name on someone else's work. That's the lazy, jackass form of art.

Finally, I'd like to clarify my previous post. I said it sounded more like Bush hating than a serious form of protest, because of the nature of the game. How much of the game actually highlights the atrocities of the war? How is the story relayed to the player? If the story of familial revenge is just told in text between levels, and the gameplay is just run-and-gun (which from a video I watched, that seems to be the case), then it isn't really protesting anything. Rather it is emphasizing the violence, not the message.
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