History of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West

Sheila Musaji

Posted Sep 30, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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History of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West

by Sheila Musaji

Resources for Responding to “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West” DVD Mass Distribution to 28 million Americans. 
History of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West
Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad? for a background on those responsible for the production, mass distribution, and promotion of the film. 
In-Depth Summary & Analysis of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West” for a point by point discussion of the film.
What You Can Do to respond to Obsession.
November 2008 - Jews on First has published a very comprehensive and detailed rebuttal:  Rebutting Obsession: Historical Facts Topple Film’s Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis’ Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongering by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, Eli Clifton, Jane Hunter and Robin Podolsky.

The venom created by the films “Relentless”, and “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West” has been slowly working its way into the hearts and minds of people across the country for a couple of years.  Now the same group that brought us these atrocities is coming out with another film “The Third Jihad”.  These films are only part of what Bob Crane has called a Tsunami of Islamophobia that seems to be rushing in ever higher waves towards the Muslim community in America.  These films are verbal and visual terrorism.

28 million copies of a DVD of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” have been distributed free of cost in newspapers across the country.  The film was first released a few years ago and has been shown around the country.  I wrote about my impressions and concerns when I viewed the film in 2007 and again in early 2008 when “Fitna” another such film was released.  Except for David Horowitz’ use of the film as the centerpiece of his Islamo Fascism Awareness weeks for the last couple of years it has mostly been shown by local community venues and on campuses and sponsored primarily by Republican and Jewish groups.  It is also sold on the internet. 

Now, a DVD of this film has been bundled inside more than 70 newspapers and magazines and delivered nationwide to subscribers. Surprisingly even The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The World Jewish Digest accepted this “advertizing” insert.  “There is no greater threat than radical Islam,” said Gregory Ross, spokesman for the Clarion Fund, a New-York based nonprofit organization that is paying newspapers to distribute the DVD. “It needs to be pushed to the forefront of the political discussion.” (Controversial film on Islam delivered nationwide, Yonat Shimron)

The DVD seems to only be distributed in swing election states.  (‘Terror’ DVD Getting Delivered to Millions This Weekend—via Newspapers, Gregg Mitchell)

“Aimed at voters in the battleground states the week of September 11, the film is more than a scare tactic or a campaign ploy. It smacks of classic propaganda, boosted through this clever marketing deal by association with the authority of the New York Times brand. The point is to frighten viewers and, it seems clear, to frighten American voters across the country in order to raise security concerns ahead of all other issues in the election.”  (Right-Wing Terror Film Delivered To Swing-State NY Times Readers, Denise Dennis) 

The DVD is being distributed as paid advertizing:  “According to reports in the Huffington Post, 28 million copies of the film are being delivered this week. The DVD has already been inserted into copies of The New York Times distributed in Midwestern states. This weekend and next, it is slated to be distributed in many newspapers in the electoral battleground states of Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and Colorado, in addition to North Carolina.” (Muslims Rap DVD in Advertiser, Tim Funk)

“Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are unclear. ... Although supposedly a 501 c(3) non-profit, this week the Clarion Fund’s website featured an article supporting John McCain.” (Pro-McCain Group Dumping 28 Million Terror Scare DVDs in Swing States, Erik Ose)  This article also includes a state-by-state list of most of the 70 newspapers in swing states that have agreed to deliver this garbage to their subscribers and is being regularly updated with new information.

‘‘The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,’’ reads a paragraph on the sleeve of the DVD. ‘‘But it’s a topic that neither the presidential candidates nor the media are discussing openly. It’s our responsibility to ensure we can all make an informed vote in November.’’  (Is DVD a wake-up call or propaganda?, Josh Drobnykj)

“Anyone can see an electoral vote pattern to the targeted areas, with almost all of the battleground or “swing” states represented. (The daily newspapers in only one such state appear to have refused the ad, Minnesota.) These papers have allowed themselves to be caught up in a “neo-con” propaganda scam in the context of the presidential campaign, and during 9/11 week.  As of Saturday, September 13, the rationalizations of the publishers and ad personnel at the two N.C. newspapers were either beggarly excuses for new sources of revenue, or politically naïve in the extreme. (Delivering Propaganda, As If It is Toothpaste, William E. Jackson, Jr.)

And, even fringe groups like the United American Committee are getting in on the distribution and advertising of this DVD and sent out an email saying:  “We are assisting in the distribution of MILLIONS of copies of the film ‘Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West’ launched by the Watch Obsession Committee. THIS SATURDAY an airplane hauling a banner with a menacing photo of bin-Laden will be flying over Los Angeles promoting the film, and at the same time a truck with the same message will be circling the streets of L.A., everyone in America must see this film and wake up to the threat posed to our way of life by Islamic aggression.”

