RADICAL JUDAISM'S WAR WITH ISLAM
- OBSESSION: RADICAL ISLAM'S WAR WITH THE WEST? OR OBSESSION:
RADICAL JUDAISM'S WAR WITH ISLAM
On August 30th the `documentary' Obsession: Radical Islam's War With
the West was shown in Saint Louis. Prior to the showing of the film
we had approached our local Interfaith Partnership group and asked if
they would stand with us to express their objection to this film, and
were told that 1) this was not an interfaith issue, and 2) is was a
matter of free speech.
I understand that all of us have a right to free speech, and that even
hateful speech is protected. I do not understand how any part of the
religious community can not only condone but promote propaganda and
racism directed towards another religious community. The showing of
this film was legal, but we question that it was moral.
This `event' was sponsored by Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, advertised
in the Jewish Light as a community wide event, and in Jewish in Saint
Louis and at the event Robert Cohn, Editor of Jewish Light praised the
film and the speaker. The organizations who were listed as event
sponsors in the program were: Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, Branches of
Issachar, Citizens for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East,
EMMIS Communications, and Saint Louis Hillel. Branches of Issachar is
a Christian group, but we have been unable to find any information
about them. A billboard complete with stereotypical Arab was posted
on a local highway to advertise the event. Aish Hatorah's spin off
organization Honest Reporting also produced this film.
Over 1,000 people (including children) attended the screening, among
them was our little group of 6 Muslims. Fortunately, we sat together
because as the evening progressed we drew comfort from each others
presence. The audience seemed to be primarily Jewish, but with a large
Christian contingent also.
The film was a classic propaganda piece - in its 1 hour and 17
minutes, except for a disclaimer that this was not meant to be about
all Muslims, the balance of the film was relentless in its depiction
of issues, political movements, individuals, and positions as
connected to the religion of Islam.
It is a fact that the Mufti of Jerusalem sided with Hitler and that
there are photographs of him with Hitler (as shown in this film). It
is also a fact that there are photographs of Catholic priests,
Lutheran ministers, and Catholic bishops and cardinals with Hitler and
even giving the Hitler salute. It is also a fact that there were
Muslims and Christians who protected Jews from the Nazis, who fought
against the Nazi's, and who were killed in concentration camps. There
are Muslims who have been declared "righteous gentiles" by Yad Vashem
and other Holocaust memorial groups. The majority of Allied troops
that landed on the beaches of Provence in August, 1944 were "free
French" Muslims from North and West Africa. Muslims fought with the
Allies in France, Italy, Stalingrad, and Leningrad. Are they now
Bigotry and hatred can be found in all communities - for every
photograph or speech in this film another could be shown just as
virulent from another community, e.g. American protestors burning the
American flag, Jewish Israeli children signing missiles with love,
photos of Christian clergy with Hitler, Hitler's statements about
Christianity, Nazi insignia with Christian symbols, statements by Meir
Kahane or other Jewish Defense League members, or by Christian white
supremacist clergy, Jewish Israeli's having a party to celebrate the
Hebron massacre. Statements by extremist rabbis that during time of
war the enemy has no innocents, or that call for the extermination of
the enemy. Signs in a U.S. shop window calling Palestinians pigs and
cockroaches. The list is long, and the effort to demonize each other
Some of the reactions of our group were: "I felt dehumanized",
"demoralized", "anxious", "sickened", "fearful of the reactions such
propaganda might provoke", "attacked as a Muslim", "defamed". All of
us were much more upset by the audiences reaction than by the film
itself. To us the propaganda techniques seemed obvious, but the
audience reaction showed that it was having a powerful effect.
There was no relief from the barrage of negative images, and there was
no counter balance. This film establishes Muslims as the "other", as
a dangerous, alien, violent, inhuman other. It was completely
one-sided and without nuance, there was nothing positive about Muslims
or Islam even hinted at.
Two weeks after the event we are still experiencing physical and
emotional distress primarily due to the positive reaction of the
audience - including applause and standing ovations, and to some of
the hateful comments we overheard from individuals sitting around us.
