Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West?
Obsession: Radical Judaism’s War With Islam
(9/08 UPDATE, SEE ALSO Resources for Responding to “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West” DVD Mass Distribution to 28 million Americans. 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. )
by Sheila Musaji
On August 30th the ‘documentary’ Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West was shown in Saint Louis. Prior to the showing of the film we had approached our local Interfaith Partnership group and asked if they would stand with us to express their objection to this film, and were told that 1) this was not an interfaith issue, and 2) is was a matter of free speech.
I understand that all of us have a right to free speech, and that even hateful speech is protected. I do not understand how any part of the religious community can not only condone but promote propaganda and racism directed towards another religious community. The showing of this film was legal, but we question that it was moral.
This ‘event’ was sponsored by Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, advertised in the Jewish Light as a community wide event, and in Jewish in Saint Louis and at the event Robert Cohn, Editor of Jewish Light praised the film and the speaker. The organizations who were listed as event sponsors in the program were: Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, Branches of Issachar, Citizens for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East, EMMIS Communications, and Saint Louis Hillel. Branches of Issachar is a Christian group, but we have been unable to find any information about them. A billboard complete with stereotypical Arab was posted on a local highway to advertise the event. Aish Hatorah’s spin off organization Honest Reporting also produced this film.
Over 1,000 people (including children) attended the screening, among them was our little group of 6 Muslims. Fortunately, we sat together because as the evening progressed we drew comfort from each others presence. The audience seemed to be primarily Jewish, but with a large Christian contingent also.
The film was a classic propaganda piece - in its 1 hour and 17 minutes, except for a disclaimer that this was not meant to be about all Muslims, the balance of the film was relentless in its depiction of issues, political movements, individuals, and positions as connected to the religion of Islam.
It is a fact that the Mufti of Jerusalem sided with Hitler and that there are photographs of him with Hitler (as shown in this film). It is also a fact that there are photographs of Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, and Catholic bishops and cardinals with Hitler and even giving the Hitler salute. It is also a fact that there were Muslims and Christians who protected Jews from the Nazis, who fought against the Nazi’s, and who were killed in concentration camps. There are Muslims who have been declared “righteous gentiles” by Yad Vashem and other Holocaust memorial groups. The majority of Allied troops that landed on the beaches of Provence in August, 1944 were “free French” Muslims from North and West Africa. Muslims fought with the Allies in France, Italy, Stalingrad, and Leningrad. Are they now forgotten?
Bigotry and hatred can be found in all communities - for every photograph or speech in this film another could be shown just as virulent from another community, e.g. American protestors burning the American flag, Jewish Israeli children signing missiles with love, photos of Christian clergy with Hitler, Hitler’s statements about Christianity, Nazi insignia with Christian symbols, statements by Meir Kahane or other Jewish Defense League members, or by Christian white supremacist clergy, Jewish Israeli’s having a party to celebrate the Hebron massacre. Statements by extremist rabbis that during time of war the enemy has no innocents, or that call for the extermination of the enemy. Signs in a U.S. shop window calling Palestinians pigs and cockroaches. The list is long, and the effort to demonize each other pointless.
Some of the reactions of our group were: “I felt dehumanized”, “demoralized”, “anxious”, “sickened”, “fearful of the reactions such propaganda might provoke”, “attacked as a Muslim”, “defamed”. All of us were much more upset by the audiences reaction than by the film itself. To us the propaganda techniques seemed obvious, but the audience reaction showed that it was having a powerful effect.
There was no relief from the barrage of negative images, and there was no counter balance. This film establishes Muslims as the “other”, as a dangerous, alien, violent, inhuman other. It was completely one-sided and without nuance, there was nothing positive about Muslims or Islam even hinted at.
Two weeks after the event we are still experiencing physical and emotional distress primarily due to the positive reaction of the audience - including applause and standing ovations, and to some of the hateful comments we overheard from individuals sitting around us. The fact that some of us saw people we knew, who saw us and said nothing and avoided eye contact was very disturbing.
This sort of propaganda produced, marketed, and promoted by Aish Hatorah, a Jewish organization and then promoted by the local Saint Louis Jewish community and advertised in Jewish Light, and praised by Jewish community leaders at the event concerns us as Muslims who have been committed to dialogue and bridge building between the local Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. This has the potential of completely derailing dialogue efforts and driving a wedge of suspicion and distrust between the communities.
