On June 3 at 7 p.m., the Aloha Church in Lihu‘e will be screening the controversial film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The film, released in 2006, has stirred divisive feelings among the press and the public: It has yet to find a distributor and has been banned by several college campuses due to it’s strong condemnation and comparison between fundamentalist Islam and Nazism, and myopic perspective on the war in Iraq and it’s relation to the future of Israel and the on-going conflict between the West and Middle East.
With no traditional distributor picking the film up, college campuses, Jewish and fundamentalist Christian groups have held showings for their communities.
According to administrators at Pace University in New York, the November film showing was canceled because, “it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students,” states the school’s Web page on campus news.
One of the supporters of the film’s message, the conservative reporter Glenn Beck of CNN said “…it is without question one of the most important films of our time.”
FOX News wrote in a November review: “The film contradicts those who say that Muslim extremism is prompted by our actions in the Middle East, pointing out that anti-Western propaganda, school curricula and other indoctrination of Islamic youth has been going on for quite some time. Like Nazi Germany, with whom radical Islamists had a deep affinity before and during World War II, the first step of indoctrination is to dehumanize Jews and Christians by comparing them with pigs and dogs. What we too easily dismiss as infantile stereotypes, particularly regarding the Jews and their supposed domination of America, can sink in if repeated often enough.”
The film’s producer, Raphael Shore, a Canadian who lives in Israel said in a New York Times interview, “The evangelical Christians and the Jews tend to be the softest market, the most receptive to the message of the film, so we have done lots with those groups. But we are trying very hard to expand beyond those groups, because we specifically don’t want it to be seen as a film that has that connection.”
The difficulty of reaching beyond those groups is that the film’s thesis is both inflammatory and consistent with the Bush administration’s stance on the war, says Shore. “Today, we find ourselves confronted by a new enemy, also engaged in a violent struggle to transform our world. As we sleep in the comfort of our homes, a new evil rises against us. A new menace is threatening, with all the means at its disposal, to bow Western Civilization under the yoke of its values. That enemy is Radical Islam,” states the film’s Web site.
Those who disagree with this analysis would also see the film as a biased account of what has, and is happening.
The comparison between Nazism and Jihadist Islam made in the film draws specifically on the indoctrination of the young people into fighting the war under the guidance of community and religious teachers.
Yet the film does a disservice to unbiased reporting as it fails to present the enormous schisms within Islam on these issues and the history of the religion. The New York Times reported that Jewish Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel, called the documentary propaganda and said it was “a way to transfer the Middle East conflict to the campus, to promote hostility.”
On the film’s Web site, the producers provide a forum for frequently asked questions. When asked: “Muslims may be using terrorism, but aren’t the U.S. and Israel also using terrorism against their enemies?”
The producers respond: “Terrorism, by definition, involves the targeting of civilians. While civilian casualties sometimes result from military initiatives — and this is unfortunate — this is not their goal. According to this definition, what distinguishes the U.S. and Israel from groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaida, is the deliberate and indiscriminate use of violence which targets civilians specifically. Israeli and U.S. soldiers are not entering cafes in downtown areas and blowing themselves up amid innocent men, women and children.”
The supposition that the Western powers have not targeted civilian neighborhoods, homes, busy streets with cafes and markets is under debate between journalists and officials from their respective countries. While Pentagon officials “do not keep tallies of civilian casualties,” as a regulation of the Department of Defense, “Iraq Body Count” — an international organization that works to keep and report the numbers, “at minimum 64,133, to the maximum 70,243 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the Iraq War.”
With no central “military command” for Jihadists, their place of work is often within civilian areas, and therefore would be targeted by anti-terrorist military action.
The Jerusalem Post in support for the film notes the film “effectively shows the depth of the hatred and indoctrination to jihad that is taking place worldwide. Interweaving clips from Arab television, recordings of mosque incitement… the film seeks to fill the void left by the Western media and academia to alert regular citizens to the reality of the threat that Jihadist ideology presents to their freedom.”
The film’s producers state: “We are not anti-Muslim … we are against the radical Islamists who want to impose their violent, oppressive world view, with little value for life and the manifold pleasures within.”
A Muslim student, and president of the Muslim Association at New York’s Stony Brook University, said of the film in a New York Times interview: “The movie was so well crafted and emotion manipulating that I felt myself thinking poorly of some aspects of Islam.”
As most might agree, stereotypes hinder deeper understanding or resolutions to a conflict. Peacemakers would say learning about one’s enemy is the key to dissolving that enemy, whether on the school playground or on the battlefield. Fundamental extremists of any religion, are by definition separatists and have led to conflict throughout the history of civilization.
Pastor Vill writes, “We will have opportunity to see the powerful new film, ‘Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,’ a film about the threat of radical Islam to Western civilization,” inviting all to attend.
• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or email@example.com.