Star Wars and Maghribi Sufi Islams: Reasons Why the Religious Studies Literature Overlooks an Obvious Comparison

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  • Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the Earth were meshed together then We ripped them apart? And then We made of water everything living? Would they still not believe? (Qur’an 21:30) United we are to one supreme Source created and molded by the same Divine Force. (Shirazi) There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life. There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that mine. O traveler, if you are in search of That, Don't look outside, look inside yourself and seek That. (Rumi) "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." (Ben to Luke) The Star Wars franchise remains the most successful cinematic project in history and there is no shortage of scholarly analyses of its story, history or social impact. In the realm of religious studies, scholars have tended to focus on elements of existing religious traditions that appear to be present in what some call the “Star Wars theology” (Ahmed, 2015). While many make the argument for the presence of elements from Zoroastrianism (Hussain, 2000), Buddhism (Feichtinger, 2014) and “Judeo-Christian”* apocalypticism (Lyden, 2007) in The Force in the first released film in the series, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). Others have noted that the entire venture itself is a response to the Secularization Theory movement of the 1960s (Ahmed 2015). While these approaches are not entirely wrong, they do overlook a series of significant influencing factors in the creation of A New Hope: the fact that it was largely filmed in Tunisia and that many parts of the Star Wars philosophy closely resemble and absorbed elements from Maghribi Islams, including Islamic apocalypticism and especially elements of Sufisms which were still largely in practice before the rise of fundamentalist Islams in the region after the 1980s. In this paper, I explore the evidence to make the case for a Star Wars appropriation of Maghribi Sufi Islams, drawing on the script, film and documentation regarding the making of the film, including staff interviews. I conclude by questioning why such a hole exists in the scholarly literature, focusing on narratives that suggest the incompatibility of Islam and America (with Star Wars as the ultimate American export), and Islam and peaceful asceticism. *A term which the author uses, not me, for I find it to be deeply offensive and Christo-centric. (See: Shalom Goldman, “What do we mean by Judeo-Christian?” Feb 25, 2011,

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