The fact that some of us saw people we knew, who saw us and said
nothing and avoided eye contact was very disturbing.
This sort of propaganda produced, marketed, and promoted by Aish
Hatorah, a Jewish organization and then promoted by the local Saint
Louis Jewish community and advertised in Jewish Light, and praised by
Jewish community leaders at the event concerns us as Muslims who have
been committed to dialogue and bridge building between the local
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. This has the potential of
completely derailing dialogue efforts and driving a wedge of suspicion
and distrust between the communities.
After this event many of us have had the opportunity to speak with a
number of individuals in the Christian and Jewish communities who
attended the film and who have told us that they were also shocked by
the content of the film and the reaction of the audience. They
expressed concern and distress and wanted us to know that this event
was not supported by a majority of local Christians and Jews and that
most of those in attendance did not represent the mainstream.
Phillip Deitch was quoted in an article in Jewish Light as saying: "I
left sad. An opportunity to build meaningful bridges was missed while
passions were inflamed and polarization was the result. While deriding
anti-Jewish anti-Israel propaganda the movie was edited in a classic
propaganda style opening with emotional 9/11 film footage, sinister
music throughout and contrasts with the Nazis. They mocked their own
opening disclaimer that they are only speaking of a minority of the
Muslim community when the movie is all about presenting Muslim
fundamentalism as a world wide threat while showing film footage of
Muslims at prayer."
In an article on the Center for Theology and Social Analysis site,
Mark Chmiel noted: "Both the film and speaker appealed to fear, pure
and simple, making the equation Arab/Muslim = Nazi. Often the
moderator and Shoebat talked about the threat to our values as Jews
and Christianswhat about the Muslims who aren't terrorists? It was
painful as a Muslim acquaintance was sitting in front of us and
weeping as she listened to this Christian who proclaimed that he loves
everybody basically preach a kind of hatred of Palestinians en tout:
They can't be trusted. All of them?"
It helps to know that some in the audience were not swayed by the
Certainly, there are Muslims who are extremists, who are criminals,
and who believe violence to be a solution to problems. But these
problems are not unique, nor do they exist in the Muslim world in
isolation. Blaming an individual, organization, political movement,
government, or nation for political problems makes sense. Attempting
to single out Muslims as uniquely evil in the world is absurd and
dangerous. There is a need to call this one-sided assault on Islam
together with the increasing incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab
incidents around the world for what they are: the new Anti-Semitism -
We can continue trying to put the blame on "them" and exonerate "us"
but it is not only a waste of time, but an evil distraction keeping us
from getting at the root of the problem.
This film is emotional terrorism, and terrorism cannot stop terrorism.
Only justice and spiritual solutions have any hope of decreasing the
current world crisis. We can continue to look for ways to place the
blame for what is happening on some mythical villain. The truth is
that there is a dark side to human nature that we must all confront.
Within America the rhetoric connecting Islam with terrorism and
fascism is increasing, and even the President has used the term
Islamic Fascists. There are clergy people, radio and television
personalities, and journalists who have made derogatory and
inflammatory statements including accusations that Muslims are a fifth
column, threats of collective punishment against Muslims in America,
and threats to surround the Muslims in America with razor wire or
intern us like the Japanese in WWII. One Christian group even held an
Islam versus America conference. The American Jihad site even claims
that "Consequently we must adopt a new paradigm - THE ONLY GOOD MUSLIM
IS A DEAD MUSLIM! A few innocents shall perish, but who really cares?
Muslims multiply like rodents so it's no big deal."
This film simply feeds into this demonizing of Islam and Muslims and
helps to create an atmosphere in which such incitement seems reasonable.
The bottom line is that all of those who participate in, cooperate
with, or do not speak out against evil (no matter what their religion)
bring shame on the human race. As the Qur'an warns us all:
"Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God,
even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and
whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do
not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or
decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you
do" (Quran 4:135).