After this event many of us have had the opportunity to speak with a number of individuals in the Christian and Jewish communities who attended the film and who have told us that they were also shocked by the content of the film and the reaction of the audience. They expressed concern and distress and wanted us to know that this event was not supported by a majority of local Christians and Jews and that most of those in attendance did not represent the mainstream.
Phillip Deitch was quoted in an article in Jewish Light as saying: “I left sad. An opportunity to build meaningful bridges was missed while passions were inflamed and polarization was the result. While deriding anti-Jewish anti-Israel propaganda the movie was edited in a classic propaganda style opening with emotional 9/11 film footage, sinister music throughout and contrasts with the Nazis. They mocked their own opening disclaimer that they are only speaking of a minority of the Muslim community when the movie is all about presenting Muslim fundamentalism as a world wide threat while showing film footage of Muslims at prayer.”
In an article on the Center for Theology and Social Analysis site, Mark Chmiel noted: “Both the film and speaker appealed to fear, pure and simple, making the equation Arab/Muslim = Nazi. Often the moderator and Shoebat talked about the threat to our values as Jews and Christians—what about the Muslims who aren’t terrorists? It was painful as a Muslim acquaintance was sitting in front of us and weeping as she listened to this Christian who proclaimed that he loves everybody basically preach a kind of hatred of Palestinians en tout: They can’t be trusted. All of them?”
It helps to know that some in the audience were not swayed by the propaganda.
Certainly, there are Muslims who are extremists, who are criminals, and who believe violence to be a solution to problems. But these problems are not unique, nor do they exist in the Muslim world in isolation. Blaming an individual, organization, political movement, government, or nation for political problems makes sense. Attempting to single out Muslims as uniquely evil in the world is absurd and dangerous. There is a need to call this one-sided assault on Islam together with the increasing incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents around the world for what they are: the new Anti-Semitism - Islamophobia.
We can continue trying to put the blame on “them” and exonerate “us” but it is not only a waste of time, but an evil distraction keeping us from getting at the root of the problem.
This film is emotional terrorism, and terrorism cannot stop terrorism. Only justice and spiritual solutions have any hope of decreasing the current world crisis. We can continue to look for ways to place the blame for what is happening on some mythical villain. The truth is that there is a dark side to human nature that we must all confront.
Within America the rhetoric connecting Islam with terrorism and fascism is increasing, and even the President has used the term Islamic Fascists. There are clergy people, radio and television personalities, and journalists who have made derogatory and inflammatory statements including accusations that Muslims are a fifth column, threats of collective punishment against Muslims in America, and threats to surround the Muslims in America with razor wire or intern us like the Japanese in WWII. One Christian group even held an Islam versus America conference. The American Jihad site even claims that “Consequently we must adopt a new paradigm - THE ONLY GOOD MUSLIM IS A DEAD MUSLIM! A few innocents shall perish, but who really cares? Muslims multiply like rodents so it’s no big deal.”
This film simply feeds into this demonizing of Islam and Muslims and helps to create an atmosphere in which such incitement seems reasonable.
The bottom line is that all of those who participate in, cooperate with, or do not speak out against evil (no matter what their religion) bring shame on the human race. As the Qur’an warns us all:
“Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (Quran 4:135).
Muslim, Christian and Jewish heroes and criminals were all reading the same Torah, Bible and Qur’an, but certainly interpreting it differently. I do not believe that those evil ones among any of our communities represent any religion. Human beings can find in any scripture both the inspiration for greatness or a justification for evil. We all have te capability of producing extremists of the most brutal kind, and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all been used as a justification for such brutality.
As Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said: “We condemn the abuse of religion by fanatics whose sole purpose is to rouse hate and beget further violence. Nothing is as antithetical to all religion and especially to Islam, as the wanton violence. ... We cry out against such violence, and seek to console those who have suffered from it. ... We declare that all religions have the same relative value with respect to the high goals we seek to reach as humans, and the same lack of value of when they fail to call forth the unity of God. ... We pray for a future that is replete with peace and love for all of humanity across the world, and for a future that is far, far different from the tumultuous, hateful times that we live in now…”
The speaker at this film was billed as a “former” PLO terrorist turned Christian/Zionist. Walid Shoebat claims to live in California under an assumed name with protection from the Islamic radicals who have declared a “fatwa” to kill him. He made many undocumented claims, and most shockingly said that it was time to stop working for peace - it is time to start taking real action. . A review of his radio interview before the St. Louis presentation, as well as a review of statements at other showings of this film, and of his website http://www.abrahamic-faith.com is very revealing. He has said “Please take back the holy Temple Mount.” He has said “We need to choose war.” He has sanctioned the use of extrajudicial assassinations.
This is a man who wants to hurry Armageddon and the rapture along, at which time the Messiah will come and the Jews, Muslims, and everyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God will be killed and sent to hell. This is anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. This is an extremist Christian terrorist. This is not a former terrorist. This is a man who used to hate Jews and now hates Muslims, who used to commit violence against Jews and now justifies violence against Muslims
As Abdul Cader Asmal has said “The term Islamic embodies the very values and attributes of the faith (Islam) that a Muslim believes in and loves. A believer in any faith could deviate from his religion, pursue ungodly activities unrelated to it, or in direct contravention thereof, and end up being a rapist, terrorist or even a fascist. There would however be nothing of intrinsic religious value in such behavior. As religions go, there can be no such entity as Christian, Judaic or Islamic fascism, at least not until a new religion comes along promoting itself as second best.”
How do we counter such defamation? How do we heal the wounds created by such propaganda? How can we build familiarity and understanding and establish dialogue and trust in an atmosphere of suspicion and fear?
Never again should apply to everyone - so that the injustices of the past are not repeated. We need to decide if we will allow the hatemongers to turn Islam into the enemy because some extremists misrepresent it to justify their crimes. We have seen in humanity’s history that choosing the path of villifying one particular racial, ethnic, or religious group can lead us into very dark places. We owe our children a better future than the one that would be created by a clash of civilizations or a clash of religions, and those who want to lead us down this path again must be resisted.
We would hope that all of those in the interfaith or civil rights communities who believe in bridge building and dialogue speak out in some way against this sort of propaganda against any of our religious communities. The executive director of our local Interfaith Partnership group has said: “We are about building bridges and relationships between those who represent different religious communities” “We are responsible for our neighbors.” Interfaith Partnership has moved more toward “building on the relational aspect and celebrating diversity.” All of these are positive goals, can they be achieved by ignoring very real issues within our communities?
Aish HaTorah, the producers of this film say that their objective as an organization is to revitalize the Jewish people by providing opportunities for Jews of all backgrounds to discover their Jewish heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect. We would hope that all of those Jewish and Christian organizations who sponsored or promoted this event and who are continuing to sponsor showings of the film across the country would reconsider their involvement, and the possible consequences. Stirring up hatred and racism cannot be good for any of us. Can one people be “revitalized” by the demonization of another?
If this is not an interfaith issue, then what is the point of interfaith activity? Am I alone in seeing a terrible similarity between this demonization of Muslims and the past demonization of Jews? I am I alone in seeing the production of this film as a defining event in interfaith relations in the U.S.?
