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Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, also called Obsession, is a controversial documentary film about radical Islamist teachings and goals which uses extensive Arab and Iranianmarker television footage.Obsession compares the threat of radical Islamism with that of Nazism before World War II,and draws parallels between radical Islamists and the Nazi Party during the War.

The unusual distribution of 28 million free Obsession DVDs by direct mail and in over 70 US newspapers has led to attention and scrutiny. The depiction of radical Islam and Islamists, criticized by Muslim organizations as Islamophobic with a political agenda, and the large targeted distribution just before the 2008 United States presidential election and unrevealed funding for the distribution, has stimulated controversy and speculation.

Production

Wayne Kopping co-wrote, directed, and edited the film.Raphael Shore co-wrote and produced the film. Kopping and Shore previously collaborated on Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. Brett Halperin, named as the production manager, is an alias according to Shore. His real name is Erik Werth, as revealed in the November/December 2008 article on FAIR.com.

Executive producer Peter Mier, an alias for an unnamed Canadian Jewish businessman, provided about 80 percent of the film's $400,000 budget, according to Raphael Shore.According to IRS documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, financial support for the film came from an organization named Castello Limited.

Content

The film uses many images from Arab TV, provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute and Palestinian Media Watch.

Among the persons interviewed in the film are Nonie Darwish, Alan Dershowitz, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Martin Gilbert, Caroline Glick, Alfons Heck, Glen Jenvey, John Loftus, Salim Mansur, Itamar Marcus, Khaleel Mohammed, Daniel Pipes, Tashbih Sayyed, Walid Shoebat, Khaled Abu Toameh and Robert Wistrich.

Khaleel Mohammed, an associate professor of religious studies at San Diego State Universitymarker interviewedabout the meaning of jihad and its misuse by extremists, later apologized for his involvement with the film saying "some of my answers were misused."

Promotion

The film was initially promoted via the internet by HonestReporting and later through campus and Washington, DC screenings and later mass DVD distribution by the Clarion Fund.

Internet

HonestReporting, a media watch organization run by Ephraim Shore, the twin brother of Obsession producer Raphael Shore, was involved in the initial internet-based promotion of the film.

During production in 2005, the media watch group HonestReporting promoted the film as one of its projects. Later when the film was released, HonestReporting promoted the film on its website describing it as an "affiliate" project.

The media watch group, in an interview with The Jewish Week, says it was not involved in the film's production.

Public screenings

Television
CNN Headline News has shown segments of the film.Fox News has shown and hosted on its website segments of the film.Seven times in November 2006, Fox News showed a one-hour special incorporating segments from the film.

University and college
The documentary has been screened on 30 major campuses including Hofstramarker, Pace, USCmarker, UCLAmarker, NYUmarker,and McGillmarker.

Congressional
In December, 2006, U.S. Representatives Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Chief Deputy Majority Whip, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) co-sponsored a screening of the film on Capitol Hill.Cantor's cousin and Wasserman's constituent Daniel Cantor Wultz was murdered by an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber.

Domestic distribution

The producer of Obsession, Raphael Shore founded and serves as president of The Clarion Fund, a non-profit organization which has a non-exclusive agreement to distribute Obsession, Relentless and The Third Jihad.

In September 2008, the Clarion Fund, in cooperation with the Endowment for Middle East Truth, distributed 28 million DVDs of the film by mail,and in newspaper advertising supplements, predominantly in swing states.

Newspaper

Newspapers distributing the DVD included The New York Times, The Charlotte Observer, The Miami Herald, the Raleigh News & Observer,The Chronicle of Higher Education,and The Oregonian.

The New York Times distributed approximately 145,000 DVDs in their national edition toDenvermarker,Miamimarker, Tampamarker, Orlandomarker,Detroitmarker,Kansas Citymarker, St. Louismarker,Philadelphiamarker, and Milwaukeemarker.

According to a News & Observer blog post, whether the advertisement should be accepted was discussed, but publisher Orage Quarles made the "ultimate decision". The newspaper's vice president of display advertising noted, "Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it's cereal or toothpaste."

Many of the newspapers distributing the DVD also published articles about the film, includingThe Morning Callof Allentown, Pennsylvaniamarker,The Charlotte Observer,The News-Pressof Fort Myers, Floridamarker,and The News & Observerof Raleigh, North Carolinamarker.

