Tuesday, December 1, 2009 , Updated 9:37 a.m., December 2, 2009
UPDATED with Q/A: Free streaming video opportunity: Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West
This controversial (and extremely politically-incorrect) film serves up a scarifying look at how Islamic extremist societies appear to be institutionalizing their hatred of Jews and the West.
Does the film Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West (2005) diverge so far from enlightened objectivity as to itself become the kind of viperous propaganda diatribe it condemns?
You can judge for yourself from now until December 10, which is the last date the film's promoters say it will be available for free video streaming from their website -- from whence one may also purchase a DVD copy of the film, or even "support the cause" by donating funds to further spread the word about the threat of radical Islam.
[NOTE that The Clarion Fund, which is promoting the video's dissemination, has been linked to a pro-Israel organization known as Aish Hatorah.]
One might blurt out the immediate objection that the threat of radical Islam has been well understood since 9/11/2001 (scenes from the horrid events of which are repeated throughout the film), but hold on: This film goes much, much further, attempting to make the case that some states and societies are turning their hatred of all non-Muslim people (including Jews and U.S. citizens) into official policy, and teaching it to their children via the classroom.
Which is, without doubt, a controversial and potentially polarizing viewpoint.
After getting a disclaimer out of the way at the beginning of the film ("Most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror -- this film is not about them"), the filmmakers (director Wayne Kopping; writer Raphael Shore) go about attempting to justify their assertions by including newsreels of terrorist attacks, interviews with selected spokespeople, and TV footage from Islamic media outlets.
The lineup of talking heads includes:
* Celebrity attorney/Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
* Nonie Darwish, credited in the film as being the daughter of a jihadist "martyr," now serving as director of Former Muslims United.
* American academic and writer Daniel Pipes.
* Walid Shoebat, a self-described "former PLO terrorist" and current strong supporter of the state of Israel.
* Itamar Marcus, Israeli political activist and founder/director of Palestinian Media Watch.
* Alfons Heck, a former Hitler Youth, who talks (and talks) about the parallels between his childhood indoctrination to Nazism and the manner in which young people in some Islamic states are being taught to demonize Jews, and the West in general.
The film's most chilling sequences involve interviews with school children, in which they proclaim their eagerness to slit the throats of Jews. Oh, and there's the footage of Islamic protesters on the streets of a U.S. city, stating how a "loophole" in the U.S. Constitution (aka freedom of speech) allows them the right to proclaim "death to America" while trampling the American flag underfoot.
There's much talk of how the mainstream American press seems to be intentionally minimizing the threat posed by radical Islam (the filmmakers must not be watching enough FOXNews), while in counterpoint, a radical Muslim cleric describes how it's acceptable to treat kuffar (i.e., non-Muslims) like cattle in the streets.
To further inflame outraged Western sensibilities, the film includes videotaped scenes of purported Muslims desecrating the houses of worship of various faiths (including a Christian church and a Buddhist temple) -- though nothing is provided in terms of specifics regarding the locations of these incidents or when they occurred.
While much is made of the fact that the expression of dissenting ideology-based opinions in fundamentalist Muslim societies is a near impossibility, to its credit the film does conclude with a couple of clips showing Muslim commentators decrying this very state of affairs.
Though by this time, a significant percentage of Western viewers are likely to have barred their doors and strapped on their ammo belts. (Or grabbed up torches and pitchforks.)
Obsession trailer (2006)
UPDATE: I forwarded a few questions to the filmmakers via Alex Traiman, who's in charge of media relations for the Clarion Fund. Below are his responses.
* How do you counter the argument that your film, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, diverges so far from objectivity as to itself become the kind of propaganda diatribe it seeks to condemn?
There needs to be a sharp distinction between a documentary that provokes thought and discussion and a radical ideology that penetrates such deep hatred that it results in deadly acts of terror all over the world on a regular basis. The first moments of our film clarify that the piece is not about an entire religion, but about radical extremists -- those within a religion that actively seek physical harm to others that do not agree with their ideals.
Most importantly, what separates our documentary from the type of propaganda disseminated by those that seek to spread hatred, is that the majority of footage from our film comes [from] Arab media. We could not have made this up if we wanted to. If Obsession shows a clip of Hassan Nasrallah calling for "Death to America", that is an objective film documenting radical propaganda. That cannot and must not be construed in any other light.
* What, if anything, is the Clarion Fund's connection to Aish HaTorah?
Producer Raphael Shore used to be an employee of Aish HaTorah. And Shore produced the film Relentless which centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel and Judaism are certainly close to his heart. However, the Clarion Fund is a completely independent entity that focuses exclusively on the threats of radical Islam to national security and the American way of life. And as a filmmaker, Shore has done an excellent job focusing Obsession and The Third Jihad squarely on these threats.
* How many DVDs have been sold through the film's website?
Well over 50,000 DVDs have been sold through the site. Many additional copies have been sold by resellers and on Amazon.
* Since the film was made (in 2005), have any of the filmmakers, or the people interviewed on camera, received death threats from radical Islamic groups?
The filmmakers have fortunately not received such threats.