What’s the deal with special-interest groups pretending to care about free speech, but then passing off a documentary about Islamic terrorists — not, as we remind everyone for the 129,586th time, about the majority of Muslims who are good and not crazy jihadists — as simply virulent “hate speech”?
I’d like to feel that, as a group hell-bent on representing the interests of Muslims in the U.S. (as if Muslims were some monolithic block in terms of political beliefs), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wanted to stamp out the scourge of terrorism. Even the Saudi government, while imposing Islamic laws on the Kingdom and embracing strict Wahhabism, brands terrorists “deviants” and takes them out when possible or convenient. Even moderate Muslim states such as Jordan, hit hard with the three hotel bombings in 2005 and targeted in the 2000 millennium attack plot, and Turkey freely acknowledge and fight against the Islamic extremism that threatens their way of life.
But for some perspective on why CAIR is leading the charge against the DVD Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, which was distributed as paid advertising and inserted in newspapers across the country, I flash back to a June 2007 screening of the movie A Mighty Heart, hosted by CAIR, at Paramount Studios. Watching the screening with B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest), it was apparent how excruciatingly even-handed the film tried to be with the subject of terrorism.
But CAIR and crew were there to lead a panel discussion afterward to make sure that we didn’t harbor any uncomfortable opinions from the fact that it was an Islamist radical who sawed off Daniel Pearl’s head. As the “interfaith” discussion got under way — featuring a rabbi from Jews On First and the executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting — the intrepid host of the panel stressed to the audience that, at the time of his death, Pearl “wasn’t a practicing Jew.” My mouth dropped. As if that made a difference?
The rabbi proceeded to blame “Islamophobia” in the Jewish community, noting “we have a problem in the Jewish community with our fanatics.” The preacher pegged the problem on “the number of Christians living in a bubble … of naivety,” stressing that we should “look at our own crusading mentality” and “look at how Christian America lets people escape from reality.” The CAIR rep looked pleased as punch with the “interfaith panel” they’d assembled, who may have represented different denominations but had markedly similar platforms: The phrase “Islamic terrorism,” bad. U.S. foreign policy, bad. CAIR, good.
They obviously did CAIR’s job well, because as Dan and I stood up to leave I caught a snatch of conversation across the aisle: “It was too bad that Daniel Pearl got killed, but…”
Hence you have the mission of groups such as CAIR: to plant the “but” in people’s minds. Daniel Pearl got beheaded, but it must be America’s fault for provoking poor lil’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into his obsession with long knives. The film Obsession begins with the title screen, “It is important to remember most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror. … This is not a film about them.” It may show real scenes of terrorist attacks and clerics spewing hate, but CAIR is here to twist that into “hate-filled propaganda” against Muslims as a whole.
It’s unfortunate that the worthy message within the DVD is obscured by anger not focused on the terrorists featured onscreen, but on the messenger.
The advertising buy paid for by the Clarion Fund (a shadowy Jewish conspiracy, alleges CAIR) was to distribute 28 million of the Obsession DVDs via newspaper inserts or direct mail. The Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina refused to carry the DVD at all, saying it was “divisive and plays on people’s fears and served no educational purpose.” Editor & Publisher cynically observed that the newspaper buys were in swing states, and questioned the New York Times about its policy on such inserts: “We believe the broad principles of freedom of the press confer on us an obligation to keep our advertising columns as open as possible. Therefore our acceptance or rejection of an advertisement does not depend on whether it coincides with our editorial positions,” replied the Times. The advertising buy, by the way, coincided with the film’s Sept. 11 wide release in major retailers.
CAIR filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, claiming that the swing-state distribution amounted to campaigning for John McCain. First, they cited rumors and writers’ complaints about the DVDs. Next, they laid the groundwork for their Jewish Conspiracy Du Jour:
According to the website for the Secretary of State for New York, Clarion Fund Inc. is incorporated in New York as a Delaware based foreign not-for-profit corporation. According to the Delaware Department of Corporations, Robert (Rabbi Raphael) Shore, Rabbi Henry Harris and Rebecca Kabat incorporated Clarion Fund. All three of whom are reported to serve as employees of Aish HaTorah International, an organization apparently based in Israel. Also according to the Delaware Department of Corporations, the incorporators of the Clarion Fund used Aish HaTorah’s New York City address (150 West 46th Street, New York) to incorporate Clarion Fund in Delaware.
According to the Obsession website, Rabbi Raphael Shore is the founder and producer of Obsession. Sources have reported that Rabbi Raphael Shore is an Israeli citizen who lives in Jerusalem and was employed as an executive director with Aish HaTorah International. Gregory Ross has been identified as Clarion Fund’s spokesman and communications director. According to the FEC candidate contributions database, Gregory Ross is a fundraiser for Aish HaTorah International. It was reported that distributors of Obsession asked viewers to register for a screening of Obsession by visiting an Aish HaTorah website.
The complaint urges the FEC to investigate whether the DVDs amounted to campaign contributions, and whether The Clarion Fund funnels money from foreign donors into those alleged campaign contributions. (Aish HaTorah International confirmed that the film was not made under the banner of their organization, but individual members like Shore can act independently.)
CAIR put out a blizzard of press releases in the wake of the film. One had the gall to say, without citation, that “editorial and letter writers nationwide have called the film ‘propaganda’ and even compared it to Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 pro-Nazi film Triumph of the Will.” (The strategy appears to be first, allege the massive Jewish conspiracy, then compare them to Nazis.) They linked to a story that claimed Ohio Muslims were fearful of retribution against them after the DVD was carried in the Toledo Blade. (The Blade noted that “the DVD was watched in its entirety before being accepted as an advertising supplement. Its content went to great lengths to differentiate between the practice of Islam and radical Jihadists.”) And then in another overreaction, a group called Hate Hurts America launched an “Obsession With Hate” Web site to bash the film.
It takes a bit of time to plow through the site until you unearth what must be driving this backlash; let’s just say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be appreciative:
Obsession exploits the legitimate apprehension that many feel in this country as a result of 9/11 and attempts to instigate a state of full-blown hysteria. Only widespread hysteria could make questionable military excursions such as the Iraq occupation a possible sell yet again.
In fact, America faces no imminent threat from Muslim nations, who are themselves wary of the minority radicals in their midst. No Muslim nation has ever attacked our homeland, and none is likely to ever initiate such an attack.
So we’ve cut through the rhetoric: They don’t want Iran attacked, and are willing to downplay the extremist Islamist threat to protect the mullahocracy — which is fine, if you approve of hanging gays, stoning women, and beating the tar out of a female for showing a lock of hair.
The film’s key message is bearing fruit: that there are people out there who can craft destructive agendas in such a way that sympathizers and even admirers will flock to their side. Ahmadinejad saw that during his recent U.N. speech, and surely there has to be pleasure in the extremist camp upon seeing that some in the west are more concerned with terrorists getting bad P.R. than with the threat itself.