Representatives from both presidential campaigns said they were not aware of the DVD mailing.  (DVD on radical Islam offends Lemoyne recipient. Carrie Cassidy) 

Copies of the DVD were distributed free at the DNC, and at the RNC by the recently formed group watch obsession.org headed by Tom Trento.  Earlier this year, the Florida Attorney General required employees to watch this video.  The Republican Jewish Coalition has also distributed free copies of the film in promotional mailings to U.S. rabbis and other Jewish mailing lists.  The stars of the film have lectured at U.S. Military colleges, and the U.S. Navy uses the film. 

I know from personal experience over many years of being involved with interfaith dialogue that the views that this film promotes are not the views of all Jewish people, but I also know that those who have been responsible for making this film and for promoting it widely have been primarily Jewish.  It truly saddens me that members of a community who should know better and who have experienced a holocaust that resulted at least partially from widespread stereotyping and demonization of Jewish people.  I believe that this marginal group within the Jewish community is so blinded by their need to defend the State of Israel at any cost that they do not see the cost of their propoganda to another community.  They are a marginal group, but they are making a lot of noise.  In fact, they are making so much noise that they are drowning out the voices of those in the mainstream Jewish community who have worked so hard with mainstream Muslims and Christians to build bridges of dialogue and work towards peace and justice in this world.  As Robert Salaam has pointed out “Tragically today, it appears that the very groups who had taken up the shout of “Never Again!”, seem to have edited the shout to, “Well…maybe just this one more time…”

Recently Christian groups such as CUFI have also become involved in the promotion of this film.  This appears to be part of a concerted effort to marginalize the Muslim community.  An ad published by the American Jewish Committee in the New York Times last year called “Israel’s Neighbors Speak” used many of the same questionable quotes and techniques. 

Obsession has become so much a part of the American Jewish community that it was shown at the Berkshire Jewish film festival in 2007.  At a 2006 showing of Obsession in Philadelphia, a Jewish Exponent article said:  “In a show of unity in the face of mounting international Arab extremism, as well as anti-Israel sentiment on America’s college campuses, some 800 people turned out for last weekend’s sold-out screening of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  Welcoming those to the March 26 event - organized by Aish Philadelphia, the Jewish Community Centers, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and Akiba Hebrew Academy - Michael Wachs, one of the evening’s sponsors, said that “the true blessing of this event is Jews standing united as one. ‘Obsession’ is a wake-up call.” How does a film supposedly about Radical Islam and terrorism and Jews standing united as one relate?  As part of his introduction of the guest speaker, Gary Erlbaum - co-chair of Federation’s Center for Israel and Overseas - noted that “Judaism allows us to make choices.”  “Where do we go from here?” he then asked. “The humanitarian gesture is to stand up for ourselves and the people of Israel,” offered Erlbaum. “Tell everyone you can that the world is a dangerous place.”   This explains everything, the film has something to do with standing up for Israel.  An ad for an Obsession showing in Dallas sponsored by the ADL, Bnai Brith and DATA said that each showing would provide an opportunity to support the Jewish Federation’s Israel Crisis Fund.

An early review of Obsession posted on the Jewish Virtual Library site includes the statement: “A film like this would have been difficult to make a few years ago when it was rare to hear Muslims speaking in their own language.”  Exactly what language is the Muslim language?  I only speak English and am an American Muslim.  The same article also said:  “Jimmy Carter and the Iraq Study Group members should be required to watch the film so they will be disabused of their delusion that Israeli policy is the obstacle to peace. Obsession makes clear the real obstacles are the Islamists’ refusal to recognize Israel, the outright hatred of the Jews by many Muslims and the unwillingness to accept a Jewish state on “Islamic land” or Jewish rule over Muslims.”  Once again making clear the connection in the minds of these individuals that demonizing Muslims has something to do with supporting Israel.

This film is most likely seen by these individuals as a way to marginalize Islam and Muslims and put all of the focus strictly on Muslims as the source of all of the problems in the world, particularly as the source of opposition to some Christian and Jewish fundamentalists ideas about the State of Israel and its relation to end times prophecy.  An extremist religious belief that should not be the source of policy, and that is at least as dangerous as the confused religious beliefs of extremist Muslims.  The fact that the film Obsession and these folks in general do not see any possibility that actual historical events and political policies could have anything at all to do with the motivation of any worldwide disputes involving Muslims in any way is odd.  The fact that many in other countries do see such possibilities doesn’t influence their close minded views.  For example, a 2006 ICH poll of British citizens shows that 72% believe that foreign policy is feeding terrorism. 

