Last week, many newspaper subscribers across the United States were surprised to discover a DVD inserted into their Sunday paper. The video, which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube, is entitled Obsession: Radical Islam's War With the West and portends to compare the threat of radical Islamism with that of Nazi Germany prior to World War II. The DVD's release was timed to match the upcoming elections, and distribution of the DVD was almost entirely within swing states.
Almost immediately, newspapers began receiving complaints for their inclusion of the DVD, which was funded by The Clarion Fund, a group set up to combat “the most urgent threat of radical Islam.” Bloggers in the U.S. and abroad have expressed anger at both the distribution of the DVDs and the related crime.
Jordanian blogger Ali was understandably outraged at the timing:
While We Arabs and Muslims were busy thinking of food during Ramadan and watching Bab El Harra and Asmahan and the remaining 120 series on TV, having our delicious Sheesha’s (Water pipe) after Iftar, some mysterious group or organization was sending this disturbing DVD. The DVD bashes Islam and Muslims and warning Americans from expected terrorists attacks.
I see this as a typical fear-mongering propaganda that is always targeting the American people around Public Holidays and Anniversaries to remind the average American that those uneducated savage killers are still out there and they are ready to get to you.
Can you imagine the damage that was done to Muslims and Arabs and the lousy image we have in the west and the USA?
Not all Americans are well informed or well travelled, or have even met a Muslim. Therefore such hate DVDs will make a huge negative impact on the way they view Muslims and Middle Eastern. This will not be difficult for the relations between the West and East but also for Americans with Arab background living in America who can be harassed or be involved in hate crimes.
A Tale of Three Beans, also a Jordanian blogger, responded to Ali's post in her own blog. She wrote:
So, while I'm on the topic of misleading and outright lying, I wanted to go back to a post by Ali. I know he thought I missed his comment, but this is one of those conversations that requires thought and mulling over. Ali's post was on the mailing of 28 million copies of an inflammatory movie called Obsession to voters in swing states in the US. Now, long ago in my life, I learned not to comment on something about which I have no personal knowledge. So, I went out to youtube and watched the movie. It's divided into 10 six (ish) minute segments. So, now I've mulled and fermented my ideas and have some thoughts.
She then dug deeper into several of the issues related to the video, debunking myths and correcting poor translations. She also pointed out that there are a few valid points in the DVD, saying:
One fundamental message that followers of Islam would do well to heed is that Americans, average Americans, are scared of you. No, not just the radical Muslims -all Muslims. This is normal, it's natural. We're almost always scared of anything that's different. And, you look different. Sadly, both non-Muslims and Muslims alike get drawn into the trap of focusing on differences. Instead of pointing out the similarities between Ramadan and Lent to help bridge the understanding gap, the message delivered is that Christians wouldn't understand fasting (which says more about a lack of understanding of Christianity than anything). Islam and Christianity may vary widely, but they also share similarities. If you can help Americans (and Westerners in general) see that, you will be doing all of us favor. Each of you can play a role as an ambassador of your faith.
Finally, she concludes:
The reality about Americans is that while we may not be the most aware people in the world (nor are we the least, by the way), it's mostly a country of good people. They get up every morning and eat breakfast. They work hard to provide for their families. They love their children and want the best for them. The more things are different, the more they are the same. Americans are just like Jordanians. They're people who try their best to live life and ensure the well-being of their families. Understanding that whatever differences in tradition are just that – differences in tradition – may help bridge this gap. Remember that while you may even agree that American women are immoral, in the same way Americans agree that Arab women are subjugated and without rights. Neither picture is either wholly true or accurate. I think if we all try to understand each other better (not necessarily become like each other), our conversation will be richer and we may be able to leave fear behind and move forward with understanding and respect.
Writer and blogger Laila Lalami expresses few feelings toward the DVD but states that it won't make a difference anyhow:
I don’t, however, think that the DVD will have any effect on swing voters. We are so awash in Islamophobia in the States that any voters likely to be swayed by yet another Muslims-equal-terrorists rant are likely to have already made up their mind by now (and it’s not for Obama, let’s face it.)
Global Voices Morocco author Lalla Lydia explains why we should all watch the video:
I've noted that a lot of you are recognizing this sweet and unseasonal valentine as propaganda and tossing it in the trash.
