Obsession DVD: Hate Campaign Supported by Tax Dollars?

By Victor Ghalib Begg

Using race or religion card in presidential race is not new. Using tax deductible dollars to do so is—especially when the American financial institutions are breaking down and the burden of two wars crippling the U.S. Treasury.

Some of the leading newspapers in the battleground states, in cities like Grand Rapids and Flint, Michigan, recently included a documentary film on DVD. The film was “Obsession” – a well-financed campaign by a non-profit entity aiming to inject fear in the hearts of Americans about the danger posed by our Muslim neighbors. A 10-second disclaimer at the beginning attempts to explain that this film isn’t about good Muslims — but the film is classic propaganda designed, in this production, to terrify people about the violent threat of Muslims to wage war on “The West” and, among other things, murder children and lay waste to Europe and the U.S.

In a recent commentary responding to the distribution of “Obsession,” