• Arts
  • September 20, 2008
  • 18 minutes read

Controversial film on Islam delivered nationwide

Controversial film on Islam delivered nationwide

Bundled in home-delivered editions of The News & Observer today is a paid insert featuring a controversial DVD on Islam that has stirred anger nationwide.

The documentary, “Obsession: Radical Islam”s War Against the West,” features scenes of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with those of Nazi rallies. The two-year-old film was produced by Raphael Shore, a Canadian who lives in Israel, and was directed by Wayne Kopping of South Africa.


When no traditional distributors picked it up, the film was screened on college campuses. This month, it is being distributed in more than 70 newspapers across the nation, including two other McClatchy newspapers, The Charlotte Observer and The Miami Herald.


“There is no greater threat than radical Islam,” said Gregory Ross, spokesman for the Clarion Fund, a New-York based nonprofit organization that is paying newspapers to distribute the DVD. “It needs to be pushed to the forefront of the political discussion.”


Ross said the DVD was timed to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001. He said it is “purely coincidental” that this September also is the holy month of Ramadan.


Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for The N&O, declined to say what it is charging to deliver the DVD as part of today”s newspaper. He dismissed allegations that it is inflammatory.


“In the beginning of the DVD it clearly states it”s not about Islam. It”s about radical Islam,” McClure said.


Despite the disclaimer, the film features prominent anti-Muslim pundits, including Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson and Walid Shoebat, who told the Springfield News-Leader — a Missouri daily — that “Islam is not the religion of God — Islam is the devil.”


Films aim in question


Muslims across the nation and in the Triangle said they are disappointed by the film.


“It adds fuel to the fire and devalues the work we do,” said Khalilah Sabra, an organizer with the Raleigh chapter of the Muslim American Society, which lists “promoting understanding” as its mission.


The film features footage of elementary schoolchildren reciting mantras such as “When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I”ll turn into a suicide warrior.”


Its aim is to liken radical Islam to Nazism and to promote the state of Israel, said Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, who has seen the film several times.


“One of the running themes is, “We stand today as the world stood in 1938,” ” said Safi, referring to the rise of Nazism. “It”s fear mongering. It appeals to people”s emotions.”


The DVD has already been inserted into copies of The New York Times distributed in midwestern states. This weekend and next, it is slated to be distributed in many newspapers in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and Colorado, in addition to North Carolina.


Some have wondered if the distribution is intended to influence voters in swing states for this year”s presidential election.


The Clarion Fund refused to disclose its board of directors or donors. New York state documents list Eli David Greenberg, a 49-year-old lawyer with the firm of Freeman and Hertz, as the registered agent for the Clarion Fund.


Greenberg is a registered Democrat and has donated money to Hillary Clinton”s presidential campaign. He did not return phone calls.


Censorship issue?


In a statement, N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III wrote: “As a newspaper we tend to shy away from censorship. In cases of controversial topics, if we err, we tend to do so on the side of freedom of speech.”


But some questioned whether this is a censorship issue.


“If there was a 30-minute DVD warning people against the danger of blacks or Jews, would the N&O distribute it?” asked Safi.


The DVD is available for sale on the Internet and can be viewed for free on YouTube.


One Muslim reader wrote the N&O to say that the film can only make local Muslims feel vulnerable.


“I must say that this video makes me fear for my safety and the safety of my family since people may not be able to differentiate between Muslims living here in Raleigh and the way Muslims are depicted in this scary film!” said Shadi Sadi, a data analyst in Raleigh.