Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CAIR Joins Interfaith Leaders in Condemning 'Obsession' Distribution

From Market Watch
Last update: 3:11 p.m. EDT Oct. 7, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 07, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Jewish, Christian, Muslim leaders say film attempts to 'de-humanize' Muslims
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today joined dozens of national Jewish, Christian and Muslim interfaith leaders in condemning the distribution of the anti-Muslim film "Obsession" to 28 million households in presidential election swing states nationwide.
A statement, issued today at a news conference held by the Interfaith Alliance in Washington, D.C., read in part:
"We, the undersigned religious leaders, representing a wide spectrum of theological beliefs and political persuasions, have come together in moral consensus to voice our deep concern over the recent distribution of a deeply divisive and anger-provoking DVD called 'Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West' to residents across the United States.
"The singular impact of this DVD is not to fight our common threat of terrorism, but to mischaracterize Islam in a way that de-humanizes Muslims...
"'Obsession' serves as a divisive political ploy that undermines the integrity of American religious pluralism. Indeed, it is the duty of every American to stand against those who would divide our common and cherished beliefs by inciting fear and furthering ignorant stereotypes."
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad is a signatory to the joint statement, which was coordinated by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
To read the entire statement, go to: http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=711
Over the weekend, CAIR released a statement by Howard Gordon, the executive producer of Fox's drama "24," in which he withdrew his endorsement of "Obsession." Gordon said that "the goal of co-existence and tolerance is not being served by films like Obsession."
CAIR noted that others are withdrawing their support for the film that many commentators have called anti-Muslim "propaganda." Even a pro-Israel think tank, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), pulled out of "The Obsession Project."
Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, a Muslim interviewee for "Obsession," now calls the production a "vile piece of propaganda." In a statement sent to the website http://www.obsessionwithhate.com/, Dr. Mohammed said: "Sadly, it would seem that I have allowed myself to be used."
SEE: Statement of Dr. Khaleel Mohammed http://www.obsessionwithhate.com/thepundits.php#khaleel
The "Obsession with Hate" site was launched recently by the Hate Hurts America Multifaith Community Coalition (HHA), a group of religious and civic organizations seeking to challenge hate speech in our society.
A recent article in the St. Petersburg Times revealed ties between the film's distributor, the Clarion Fund, and the Israel-based group Aish HaTorah. The newspaper's investigative report stated: "Clarion's address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, a fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah. The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to a group called HonestReporting, which produced Obsession. HonestReporting's 2006 tax return uses the same address."
Based on these revelations and on the Clarion Fund's apparent attempt to use its non-profit status to impact the presidential election in favor of a particular candidate, CAIR filed complaints with both the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Those interviewed in "Obsession" constitute a veritable who's who of Muslim-bashers. Speakers include Walid Shoebat, who once told a Missouri newspaper that he sees "many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam" and "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil." (Springfield News-Leader, 9/24/07)
Others interviewed in the film include Nonie Darwish, a self-styled "former Moslem" who wrote that "Islam is cruel, anti-women, anti-religious freedom and anti-personal freedom in general;" and Daniel Pipes, who warned a Jewish convention of the "true dangers" posed by "the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims." (American Jewish Congress, 10/21/2001)
Another "Obsession" interviewee, Brigitte Gabriel, told the Australian Jewish News: "Every practising Muslim is a radical Muslim." She also claimed that "Islamo-fascism is a politically-correct word... it's the vehicle for Islam... Islam is the problem."
When asked whether Americans should "resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation," Gabriel said:
"Absolutely. If a Muslim who has -- who is -- a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day -- this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations

View Statement from American Religious Leaders in Response to Mass Distribution of 'Obsession'
Media Public Affairs Council
October 06, 2008
We, the undersigned religious leaders, representing a wide spectrum of theological beliefs and political persuasions, have come together in moral consensus to voice our deep concern over the recent distribution of a deeply divisive and anger-provoking DVD called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" to residents across the United States.

The singular impact of this DVD is not to fight our common threat of terrorism, but to mischaracterize Islam in a way that de‐humanizes Muslims.

Unfortunately, 28 million copies of the DVD were distributed in 12 electoral "swing states" by 70 newspapers as a paid advertisement. This is a testament to how widely acceptable anti‐Muslim prejudice has become in our country. If these same publications had distributed a film portraying the Ku Klux Klan's views as common to all Christians, the outrage would have been immediate and overwhelming.

We do not pretend to know the goals of those who distributed this DVD. We do know, however, that the distribution and content of this DVD is absolutely inconsistent with what it means to be fair-minded Americans. Invoking fear and hatred in American voters is not the way to address the real problems of extremism and terrorism that our nation faces.

"Obsession" serves as a divisive political ploy that undermines the integrity of American religious pluralism. Indeed, it is the duty of every American to stand against those who would divide our common and cherished beliefs by inciting fear and furthering ignorant stereotypes.

We invite those who distributed this DVD to engage us in a conversation about what it means to be a believing American, and how our beliefs about how we treat each other, across deep differences, is the best way to confront and defeat extremism and terrorism.