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas reports that a showing of Obsession is being hosted on September 5 and 6th by DATA, Anti-Defamation League and B’nai B’rith International. http://www.jewishdallas.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=193658#2
an article on Daniel Pipes site reports that Sharona Shapiro, the AJC’s Michigan Director noted in an article that “Finally, the antisemitic placards at the rally were a horrendous display of Israel as Nazi obsession. Signs compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler and equated Stars of David with Nazi swastikas; one sign read, “Israel Nazi Are the Same Thing.” This ugly comparison demeans the victims, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, of Nazi genocide, demonizes Israelis, and dehumanizes those who support Israel.” regarding an Arab rally in Detroit. This is interesting because of the similarity between this demonization and that of all Muslims in the film “Obsession”. http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/644
Obsession Over Obsession: the Power of Propoganda, Michael Garberich - In a film that so adamantly rails the influence of self-sequestered mass media, it ironically ignores the possibility of its own bias and its influence over a public possessing limited, mediated communication with a foreign culture. http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/09/08/68851
Mission statement of Honest Reporting, producers of Obsession http://www.honestreporting.com/a/page.asp?page=4
Selected images from Obsession http://vickijohnson.org/issues/obsession/abridge/scenes.html
VIDEO: Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West 12 min. summary version http://www.obsessionthemovie.com/12min.htm
Walid Shoebat’s New Incarnation http://www.newvoices.org/cgi-bin/articlepage.cgi?id=238 “the audience had eaten up every word of Shoebat’s speech. Most affected were the visitors from off-campus, but it was clear that many of the Wesleyan students were transfixed as well. Here was an irrefutable source, impervious to accusations of bias or racism, exonerating them of responsibility for the terrible situation in the Middle East–and dumping it on the other side. Shoebat had confirmed the deeply-rooted Jewish communal fear of destruction–in this case at the hands of the Palestinians–while absolving the Jews from blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ... For all of his railing against pro-Palestinian propaganda, Shoebat himself preaches a gospel of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is utterly black and white. Shireen Tawil, an American with a Lebanese-Palestinian background and a 2004 graduate of Wesleyan, was struck by Shoebat’s analysis. “He presented the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a religious war, Muslims vs. Jews, which is a very dangerous oversimplification,” said Tawil. “He presented all Palestinians as Muslim terrorists, never delving into what living under occupation is like, the human rights abuses that occur, the psychological effects of living under occupation, or anything of the sort.” http://www.newvoices.org/cgi-bin/articlepage.cgi?id=238
Obsession With Islam (Review of film) http://www.tabsir.net/?p=365
Obsession Review by Jared Cinman http://jarredcinman.wordpress.com/2006/10/01/movie-review-obsession-radical-islams-war-against-the-west/ This film makes one important point: there are extremists out there, and they are dangerous. Point taken. But surely we already knew that? There is nothing new in this documentary apart from the extreme tone with which it is composed. And by presenting such a de-contextualised and one-sided story, it becomes an example of the kind of propoganda it deplores. Far from offering new and shocking insight into radical Islam, it pours petrol onto the fire of the hatred growing on both sides of this religious, political and economic impasse.
Obsession Generates Applause and Controversy http://www.stljewishlight.com/topstories/372310241815237.php
Review of Film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West “But Obsession is at its essence a predictable product of the propaganda genre. Proclaim objectivity about the subject. Frame it at the beginning and end with Edmund Burke’s famous quotation about how all that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing. Show the interviewees who hold favourable opinions through flattering camera angles and clear focus, their faces carefully made up and lit with studio lighting. These are obviously intelligent, rational, knowledgeable people. Show all who hold enemy views in grainy, jumpy newsreels or home-video style that makes “them” look as unattractive as possible, distorted, even less than human. ... Pick a point of view and repeat it over and over. Ignore contradictory evidence or viewpoints. Add enough scenes of blood and carnage for a Hollywood thriller. Draw repeated comparisons to Hitler and his Nazi designs for world domination—complete with a map of the Nazis spilling across Europe like black ink. The radical Muslims are at war with the Jews and the Christians. Don’t be fooled like Neville Chamberlain holding aloft the deal-with-the devil paper bearing both his signature and that of Hitler, proclaiming “peace in our time.” The painful became the absurd toward the end of the “documentary” when the focus is on Jews as targets of radical Islam. The propaganda-laden Obsession shows how Arab news and entertainment media broadcast images that portray Jews as sub-human or evil. True, but the irony was laughable, except that no one was laughing in the Imax.” http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/westview/story/3528812p-4077825c.html
Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West - a positive review http://www.israpundit.com/2006/?p=310
Review of Obsession Film Toronto Showing “Day isn’t here to say anything that could help Canadians understand the terror issue today. He’s here to ratchet up the fear. This is the order of the day, and Obsession delivers the goods. As mind-numbing a propaganda piece as there ever was, Obsession is a relentless journey through the entrails of Islamofascism. There are shocking clips from Palestinian TV of children singing about killing the infidel. Young men are shown training to be suicide bombers. An endless procession of frothy imans spew invective at just about the whole of humanity except those who fall within their narrow comfort zone. Indeed, the film really has me, scares me to death, in fact, until near the end when we see the iconic and fraudulent footage of the statue of Saddam being brought down in central Baghdad just after the U.S. invasion.
