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`The Siege’ is under siege as racist

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Protesters waved signs and distributed fliers outside movie theaters across the country Friday, telling fans the just-opened Bruce Willis-Denzel Washington action flick "The Siege" stereotypes Muslims and Arab-Americans.

The film focuses on overzealous American officials who indiscriminately round up large numbers of Arab-Americans after a series of New York bombings pinned on Mid-dle East terrorists.In New York, about 35 people gathered outside a Times Square theater, holding placards that said "Hollywood Racism Is Terrorism" and "Don't Pay for Racist Movies."

"Basically, what we've got here tonight is another representation of Arabs as simply terrorists, Islam as a disease which is spreading throughout the West," said protester Richard McKewen, a 31-year-old law student. "I think people should be made to think about these things before they spend $10 to see a movie."

Some groups were inviting moviegoers to open houses at mosques.

"The film is harmful to the image of Arabs, Arab-Americans, and will further the already existing prejudice, mistrust and hatred of these people in the minds of many Americans," said Wa'il Qattan, a spokesperson for the New York group.

Ed Zwick, the film's director, said the criticism is too narrowly focused. "What is ironic, of course, is that the film is about stereotyping, and the inherent dangers in categorizing a culture as diverse as that of the Arabs," he said. "We went to extraordinary lengths to be thoughtful."