Muslim, Christian and Jewish heroes and criminals were all reading the
same Torah, Bible and Qur'an, but certainly interpreting it
differently. I do not believe that those evil ones among any of our
communities represent any religion. Human beings can find in any
scripture both the inspiration for greatness or a justification for
evil. We all have te capability of producing extremists of the most
brutal kind, and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all been used
as a justification for such brutality.
As Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said: "We condemn the abuse of religion
by fanatics whose sole purpose is to rouse hate and beget further
violence. Nothing is as antithetical to all religion and especially to
Islam, as the wanton violence. ... We cry out against such violence,
and seek to console those who have suffered from it. ... We declare
that all religions have the same relative value with respect to the
high goals we seek to reach as humans, and the same lack of value of
when they fail to call forth the unity of God. ... We pray for a
future that is replete with peace and love for all of humanity across
the world, and for a future that is far, far different from the
tumultuous, hateful times that we live in now..."
The speaker at this film was billed as a "former" PLO terrorist turned
Christian/Zionist. Walid Shoebat claims to live in California under
an assumed name with protection from the Islamic radicals who have
declared a "fatwa" to kill him. He made many undocumented claims, and
most shockingly said that it was time to stop working for peace - it
is time to start taking real action. . A review of his radio
interview before the St. Louis presentation, as well as a review of
statements at other showings of this film, and of his website
http://www.abrahamic-faith.com is very revealing. He has said "Please
take back the holy Temple Mount." He has said "We need to choose war."
He has sanctioned the use of extrajudicial assassinations.
This is a man who wants to hurry Armageddon and the rapture along, at
which time the Messiah will come and the Jews, Muslims, and everyone
who does not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God will be killed
and sent to hell. This is anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. This is an
extremist Christian terrorist. This is not a former terrorist. This
is a man who used to hate Jews and now hates Muslims, who used to
commit violence against Jews and now justifies violence against Muslims
As Abdul Cader Asmal has said "The term Islamic embodies the very
values and attributes of the faith (Islam) that a Muslim believes in
and loves. A believer in any faith could deviate from his religion,
pursue ungodly activities unrelated to it, or in direct contravention
thereof, and end up being a rapist, terrorist or even a fascist. There
would however be nothing of intrinsic religious value in such
behavior. As religions go, there can be no such entity as Christian,
Judaic or Islamic fascism, at least not until a new religion comes
along promoting itself as second best."
How do we counter such defamation? How do we heal the wounds created
by such propaganda? How can we build familiarity and understanding
and establish dialogue and trust in an atmosphere of suspicion and fear?
Never again should apply to everyone - so that the injustices of the
past are not repeated. We need to decide if we will allow the
hatemongers to turn Islam into the enemy because some extremists
misrepresent it to justify their crimes. We have seen in humanity's
history that choosing the path of villifying one particular racial,
ethnic, or religious group can lead us into very dark places. We owe
our children a better future than the one that would be created by a
clash of civilizations or a clash of religions, and those who want to
lead us down this path again must be resisted.
We would hope that all of those in the interfaith or civil rights
communities who believe in bridge building and dialogue speak out in
some way against this sort of propaganda against any of our religious
communities. The executive director of our local Interfaith
Partnership group has said: "We are about building bridges and
relationships between those who represent different religious
communities" "We are responsible for our neighbors." Interfaith
Partnership has moved more toward "building on the relational aspect
and celebrating diversity." All of these are positive goals, can they
be achieved by ignoring very real issues within our communities?
Aish HaTorah, the producers of this film say that their objective as
an organization is to revitalize the Jewish people by providing
opportunities for Jews of all backgrounds to discover their Jewish
heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect. We
would hope that all of those Jewish and Christian organizations who
sponsored or promoted this event and who are continuing to sponsor
showings of the film across the country would reconsider their
involvement, and the possible consequences. Stirring up hatred and
racism cannot be good for any of us. Can one people be "revitalized"
by the demonization of another?
If this is not an interfaith issue, then what is the point of
interfaith activity? Am I alone in seeing a terrible similarity
between this demonization of Muslims and the past demonization of
Jews? I am I alone in seeing the production of this film as a
defining event in interfaith relations in the U.S.?
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