We are determined to lead our communities in the effort to foster mutual understanding, to stand firm against the tide of bigotry, and protect American pluralism. As for the rest of America, please stand with us, determined in your conviction to lead our communities toward mutual understanding while protecting and promoting the security of the United States and its precious pluralism.

To sign onto this statement, please email communications@mpac.org with your full name, title, affiliation and contact information.
What is 'Obsession'?
FROM: ObsesionWithHate.Org
Breaking News: One Obsession Pundit breaks his silence and spills the beans. Read his chilling statement sent to obsessionwithhate.com here that calls the film "a vile piece of propaganda" and "alarmist drivel," and offers his apology for allowing himself to be used by the deceptive filmmakers.
Breaking News: The St. Petersburg Times uncovers the ties between the film’s distributors and the Israel-based group Aish HaTorah.

What is 'Obsession'?
Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West is a 2005 anti-Muslim propaganda film put together by controversial anti-Muslim figures to further the perceived divide between Western and Muslim audiences. 28 million copies of the DVD were recently distributed by a mysteriously-funded entity by the name of the Clarion Fund with the help of 70 US newspapers in a curious and unprecedented campaign. This large distribution, particularly given it was targeted to swing states in the current elections cycle, piqued the interest of many, especially civil rights watchdogs.

Why is 'Obsession' a hate film, can we deny that radical violent Muslims exist?Of course, there is no denying that there are those who have misused Islam to promote an anti-Western militant ideology that is responsible for the tragic 9/11 attacks and other deplorable terrorist acts around the globe. Few would disagree that Al Qaeda and its imitators are ruthless enemies that the United States must deal with forcefully. But “Obsession” is not an honest critique of violent radicalism. Instead, it is a propaganda piece that seeks to cast a wide net of suspicion against Muslims by blurring the line between violent radicalism and mainstream Islam. As such, it does not call on credible experts and reputable scholars but resorts to shady characters like “former-terrorist” Walid Shoebat, who has made such outlandish statements as: “Islam is not the religion of God Islam is the devil.” In a recent commentary responding to the distribution of “Obsession,” Jeff VanDenBerg, director of Middle East Studies at Drury University, called the film “a blatant piece of anti-Muslim propaganda.” He also wrote: “The film ‘Obsession’ plays to the crudest stereotypes and promotes the simplest solutions. In the end, this kind of thinking will do far more to harm American security than it will to help it.” (News-Leader, 9/17/08)

What about the film's declaration that it is not about moderate Muslims, just radical ones?“Obsession” begins with a brief disclaimer that states: “It is important to remember that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror.” However, the remainder of the film distorts facts and events in an attempt to convince its audience of the exact opposite.

What is the film's main goal?The film’s ultimate goal is to lay the grounds for a larger religious war that goes beyond our national security interests and has only two beneficiaries: radical evangelicals who hold an apocalyptic worldview, and war profiteers who gamble at the expense of thousands of American lives and trillions of tax-payer dollars.

What are the film's main tactics?“Obsession” employs two main tactics. First, it exploits Americans’ unfamiliarity with Islam and Muslims to suggest that deviant groups are somehow representative of most, if not all, Muslims. It scours the Muslim world for bizarre incidents and falsely projects them as the accepted norm. It then concludes that the Muslim world is an overall radical hotbed that wishes death and destruction upon the West. In fact, while the Muslim world has its share of fanatics, they comprise a tiny fraction of the population and are highly at odds with a mainstream society that aspires to peace and prosperity. Second, “Obsession” exploits the legitimate apprehension that many feel in this country as a result of 9/11 and attempts to instigate a state of full-blown hysteria. Only widespread hysteria could make questionable military excursions such as the Iraq occupation a possible sell yet again. In fact, America faces no imminent threat from Muslim nations, who are themselves wary of the minority radicals in their midst. No Muslim nation has ever attacked our homeland, and none is likely to ever initiate such an attack.

If 'Obsession' is a sub-par work of propaganda, why should we waste our time talking about it?Sensational content aside, “Obsession” ought to peak our interest for two reasons: The first is the gargantuan size of the operation: 28 million free copies distributed via 70 major daily newspapers. That could cost tens of millions of dollars if we assume even conservative advertising rates. The second reason is how surprisingly little we know about the operation itself. All we know is that the film’s distribution is paid for by a shadowy organization called the Clarion Fund. For an entity so well-endowed, the Clarion Fund’s website offers no relevant information about its identity or its source of funding. Its 990 forms are not yet public.

What needs to be done moving forward?Three important questions have to be answered: First, who exactly is this Clarion Fund and what is its source of funding? The public has a right to know and reporters have a responsibility to investigate. Second, the film is being distributed only in swing states with the obvious strategic goal of swaying the elections. That should automatically put the burden on both candidates to speak out and clearly communicate their positions on this film and its distribution tactics. Voters have a right to know where the candidates stand and journalists have a responsibility to ask. Third, given the sheer size of this operation and its self-described political nature, it is baffling to note the apathy with which it has been met on our primetime network election coverage. It does not just affect Muslims, but all Americans, when sensationalism threatens to hijack honest and informed debate on the key issues in the biggest decision of our generation. Be sure to read the full rebuttal to the false arguments made by Obsession.

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