Come on, folks. This footage has been definitively discredited and acknowledged for what it is: staged U.S. propaganda. The fact is, Obsession may be a wake-up call, but to buy into its premise requires its audience to ignore the obvious question: Why is there this purported worldwide hate-on against the West? Day’s simple-minded assumption laces the entire Obsession narrative. We “need to come to grips with the fact that terrorists do this out of sheer hatred of differences,’’ he tells the crowd. Nice try, but it conveniently ignores the elephant in the room: generations of mistreatment of the Muslim world by meddling Western powers propping up despotic, corrupt and sometimes, ironically, Islamist regimes; Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land; the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq; and now a Canadian-backed onslaught in Afghanistan which is killing not just Taliban fighters but civilians as well. http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2006-07-06/news_story.php
Walid Shoebat Preaches Violence Not Peace http://www.usforacle.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&ustory_id=c4c6f849-2ec2-420b-9f0d-fdac22304338&page=1
Why Are Some Florida Jewish Groups Sponsoring Anti-Muslim Hate Speech?, Ahmed Bedier http://ahmedbedier.blogspot.com/2006/03/why-are-some-florida-jewish-groups.html
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Jewish Community to Show “Obsession” film and Host Dennis Prager http://www.jewishexponent.com/ViewArticle.asp?ArtID=2697
Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West - film review http://www.honestreporting.com/obsession/
Walid Shoebat Denied Entry Into Canada http://www.canadianchristianity.com/cgi-bin/bc.cgi?bc/bccn/0704/04israel
Obsession Obsessed With Conflict Not Solutions, Aaron Greenblatt http://media.www.nyunews.com/media/storage/paper869/news/2007/01/30/Opinion/obsession.Obsessed.With.Conflict.Not.Solutions-2685189.shtml?sourcedomain=www.nyunews.com&MIIHost=media.collegepublisher.com 1/07
Bernard Lewis speaks and Obsession film shows at same program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2007/02/11/islamists%E2%80%99-historiography/ 2/07
Documentary on Islam Considered Unfair http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C02%5C27%5Cstory_27-2-2007_pg7_29 2/07
Obsession Sparks college debates http://www.flathatnews.com/news/453/obsession-sparks-college-debates 3/2/07
Free Speech vs Intolerance http://media.www.dukechronicle.com/media/storage/paper884/news/2007/03/02/Editorial/Free-Speech.Versus.Intolerance-2754629.shtml 3/2/07
Us vs Them, Paul Craft http://www.stanfordreview.org/Archive/Volume_XXXVIII/Issue_2/Opinions/opinions4.shtml 3/10/07
Obsession Promotes Intolerance of Islam http://media.www.mtsusidelines.com/media/storage/paper202/news/2007/03/19/Opinions/obsession.Promotes.Intolerance.Of.Islam-2779546.shtml 3/18/07
Coming Soon: More Fearmongering With Obsession Sequel, Nick POatler http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/070320-patler-comment.html I can imagine that historians will one day look upon this period as a time when xenophobia swept through an America that refused to look itself in the eye. Documentaries like “Obsession” may even be shown in future classrooms as a tool for understanding the uses of sensational propaganda in history, right along side “The Birth of a Nation,” which terribly demeaned African Americans in the early twentieth century, and Nazi documentaries that dehumanized Jews as vermin. And hopefully they will say that in these times it was darkest before the dawn. 3/20/07
Film on “Radical Islam” Tied to Pro-Israel Groups, Khody Akhavi http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=37090 A controversial documentary on the threat of radical Islam, promoted by the two most-watched U.S. cable news networks, was marketed and supported in part by self-described “pro-Israel” groups, according to an IPS investigation. 3/26/07
The Islamo-Fascist Rationale for Abandoning Liberty, by Jacob G. Hornberger 3/16/07
Documentary Review: Uncovering the Obsessions of “Obsession”, by David Shasha 7/15/07
David Horowitz ‘Declares’ Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week for October 22-26, 2007 on college campuses across the U.S.
Reform Jewish leader tells U.S. Muslims at ISNA Convention that Islam is being demonized 9/2/07