Refused
Newspapers that refused to distribute the DVD included the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,the Detroit Free Press, the News & Record of Greensboro, North Carolinamarker, and The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohiomarker.

News & Record president and publisher Robin Saul said:"It didn't meet our advertising standards. We were told its purpose was educational. We didn't see it as educational at all. It was fear-mongering and divisive."The editor John Robinson wrote: "As a journalist, my default position is to provide people with more knowledge, however troubling, rather than less. Were this truly an issue of the freedom of information, I would have argued to publish. But this was a paid advertisement presenting one side of an inflammatory issue."

Synagogues and Churches

The film has been distributed at Jewish synagogues and Christian churches in the United States.

Republican Jewish Coalition

The DVD has been distributed to all 30,000 members of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

International distribution

New Films International acquired the film for international distribution.

Controversy

Accusations of being propaganda

The film has been criticized for portraying Islam as a threatening religion bent on the destruction of Western civilization, interspersing incendiary commentary with images of Nazis and suicide bombing indoctrination.The Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote: "Producers of the documentary insist that it only targets a radical minority among Muslims; however, a number of the interviewees in the documentary are on the record as describing Islam as inherently prone to hegemony." Rabbi Jack Moline described it as "the protocols of the learned elders of Saudi Arabia.'"

Left-wing Hate Hurts America,a nonpartisan coalition that ran a boycott campaign against Michael Savage, launched a campaign against the film titled "Obsession with Hate," calling it a "classic work of hate propaganda, thinly disguised as a critique of radicalism, that attempts to subliminally demonize Muslims and their faith wholesale."

In Dearborn, Michiganmarker, local religious leaders called a free screening of the documentary on a divisive publicity stunt.Joe Wierzbickiof the King Media Group,Russo Marsh & Rogers,and the Our Country Deserves Better PAC,said: "There is a problem with an acceptance of radical Islam in Dearborn more so than anywhere else than I know of," according to the Detroit Free Press, quoting Wierzbicki as a spokesman for a California-based public relations company hired to promote the film.Wierzbicki later said Right Reel, a distributor of conservative films, hired him.

Accusations of attempt to influence the 2008 US election

The Associated Press reports that the Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked for the Federal Election Commission to investigate the Clarion Fund's DVD distribution claiming that it was an attempt to influence the 2008 US Presidential Election. As evidence of inappropriate political bias on the part of The Clarion Fund, AP cited Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pa. reporting "that a Clarion Fund Web site ran a pro-McCain article before it attracted notice and was taken down." Ari Morgenstern, a spokesman for Middle East Truth, said targeting swing states was designed to attract media attention, but is not meant to influence the election result. Gregory Ross, spokesman for the New York-based Clarion Fund stated: "We are not telling people who to vote for, we're just saying no matter who gets in office, the American people should know radical Islam is a real threat to America. We don't feel radical Islam is getting its fair share of press."

The Endowment for Middle East Truth withdrew support for promoting the film.

Stifling free speech by opponents

After a showing on November 13, 2007, at the University of Floridamarker, a forum sponsored by Law School Republicans read: "Radical Islam Wants You Dead" prompted Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president of student affairs, to call for an apology for "promoting a negative stereotype".Law professor Steven Willis, faculty adviser for the Law School Republicans, who sponsored the film, responded, "Your arguments about 'diversity' and 'responsibility' and 'divisiveness' are irrelevant to that fundamental issue: The actions are protected speech and you have no right - in your "official" capacity - to censure them, either before or after the fact. Indeed, you have the obligation not to do so," he said. The call for an apology was quickly responded to by Florida's Attorney General and House Majority Leader. Both claimed the university was completely out of line and stifled free speech on campus. Afterwords the University rescinded its call for apology. In a Dec. 13 editorial, the Tampa Tribune called for Patricia Telles-Irvin, "the overly sensitive vice president of student affairs," to resign.

Counterproductive

Some, such as think tank researcher Jennifer Bryson, have criticized this film and the investment of resources in producing and distributing the film as counter-productive, for example in her 2008 article, "Islam: Obsession Reorientation," in The Public Discourse [322797].

See also



References

  1. Sarah Posner. Aish HaTorah’s New ‘Obsession’. The Jewish Week. October 29, 2008.
  2. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/every-usa-church-synagogue-gets/story.aspx?guid={1A4EE358-1ACF-454F-838B-EB6BCEC260F9}&dist=hppr
  3. http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c37_a13850/News/National.html


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