In an outrageous attempt to raise fears and produce votes in favor of John McCain, the movie Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was distributed to over 28 million homes with funding provided by Clarion Fund. A flagrant misrepresentation of Islamic beliefs, the film purposely undermines its own disclaimers in order to distort Islam and demonize Muslims.
Beginning with a disclaimer that “most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror,” the film immediately begins to contradict this statement. Organizing an A-list of Islamophobes, including Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, and Daniel Pipes, Obsession portrays the hostility of terrorists as a fundamental element in Islam. These self-proclaimed Islamic experts spew hateful rhetoric reflecting that which terrorists use against the West.
Among the many perversions of Islam in this film, false assumptions about the term Jihad are the most intolerable. For a Muslim, the term Jihad refers to a struggle which may be good or evil. Such a struggle is Islamic only if it is in the cause of God (Fi sabil Allah), which means both the ends and the means must be righteous. While there is no doubt that many Muslims have manipulated the word Jihad to fit their own bidding, the comparison of “Jihad” to “Mein Kampf,” simply because “jihad” and “kampf” both mean struggle is a gratuitous and abhorrent attempt to equate Muslim scripture with the paranoid ravings of a fascist anti-Semite.
Furthermore, once the distorted definition of Jihad is established, the implication of quotes also becomes distorted. For example, Arafat is quoted in the movie as condemning acts of terrorism juxtaposed with a video of him chanting “Jihad! Jihad.” Obsession would have you believe he is calling for the use of terrorism against the West. However, a scenario in which Arafat is reminding the Palestinian people to remain committed struggle for a Palestinian State seems much more likely. In fact, Arafat was a secularist indicating a position inherently opposed to religious war.
Shortly after this scene, the experts of Obsession profess to evaluate the core of Radical Islam, but they completely dismiss any shortcomings in American foreign policy or provocative Western action, and simply pronounce Islamic militants illogical and unyielding. An unrelenting desire of Islam to conquer the West is cited as their lone motivation. Analogous to McCarthyism, panic is spread over an Islamic threat instead of a Communist threat. (At least McCarthy has the excuse that the Soviets actually occupied states like Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The attack on the World Trade Center was despicable, but the notion that its objective was to occupy the United States is laughable.)
The Neoconservatives eventually resort to baseless comparisons to the Nazi regime as a shameless scare tactic. Obsession compares the propaganda of the Nazi regime, defined as “hate speech, paranoia and us against them” to the propaganda of the Arab world. Ironically, these characteristics perfectly embody the tone of Obsession. By using generalizations and weak evidence, this film egregiously portrays Muslims from around the world.
Notwithstanding the fundamentally wrong arguments of the film, the most offensive aspect remains the inability, or perhaps the lack of desire to distinguish between the common beliefs of most Muslims and the very small minority that collaborate in terrorist organizations. For me, the most shocking moment occurs with a video of Muslims praying at Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, and the narrator asking, “The question then becomes, what percentage of the Muslim world supports Jihad and could be considered radicals or Islamic fundamentalists?”
The movie informs the audience that there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world but chooses not to reiterate the fact most are not extremist. Pipes appears to pull figures out of thin air, claiming 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are radical. Orchestrating the same level of intolerance and ignorance as the very group they target, Obsession completely misrepresents the Islamic faith. A true Muslim is a believer in peace through justice, not a warmonger. The film’s hidden agenda aims to encourage a military centered strategy without examining the potential ramifications of such a misdirected policy.
Imran Michael Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute