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Exclusive Book & Movie Reviews:
Understanding Islamism
Obsession: The Threat of Radical Islam - Peace Arch Home Entertainment - 77 minutes - 2007

by Mitchell Bard


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The film, Obsession, directed by Wayne Kopping, who co-wrote the movie with Raphael Shore, has penetrated the seemingly impenetrable wall put up by the media to prevent the public from seeing and hearing what Muslims are really saying in their media as well as in their mosques and on the street. Fox News aired the film with its own commentary and other outlets are beginning to expose the face of radical Islam.

What makes Obsession such a powerful film is that it allows the Muslims to speak for themselves. A limited amount of commentary and explanation is provided in between film clips by Muslim and non-Muslim experts such as Prof. Robert Wistrich, Prof Khaleel Mohammed and Prof. Salim Mansur; journalists such as Caroline Glick and Khaled Abu Toameh; and individuals who have lived in the Islamist environment, such as Nonie Darwish, Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel. They are primarily bridges, however, between the frightening images that include a blood curdling speech by an Imam who pulls out a sword and calls on his followers to kill Jews and receives rapturous applause from a crowd shouting, “Allah Akbar!” (God is Great). Another clip is from an Arabic television program that reenacts the blood libel, showing Jews killing a child to use his blood for Passover matzoh.

A film like this would have been difficult to make a few years ago when it was rare to hear Muslims speaking in their own language. Usually we heard only the carefully scripted propaganda designed for Western consumption. Those of us who followed the situation closely knew, for example, that people like Yasser Arafat were saying one thing in English and the opposite in Arabic (one clip shows him condemning terror in English and calling for jihad in Arabic), but non-Arabs only heard what they wanted us to hear. Thanks to organizations such as The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and Palestinian Media Watch, which monitor and translate what is coming out of the Middle East, we now have greater access to what is being said and written in Arabic so we can no longer be fooled.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the film is to show that the Islamists are not focused on “Palestine” or Iraq; their goal is to spread Islam globally. In stark contrast to the nonsensical notions put forward in Jimmy Carter’s book and the Iraq Study Group report that Iraq, terrorism and the Palestinian issue are connected, Obsession lets the terrorists themselves explain their motives and goals. In addition, by showing how the terrorists have pursued their goals in places such as London, Madrid and New York City, the film makers have ably illustrated the worldwide threat posed by the jihadists.

One of the many disturbing aspects of the Islamist agenda is its emphasis on indoctrinating the young. Terrorism expert John Loftus calls this is a form of child abuse. It is especially sickening to see clips from Palestinian television in which very young children talk about becoming martyrs and express anti-Semitic stereotypes. The Palestinians are teaching their children in school and through the media to hate.

Jimmy Carter and the Iraq Study Group members should be required to watch the film so they will be disabused of their delusion that Israeli policy is the obstacle to peace. Obsession makes clear the real obstacles are the Islamists’ refusal to recognize Israel, the outright hatred of the Jews by many Muslims and the unwillingness to accept a Jewish state on “Islamic land” or Jewish rule over Muslims.

The movie does not focus on any one group or on terrorism. It examines how Islam is being perverted by radicals who have an agenda of hate. During one section of the film, the similarities between Islamism and Nazism are discussed. We see the Palestinian religious leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, seeking Hitler’s help to fight the Jews. As the film notes, Hitler’s hatred for the Jews is so great he was even prepared to ally himself with the Arabs, non-Aryans, to fulfill his genocidal designs. A fitting image is a modern rally in Lebanon where Muslims are giving a Nazi salute. It is a reminder of the need to learn the lesson of history and to take seriously the words of the Islamists who call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.

The film’s emphasis is on Muslim attitudes toward Jews, but it also shows the antagonism expressed toward Christians with examples of churches that are desecrated and destroyed. It is also careful to explain how an integral concept of Islam, jihad, has been abused by the Islamists. As the Islamic scholars in the film note, the word refers to a personal struggle for self-improvement, but is used by the militants as a rallying call for a holy war to defeat the infidels.

To its credit, the film has eschewed the graphic violence of other films related to terrorism and focused more on words. It is also refreshing for a movie on this topic to use a subtle musical score rather than the typically overheated, hysterical noise of films trying to scare their audience.

The film’s principal flaw is overkill. Viewers may become numb after watching 60 minutes of sometimes repetitious hate speech. It is also not clear how convincing the film will be to those not already predisposed to the producers’ point of view. Many Americans already understand the threat of militant Islam. Those who don’t ought to be influenced by the powerful images in Obsession, but many people are still reluctant to criticize another faith. One hopes that students will watch the film and see, probably for the first time, exactly what the Islamists are saying. Perhaps they will then recognize that the moderate views they may be used to hearing in English, and desperately want to believe, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of many people in the Middle East. Unfortunately, given students’ desire to see everything presented in a Tevye-like, on the one hand, on the other hand manner, they may find the movie too one-sided.

The film fittingly ends with a range of speakers, including Muslims, speaking out against terror. Words will not be sufficient, however, and Muslims will have to take the lead in reforming their faith. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has to confront the Islamists and refuse to condone, ignore or accept their intolerance and violence.


Sources: Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise

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