Monday, November 12, 2007

Obsession: a Movie obssessed with fear and stereotypes

I am deeply troubled by the recent documentary film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” which is being shown around college campuses in the U.S. and on Fox News among other stations. In our post 9/11 world marked by fear and a “war on terror,” the last thing we need is a film which deepens stereotypes and fuels the ignorance we Americans (and Evangelicals) have of Islam, Arabs and the Middle East. This is exactly what this film accomplishes.
First, a note about the posters for this film (which show pictures of terrorists and a verse from the Koran about killing those who aren‘t Muslims). Imagine you are a Christian student visiting a Muslim campus and you see large posters everywhere of Christian crusaders waving American flags and below it the verse: “In the cities of these people that the Lord God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)? This highlights two problems: that of taking another religion’s holy book and quoting it out of context and that of forgetting that there is much in our own history and holy book that is not so pretty. (As a side note, when Muslims see the U.S.-- in their minds a Christian nation-- invade Iraq they see a picture of the crusades repeating themselves).
Beyond the advertisements, the film itself is quite problematic. It is essentially propaganda with little discussion or analysis of the complexity of Islamic fundamentalism and of the fact that this represents a very small minority of the world’s Muslim population. This film is not without an agenda.
According to a New York Times article, Karyn Leffel, the person who is coordinating getting this film on college campuses works for Hasbara Fellowships, an organization that “educates and trains university students to be effective pro-Israel activists on their campuses” (Israelactivism.com). If you look closely on the webpage of the film (obsessionthemovie.com) you can finds links to organizations such as Campus Watch and Student’s For Academic Freedom, one of which was started by David Horowitz (a noted American Jewish conservative and strongly pro-Israel writer and activist) and the other an organization that works closely with him.
I have spent the last three summers in Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine. During this time I have spoken, eaten and lived with many Arab Muslims who, despite the political tensions between my country and theirs, have treated me with the utmost respect, kindness and love. I must say loudly: Arab does NOT equal Muslim (there are lots of Arab Christians), and Muslim does NOT equal terrorist. This film, if only implicitly, states otherwise.
In the words of Hossam, a 18 year old Muslim Palestinian I met this summer: “I want you to come and see who is the terrorist and who isn’t …because all the media says Palestinians [here read: Muslims or Arabs] are terrorists.”

8 comments:

As a footnote said...

interesting blog Jonathan.
The movie hasn't quite made it to Malawi :), but the reflections are still good.
have a great thanksgiving!
-jessica

Anonymous said...

One of the scariest movies that I've ever seen.
To be honest. I've been tired of being polictly incorrect for way too long.
http://www.TheMovieObsession.com

Anonymous said...

Obsession Movie on Fox-Interview
http://www.TheMovieObsession.com/media_FOX_christian_american_turning_to_islam.php

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