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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Rebutting Obsession

Historical Facts Topple Film's Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis' Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongering

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It does remain the case that, as anti-intuitive as it may seem to most Americans, Israel is still regarded throughout much of the Arab world, and other Muslim countries, such as Iran, as a provocative extension of the United States' hegemonic power in the Middle East. Furthermore, the war in Iraq has driven down approval of the United States.21 Obsession promotes a "clash of civilizations" perspective. It's as though all geopolitics comes down to a contest between two internally unified opponents: "the Muslim world" and "the West." The film makes no mention of the intricacies of national, sectarian and cultural interests that intersect in both groupings and around which alliances have shifted in the past and will, certainly, shift again. Here is a small list of examples of the complicating factors that are not discussed in Obsession:

  • The convulsion of armed conflict among Sunni, Kurdish and Shia Muslims in Iraq following the deposition of Saddam Hussein's regime and the extent to which separation into walled ethnic districts has been necessary to diminish the violence;
  • The extent to which conflicts between Islamic sects influence politics among Muslims generally;
  • The delicacy with which the (mostly Shia and Persian, not Arab) Iranian government at first abjured criticizing the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq, because that incursion resulted in the destruction of a ruthless enemy with which it had fought a war during the period when Saddam was backed by the United States;
  • The pragmatic alliance between Iran, which has a hybrid theocracy-parliamentary democracy, and Syria, the last Ba'athist, secular dictatorship;
  • The defeat, in Pakistan — by a coalition in which liberal (unscarfed!) Muslims pushing for democratic reforms were strong — of a repressive dictator who had been backed, as an ally in its ‘war on terror' by the Bush administration;
  • And the situation in Africa's Sudan, where one of the most horrifically genocidal acts ever committed by a Muslim-dominated government has been perpetrated in Darfur against fellow Muslims for reasons that have to do with politics, oil, money and "race," and nothing at all to do with religion.

All of this is to demonstrate that attitudes among Muslims — Arab, Persian or otherwise — with regard to the United States and Europe are as situational and fluid as any other political actors' would be.

Through the Looking Glass

The traditional Islamic concept of jihad is treated as crudely as all else in the film. Again, the ostensible message, that mainstream Muslims must be distinguished from fanatics, is undercut by juxtapositions of women who appear to be going about daily business on the street, people praying; preachers calling for jihad in a general way that could be taken to mean the traditional call for self-reflection and internal struggle — and Palestinian children reciting poetry in anticipation of their own violent deaths.

At this point, not for the only time, this film displays its own mirror image. Various Muslim speakers are shown suggesting that the United States is waging war on Islam and means to destroy it. This is, of course, just what Obsession is saying with regard to "radical Islam" and its intentions toward the West. Proponents of the film might argue that the United States is not bombing civilian Muslim targets; but, of course, that's exactly how the bombing of Iraq and the carpet bombing of Lebanon by Israel, which is viewed as a U.S. proxy, with anti-personnel weapons during the summer conflict of 2006 are seen.

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21. "Arab Perceptions of the West," Communique Partners 2006, at the website for Communique Partners:, and also at the website Islam Perceptions: Toward a More Balanced View of Islam in the West.



Contents of our special section:
Rebutting Obsession