I wish you wouldn't. Watch it. Like I did. And take notes.
I think it's well done. It reached its goal of scaring the crap out of viewers with all its rising crescendos of fear mongering, driving music and fast-paced images of terrorist attacks around the world.
Less than a week after the DVDs were distributed, children at a Dayton, Ohio mosque were the victims of an apparent hate crime in which gas was sprayed through a window of the building. Bloggers immediately connected the two incidents, despite the mainstream media's denial.
KABOBfest, a blog written by a group of mostly Arab-Americans, reported on the incident:
Is it mere coincidence that this attack comes after the “Obsession” DVD was distributed in the area? It just may be, and hopefully the policy investigate this vigorously enough to give us an answer.
This alarmist, Islamophobic video has been sent to swing states by a shadowy non-profit, the Clarion Fund. It is claiming to have sent 28 million copies. Most of the recipients will recognize it as the hate-ridden drivel it clearly is; but others may be inspired to secure the homeland and attack the enemy within — and this senseless attack may be one such case.
Interestingly, none of the mainstream media have covered this story. Perhaps if a Muslim committed a parallel attack at a church or synagogue, it would be newsworthy. What ever happened to the “man bites dog” theory of media interest? Perhaps we should update the adage to reflect the modern ethnogeography of violence: “White man attacks Muslims, that's not news. But when Muslims attack Whites, now that's a story!”
A Diamond's Eye View of the World, an American who blogs about Lebanon, reminds us that we have the right to protest the distribution of this DVD, sharing the Clarion Fund's address and urging us to write polite letters:
And if you want to contact the Clarion Fund, the address given on the DVD packaging is:
255 W. 36th Street, Ste. 800
New York, NY 10018
Just remember: be polite, be professional, and articulate your position using evidence, not personal insults.
Also of note is that a group called Obsession With Hate has been set up to combat the propaganda perpetuated by the film.
How come no one has made a film about the violence perpetuated against Muslims every day? In Iraq, in Palestine…I could go on.
None of us are denying that there are Muslims who commit crimes and acts of terrorism. That’s a fact. But to discriminate against the whole of the Muslim community based on those crimes is shameful.
I agree with Jillian York and Paolo but stounchly condemn Ben Norman’s remarks. First of all what is West? is it an organization or a union of countries! I agree there are a minority of muslims, most of them victims of the double standards of USA & its un-official puppet state UK. We should first try to define “West”. Other than the Madrid bombing its only the US and UK which can be included in the “Targeted West by these radical muslims” France, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries and specially Canada were never threatened by any Muslim groups. Therefore there is a reason why people in the middle east and muslims in these countries hate these two countries so much.
Radical islamist, mujahideens and Bin ladin (Al Qeida)are products of CIA to combat the USSR, USA and UK armed,supported and initiated the 8 years long Iran-Iraq war which annihilated millions from both sides. It was a US arms company through CIA who supplied the biological weapons which killed so many Kurds. USA supplied the cluster bombs to Israel who used them illegally (against UN conventions) in the heavily populated South Lebanon (Millions of dollars are spent to clear the un-exploded ones whereby these funds could be used to feed the starving,aid-victims,Natural dister related victims etc.)
An Isreili connected to the high ranks of Likud party once boasted to a friend (sorry no names!!) that USA is a Mighty Robot cum ATM and we the Isreli’s (via AIPAC) have the remote control. Our citizens live with more income from US than average Americans.Whenever any resolution agaisnt Isreal is put forward in the UN Security Council, we press the “VETO” button and the Mighty US humbly obliges. 80% of the espionage cases in US are committed by US-Israel dual citizens or supporters of Israel, the percentage has dropped a little due to Chinese involvement.
Therefore I would suggest to The Clarion Fund to re-name the title as “CIA produced(mostly muslim)Radicals, against US and UK ”
Thanks – Gasia2008
in the west we have books and movies only on the ‘radical islam’ and not on violence perpetuated against Muslims every day, because, borrowing from Antony Loewenstein, author of “Blogging revolution”:
“…our press is obsessed with Ahmadinejad, terrorism, Iraq or human rights. These are all vitally important issues, but they don’t define the place.”
it’s not a secret that today (most of) western media and culture are actually obsessed with this kind of terrorism, of course in the name of ‘national security’
now i do understand what “obsession” in the movie title is referring to….
