Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obsession: a documentary of hate and fear

In the Sunday edition of the Toledo Blade, readers received a surprise in the middle section, a free DVD. The title of this free gift ['beware of the Greeks, even when they bear gifts'] is 'Obsession: Radical Islam's war against the West'. It's a one hour so called documentary.

As the day went on, I learned that this 'gift' had not just been given to the good people of Toledo, cities all over the nation, [in selected states, the swing states actually] had received this DVD. Our community held a meeting to plan a response, and it was revealed there that seventy-two newspapers carried this DVD nationwide, reaching an estimated audience of twenty-eight million!

This DVD placed together a variety of disparate clips of images and statements throughout the world in an attempt to show the audience that 'Radical' Islam is out there, ready and able to destroy the Western way of life, and as such the West, the fountain of civilization and freedom, must be on guard, against "them". "They are here, among us" one speaker on this production said.

The same good 'ol boys

Among the many individuals featured or shown in this production, the most prominent are Walid Shoebat, Brigitte Gabriel, Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes. All of these individuals are directly involved in organizations that seek funds and support for their respective agendas, usually revolve around Pro-Israeli or Zionist interests, the defense industry, and Evangelical Christian circles, those who claim a monopoly on Biblical interpretation, whose figures earn quite a bit of money from speeches, books, etc.. [One web site claims Shoebat earns over $13,000 for each speech]. Thus, people such as those featured on the DVD cannot be relied upon to give reliable, unbiased and accurate information.

Another speaker, Lamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch, implies that Muslims created the myth that Jewish ritual requires the blood sacrifice of a child, when in reality this idea was founded by Europeans, Christians, in the Middle Ages.

False implications

Mr. Shoebat made the laughable assertion that Jihad [ which means 'struggle' ], explained by him as 'self-struggle', is still a dangerous concept comparable to Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf , which means 'My struggle'. This can be compared to a person making the wrong assumption that there is a conspiracy behind the fact that the word Ingerris [Melayu for 'English'] appears so close to the 'N' word used in the USA as an insulting reference to Blacks.

In any case, a common theme throughout the documentary is the 'similarities' between Islam and Nazism. One speaker said that radical Islam is more dangerous than Nazism, and of course there were many pictures of German troops and Hitler. Much was made of a 'close' relationship between Palestinian Mufti Ikrima Sabri and Nazi Germany, but the same assertions could very well be made of the relationship between Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and the United states.

It was constantly repeated that 'moderate' Muslims need to speak out against terrorism. Yet, Muslims have been doing just that. Even the events of September 11, 2001 found condemnation from Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, all opponents of US policy in the Middle East, all of whom are designated Terrorists by the US! It is very easy to confirm that the religious and political institutions of Muslims worldwide have condemned violence and murder, regardless of the identity of the victims or the perpetrators. A simple Internet search would suffice to answer that challenge. All of this is well-documented.

Induces Amnesia

A clip from an Arabic language television program is said to be especially frightening for Western audiences, in which a child is kidnapped by Jews for the purposes of sacrifice in a religious ritual. The propaganda is horrible, says this DVD. Yet, the same can be said of Hollywood films such as Death before dishonor, Seige, or Delta Force!

Every community has its bad apples, its elements who are so filled with rage that anything they say will most certainly be shocking. So, clips of representatives of the British-based group Al-Muhajiroun as well as Abu Hamza Al-Misri, former fighter in Afghanistan and also formerly of Britian making shocking statements was to be expected. That these figures are ignored by the wider Muslim community is never mentioned.

This DVD absolves the West of any responsibility for the grievances felt by people worldwide. It seeks to oversimplify the situation as 'Muslims hating the freedoms and success of the West'. While such grievances are not the subject of this particular post, nonetheless it would be wise for the reader to remember that there is two sides to every story, and that images can be decieving.

Concluding thoughts

Obsession only reinforced the stereotypes held about Arabs and Muslims. It has the potential to create a backlash of violence, even terrorism from right-wing groups and militias, against Western Muslims. Whole families can be placed in great danger as a result of this DVD. Of course, the controvery will die down, and individual Mosques and community leaders will respond to it, but nonetheless it is our feeling that the intentions of the creators and backers of Obsession have less than honorable intentions.

To our Muslim readers, we advise patience, and most importantly- do not overreact. It's a safe assumption that the producers of this so-called documentary want us to do exactly that. The propaganda war against Islam and Muslims is nothing new. It happened in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and is recorded in the Qur'an. A succinct example is given in the following words;

Is this a message that you ridicule, and you earn your money by lying about it? [Q 56:81-82].

Our long term responses to propaganda of this nature is to be better Muslims, live as Islam teaches us. Have inviting, clean Mosques, be prepared to answer questions honestly, make Islamic literature [especially the Qur'an] available to your friends, co workers and neighbors. These sort of actions will cancel out the efforts of the hateful and, God-willing, create a safer situation for ourselves and plant the seeds for greater understanding.


Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum bro

I totally agree with you! Totally.

The "documentary" (if one could call it such) did not even disguise the fact that it needs propaganda to demonize Muslims to a Western audience. In fact, the DVD is an example of exactly what they claim those "radical islamists" are doing.

I was really surprised to see how much effort had been paid to try to link Islam to Nazism. And even though they claimed a couple of times that "not all Muslims are like this," what started as a tiny minority was pretty soon considered by the speakers as over 30%, and probably up to half of all Muslims worldwide. Most Muslims are probably well aware that "radical islam" is only a thin semantic cover of the true object of enmity which is all Muslims. But the effort to compare it to Nazism really surprised me--going all the way back to footage of Chamberlain and explaining the Munich appeasement.

That is really significant even though the lessons of Munich really should not be applied today. It's like they are admitting that they want to hold on to a philosophy which is clearly outdated. Muslims aren't Nazis and there's no Muslim Hitler. However, the attempt to convince viewers otherwise was pretty astonishing.

And you're right, all of this was while totally absolving the West (USA, UK, and Israel in particular) of any guilt for the current state of affairs in the middle east.

The theme overall was pretty clear, that Muslims are just evil, unless they are the "moderate" type.

And I don't know how anyone could take Brigitte Gabriel seriously with that lipstick... I sure couldn't concentrate... but her message was to try to get support for "moderate Muslims." But at the same time you had Nonie Darwish saying that it is the "duty" of Muslims to kill... someone.

One thing that bothered me which you didn't mention was how snidely words were hijacked from their proper meanings, like "shaheed" and "jihad."

Someone really thinks that some Muslims are out to get the Jews. That was the message that left me after watching this DVD. In fact, that someone is OBSESSED with threats against Jews.

And as for how should we respond?

I don't think there is a response. They should be responding to us. We should be proactive in explaining Islam so that they have to respond to us. I can't even imagine how much money it took to so widely distribute this DVD, but I really don't think it has much hope of swaying public opinion.

70% of Americans who have personal relationships with Muslims have a positive impression of Islam. All their money isn't doing much good if all a Muslim has to do is just smile, right? :-)

I think this kind of fear mongering is only going to work around people who are already convinced that Islam is the devil or something like that.

Sis L said...

Assalamu alaikom bro,

During my journey to find the truth right before my conversion to Islam, I bought this movie. I wanted to check out what exactly Radical or Extreme Islam really was. I watched it, but it affected me in a good way. It increased my curiosity on Islam, thus causing me to search out more information about Islam, which led to my conversion.
Subhanallah, who would of ever thought that watching a movie like this would play a part in leading me into the correct path.

Although the intention of the film itself is to keep you away from the right path, but it backlashed on them. I thank Allah for that.