Friday, September 26, 2008

Who is Obsessed?

Somebody is. I have to admit that I feel rather apathetic about this anti-Islam DVD campaign (yes, that's what it is). I've been hearing about it every day since about a week before the distribution so I almost have too many thoughts to blog.

But it's time I wrote something again, isn't it?

So in case you haven't heard about this DVD yet, here's news: some secretive front for an Israeli lobbying group has spent an estimated $15 million to $50 million distributing this wacky propaganda film in political battleground states. My state happens to be one of them. And even though I don't subscribe to a newspaper, this DVD was also distributed in a local non-subscriptive weekly publication, and I picked it up from my parents' house. (They were interestingly enough out of town for the whole week and I was watching the house.)

At that point, I had already heard about the DVD being distributed by the N&O. Or let me clarify, distributed as a paid advertisement with the N&O. But I didn't know it was also being distributed by other local papers. Or that it was being distributed nationwide in this election's presumed swing states. Not exactly a pleasant surprise.

But here I'd just like to say a few things about the DVD, the reaction, and my thoughts.

First of all, this "insert" with the paper looks pretty trashy. The above image is on the CD and one side of the cardboard insert--with some reference to CNN & FOX emblazoned across it. There were short quotes recommending it--like one from the producer of the TV Show 24. (Did you ever wonder if maybe the lines between reality and television were being blurred?) Overall, the insert gave me the impression first that this was some movie coming out. A scary, R-rated movie. Just look at the image above! Some exploded buildings and some man who appears to be leading an army in a period film whose face is covered. If you listened to 'The Way Ahead' CDs from Zaytuna you might remember when Sheikh Hamza Yusuf talked about mental frames, and all the negative images people have about covering faces. Anyway, if the image tries to say anything at all, it would be, I think, "Radical Muslim Terrorist Nukes America." That bottom image reminds me of that scene in Independence Day where the city of Houston is nuked.

So already even the image suggests an overexaggerated threat. I am taking a class right now that pretends to seriously study 'Terrorism' under the guise of 'Peace & War in the Nuclear Age.' In fact, just two nights ago I was reading a chapter about how easy it would supposedly be for a "non-state entity" to acquire/manufacture nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. And yet the supposed "terrorists" are throwing rocks and blowing themselves up. I'm thinking "bogeyman," what about you?

So one night at my parents' house I made the time to watch this DVD. After getting emails for a week and a half asking me to write to the editor and voice complaints against this DVD in some way or another, I thought that it might be really an atrocious view of Muslims. It was, but frankly it really surprised me.

I expected the attempt to be PC--by claiming at the beginning that there are some Muslims who aren't "radical" or "extreme" or "terrorist" or any of those other key words, and that Muslims are peaceful, blah blah blah, when it said "this film is not about them." That's kind of like saying there are apples and there are pears and that the film is about apples, not pears, while then proceeding to convince you that pears are apples. Twisted analogy, sorry.

The footage of the two towers, attempts to hijack words like "jihad" and "shaheed," (martyr) and general demonizing of Muslim peoples were all expected. Finding Arab people (1, 2, 3) to utterly condemn Muslims (er, I mean, uh, radicals?... oh wait, no I don't) was no surprise.

But here's what did surprise me: footage of Neville Chamberlain after achieving "peace for our time" in Munich. What does WW2 have to do with "radical Islam?" And the answer the DVD gives to this question truly borders on bizarre--and really, it gives away the Clarion Fund who is apparently the 501(c)(3) behind the distribution of the DVD. If you watch this DVD, you won't need a team of reporters and CAIR and all to tell you who is behind it.

Because somebody really is obsessed--not somebody Palestinian, or Iranian, or Lebanese. But somebody is quite plainly blind in their hatred. The film actually goes to tremendous lengths to try to link the Nazi worldview in 1938 with Islam. That's right--pretending that Muslims are Nazis. Who would find such a distinction most poignant? But since a large portion of the film, probably 20 minutes or so, was spent explaining the verge of WW2, clearly the take-away message wasn't the typical Muslim bashing but something far more sinister.

Now, the USA is currently at war in two countries--Iraq, and Afghanistan. But al-Qaeda wasn't really painted the enemy in this DVD. Supposedly foreign policy is key, since we see this DVD distributed in swing states prior to a presidential election. Somebody wants to have people thinking about terrorism (and not the economy, perhaps) when they vote. But specifically who is demonized in this film?

Palestinians, Iranians, and Lebanese. Palestine, Iran, and Lebanon. Why?

You see footage of one khateeb after another reminding the congregation of the plight of some of their Muslim brothers. Khateeb after khateeb in Iran, Palestine, and Lebanon anyway. You see Muslim soldiers (er, uh, terrorists? the line is blurred) that can be identified with Hezbollah, or Hamas, and you see them saluting. Something totally insignificant perhaps... unless you see it right after watching Nazi troops "heil Hitler." Then it will strike you, perhaps... they are saying that Muslims are Nazis.

That's right. When Muslims try to defend themselves against an aggressor that has cheapened their lives and stolen their property they are painted as the minions of an evil dictator bent on world domination. The DVD goes to great lengths to establish this (entirely fanciful) connection in the viewer's mind--something which I for one had never seen before.

Now, what was the response? A campaign of letters to the editor really doesn't make much of an impact in my mind. So when asked to sit with a laptop outside Taraweeh prayers asking sisters to log in and send a pre-formed email, I refused (not just once but several times.) The weekend after the distribution of the DVD, a number of letters did make it in to the paper--some by prominent members of the community. Now CAIR is looking in to the matter and has apparently filed a complaint with the FEC.

But what about me? I'm still confused. I watched the video, and I don't really feel threatened. But I do think someone is obsessed--and not some Palestinian, Lebanese, or Iranian Muslim who prays five times a day. Instead, someone who dug up WW2 Nazi footage for producing this video, whoever thinks that Muslims are like Nazis trying to exterminate Jews or anything like that--that person is, I think, obsessed. As reflected in the DVD aptly titled 'Obsession.'

It's not about "radical Islam." Not really. I even wrote on a message board for my terrorism class a few weeks ago that radical Islam doesn't exist--that it's just a word used to try to make a distinction among "good" and "bad" Muslims (according to the West, anyway), and to try to demonize people who speak or act in the best interests of their country and Muslims instead of the best interests of Israel or the USA. Primarily, in this video, those would be Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iranians.

So anyway--what's my solution? Since I don't care to flood the paper with letters (for distributing a paid advertisement... it's not like they passed it out for free) what do I think we should do?

Come on. Let's talk about Islam. Plan an open house, set up a booth, organize debates, dialogues, lectures--that's the least you can do. Find your talent, whatever it is, and use it in the way of Allah. If it is graphic design, if it is programming, if it's medicine, writing, or even babysitting, find a way to help the Muslims. There are a few more days left in Ramadan--if you are going to pray Taraweeh and the Imam is reading you a beautiful du'a asking Allaah Muslims and gathering them together, don't just stand there and cry. Take it to heart, and act. When you hear him ask for your righteous deeds to be accepted, don't let shedding a few tears be the end of them--keep up your deeds after Ramadan.

It's amazing to me, and sad at the same time, to stand in a room full of women shaking and sniffling when they hear about the state of this ummah but yet they then go home and stay there for the rest of the year instead of taking any action to change their affairs.

Our Ramadan boot camp is almost over. Whatever it was you accomplished--reading Qur'an, memorizing, praying your daily salawat (prayers) on time, praying Qiyyam ul-Layl, donating to the poor, or just visiting the masjid regularly, let it only push you towards more righteousness and not prevent you from it.

(If you're interested, here's a rebuttal to the claims in the video:


mezba said...

Same with Fitnah. It was more hype than substance.

Anonymous said...

Very well articulated.....May Allah (SWT) Reward you and bless you with His Love and Mercy in a special place among his chosen people...

Faraz said...

Salaam Amy, have you heard about this? It's really sad what the world has come to. May Allah grant relief and safety to all Muslims under persecution.

maghi85 said...

very well written but don't you think it's threatening to the Muslims living in America, Palestine, Iran, & Lebanon?

I don't think they teach logic and critical thinking in American schools any more so do you think most non-Muslim viewers in America would be able to critically analyze this documentary and see the propaganda from where it's coming?
considering their sclerotic states, I, for one, don't think they could hold on against the propaganda and hence would easily capitulate to the Islamophobia
I may be wrong... but then anyways; hasbunaAllah wa ni'mal wakeel

Anonymous said...


I'm glad you were there to grab this from your parents' house. No one needs to see this sort of propagandizing crap. These people are of the same ilk that burn crosses and run around in pointy white sheets. They're just looking for someone to hate, and all it takes is someone who doesn't agree with them 100%. They certainly don't care that this goads people into hate crimes, they love that! To them it just proves that everyone else thinks the same way.


Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Faraz -

Jazakallahu khairan! I just heard about this today!! Will be blogging about it asap inshaaallah.

May Allah protect the Muslims from those who try to inflict on them harm.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Maghi

I think that I might have been wrong--this sort of propaganda apparently can lead people to commit evil... sadly.