I will be honest, I have not seen this movie and I most likely never will but I can only gather what the message is, and that really makes me angry and sad. I think there is too much emphasis being but on terrorisim and Islam and not enough on the goodness of the people and the beauty of their culture and faith. What makes me angry the most is the fact that these “Propaganda” movies are being made and people who know absoultely nothing about Islam and the Muslim culture are getting there first lesson from that! This only increases the divide, fear, and hate.
I live in a predomonitely Arabic/Muslim neighborhood, it is mostly Egyptians. The culture I see around me is amazing and I have talked with some beautiful people and I have respect for them as they do for everyone else in the community. It makes me sad that the only venue through which people learn about one another if from the media propagandists.
Jillian, the explanation should have been clear from my first comment. The vast majority of Muslims are moderate, maybe even “peace-loving” although the term is hard to take seriously now it’s a cliche.
The movie does portray Islamists accurately, and I am sure some people in the U.S. think this way, but most are in the Middle East and Europe. Why is it a “stain” on the country? I cannot let that kind of hyperbole slide. This movie is about a controversial subject, it does not help to distort its contents.
A religion than condones/encourages sexual mutilation of girls and the selling (marriage) at 9 years old to a pedofile chosen by their pimp/father … an in the name of God… is evil and an abomination.
There are monsters in every religion and country but in civilized places such a thing is agains the law and any human decency. No wonder you are thoroughly disliked and despised.
Your second comment was much clearer.
Nevertheless, I disagree with you. The film ignores what drove Islamists to their extreme acts in the first place; we cannot discount the effect American policy, Israeli policy, and hatred have had on bringing about extremism in these communities. That does not by any means excuse violent acts, but neither is there an excuse for American policy of the past several decades toward Arab countries.
Jullian York. I can not answer that question. It would seem that they have the capability to do so judging from the number of films that they make of decapitations of captives in Muslim hands, reactions in the Muslim world over Danish cartoons, Muslims reactions to 3,000 innocent people in the U.S. being murdered, etc.
Jillian York: A follow up: Most of the violence “perpetrated against Muslims ever day” is perpetrated by Muslims against Muslims. Maybe it would be hard to separate the directors and writers for the task of making a film about this. They would likely be trying to kill each other before any footage was shot. The shame of the whole situation is
That there is a “religion” that justifies the killing of innocent people just trying to go about their duties of the day, riding in airplanes or just being in an airport trying to get ready to go somewhere, remember the terrorist attacks in the late 80’s in Rome and Vienna, busses, subways or just being in a hotel lobby or on the street, you should get the point, this is the shame of jihad. Until the perpetrators of such crimes cease their mindless killing, you will see a need for such films as “Obsession” being made. Perhaps if you had lost a loved one in one of these senseless acts of violence you would do some study and try to find out what Islam is all about and then have a better understanding of what is occurring world wide.**** Bernardo Parrella: Why wouldn’t folks be obsessed with this when there is a group of people that are out to kill you? It is said that only 10% of the 1.3 billion are extremist but do the math. I think that figures out to some where around 130 million folks that want maybe want to do you harm. Just a side note: in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul there at 6 Swords of the Prophet. Tell me where there are any Swords of Jesus or Swords of the Buddha.
> doug: i think we’d never forget global and historical perspectives here
in many places in the world people have lived for decades under the constant threat of holy and unholy acts of terror, and still do it now — and yet people still get on buses and subways and airplanes, and life goes on
and how many loved ones has been lost by many people in the world due senseless acts of violence perpetrated by the US in its history? and right now, how many innocent people are being killed in iraq by the coalition bombs? those that we never, ever read about in the US media? someone calculated in about a million – a million – the civilian people murdered so far by the US invasion of iraq
so, who is doing harm to whom here? and why US foreign policy had never had (and much less now) such great reputation in vast parts of the world?
and more importantly, who’s gaining from pushing this “obsession” all the time? there are already way too many threats and deaths and extremists around the world, why instill more of this useless and anachronistic feeling of “us vs. them”? why some americans want to push for more hatred? and in so doing, isolate even further the US from the rest of the world? could this truly be a good strategy to prevent “extremists to do us harm”? can’t we do better?