You have to wonder about a film that could muster no better an endorsement to adorn its cover than that of CNN's resident right-wing extremist Glenn Beck.
"Obsession' is without exaggeration one of the most important films of our time," says Beck.
The film Beck is lauding, "Obsession: Islam's Radical War against the West," is a 2005 work of anti-Muslim propaganda that was recently distributed in an unprecedented campaign.
There is no denying Islam has been misused by some to promote an anti-Western militant ideology that is responsible for the tragic 9/11 attacks and other deplorable terrorist acts around the globe, or that we ought to go after al-Qaida and its ilk.
But "Obsession" is not an honest critique of violent radicalism. Instead, it is a propaganda piece that casts a wide net of suspicion against Muslims by blurring the line between violent radicalism and mainstream Islam. As such, it does not call on credible experts and reputable scholars, but resorts to shady characters like former-terrorist Walid Shoebat, who believes Islam is the devil.
"Obsession" begins with a hollow disclaimer: "It is important to remember that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror." However, the remainder of the film distorts facts and events to convince its audience of the exact opposite.
The film's ultimate goal is to lay the grounds for a larger religious war that goes beyond our national security interests and has only two beneficiaries: radical evangelicals who hold an apocalyptic world view and war profiteers who gamble at the expense of thousands of American lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars. Toward that end, "Obsession" employs two main tactics.
First, it exploits Americans' unfamiliarity with Islam and Muslims to suggest that deviant groups are somehow representative of the majority. It scours the Muslim world for bizarre incidents and falsely projects them as the accepted norm. While the Muslim world has its share of fanatics, they comprise a tiny fraction of the population and are highly at odds with mainstream societies.
Second, "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. In fact, America faces no imminent threat from Muslim nations, who are themselves wary of the minority radicals in their midst. Shadowy organization
Sensational content aside, "Obsession" ought to pique our interest for two reasons. The first is the gargantuan size of the operation: 28 million free copies distributed via 70 major daily newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. The second reason is how surprisingly little we know about the operation itself.
All we know is that the film's distribution is paid for by a shadowy organization called the Clarion Fund. For an entity so well-endowed, the Clarion Fund's Web site offers no relevant information about its identity or its source of funding. Three important questions must be asked: What is this Clarion Fund and what is its source of funding? The public has a right to know and reporters have a responsibility to investigate.
Second, the film is being distributed only in swing states with the obvious strategic goal of swaying the elections. That should put the burden on both candidates to clearly communicate their positions on this film and its distribution tactics. Third, given the sheer size of this operation and its self-described political nature, it is baffling to note the apathy it has been met with in prime-time network election coverage. It does not just affect Muslims, but all Americans, when sensationalism threatens to hijack honest and informed debate on the key issues in the biggest decision of our generation.