What happens when such propoganda is spread through society with no alternative voice?  We have seen what happens in the not so distant past in places like Rwanda and Bosnia, and in the last generation in the German attempt at genocide of the Jews, Gypsies, and other peoples deemed to be inferior and/or dangerous.

If the people who are promoting this believe that it is only the Muslims who will be affected, and that is a price they are willing to pay in order to achieve their goals, I believe that they are mistaken, and they are playing with fire, and adding fuel to that fire by bringing religion into the political mix.  There are a whole lot more folks out there who believe that America is a Christian nation (including John McCain who said ”...the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” )  than there are Muslims and Jews combined.  They are a fringe group of Christianity worldwide, but may represent as many as 40% of American Christians.  That these fringe Christians who believe that they can help bring Armageddon along earlier by helping their interpretation of Biblical prophecy happen would support films like this is not surprising.  They don’t care about any possible results to all of those who in their view will be “left behind” to suffer the consequences of a terrible war because they believe that they will be “raptured” to heaven before all hell breaks loose here on earth.  For them anyone who doesn’t believe in their particular view of Christianity is uninportant and doomed to eternal damnation.  That includes not only Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and Catholics, but also Muslims and Jews.  Why any of us who are in this fring Christian world view going to be “left behind” would join hands with these folks to promote their agenda is truly a mystery.

That there is a line to be crossed between legitimate discussion of political issues and anti-Semitism is clear even to Robert Wistrich (one of the talking heads in the Obsession film), or at least it is clear when it comes to anti-Semitism.  In an article on Qantara.de he said:  “Does he or she rely on classic anti-Semitic stereotypes in so doing: for example, by dredging up the alleged Jewish/Zionist “conspiracy” to dominate the world, or by evoking Jewish/Israeli “warmongers” who supposedly run American foreign policy; or through referring to an all-powerful “Jewish Lobby” that prevents justice in the Middle East. If the “anti-Zionist” critic holds Jews to be responsible for the chaos and troubles that currently afflict the world, he is surely an antisemite. If he criminalizes Israeli behaviour, by gratuitously branding it as “Nazi” or intrinsically “racist”, then we are talking anti-Semitism.”   What if he or she relies on classic anti-Muslim or anti-Arab stereotypes, or dredging up an alleged Muslim conspiracy to rule the world, or by evoking Muslim “warmongers” (no matter how marginal), or through referring to some all powerful terrorist organization that has the ability to destroy western civilization, or gratuitously branding political groups as Nazi, or attaching the name of the religion with terms like nazi, fascist, and terrorist - would that make the person an Islamophobe, and equally desicable?

Once the demons of religious, racial, or ethnic stereotyping are released, they are impossible to control.  What has been the result of the barrage of anti-Muslim propoganda over the last few years?  The real fascists are rearing their ugly heads again in Germany where their last incarnation was so devastating to the Jews.    Negative feelings towards Muslims, and to a lesser extent Jews, are on the rise in Canada.  Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are surging in Europe.  The latest Pew Research Center survey of global attitudes on religion is out and the news is not good for Jews – or Muslims.  Once you have convinced people that one form of prejudice is “acceptable” then it is difficult to stop that prejudice from being switched to other “out groups”.

In 2006 a Washington Post poll found that 58% of Americans say there are more violent extremists within Islam than in other religions and 46% have a negative view of Islam.  In 2007, a CNN poll found that 53 percent of Americans believe conflict between Islam and Christianity is “inevitable,” up from 45 percent in 2003. 

You can bet that this campaign will negatively influence the attitudes of Americans towards Islam and Muslims and that a poll done anytime in the next few months will show that percentage to have risen again, dramatically.  You can also bet that lots of ordinary Muslims will have to answer questions from their co-workers, school-mates and neighbors in the coming weeks.

9/18/08 It seems that this campaign has now begun a massive mailing in addition to the newspaper distribution, directly to homes across America.  “At least part of the mailing was sent under the postal permit of Christians United for Israel, a leading Christian Zionist organization. Which also seems to have promoted the DVD on This book by David Brog, interesting enough the forword is by John Hagee, a BIG time supporter of Israel” according to the We the People site.

And, in a related demonization effort pointed out by Jeff Siddiqui in the article “Obsession:  Deja Vu! Never Again?” Islamic Financing is now under attack.

Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad?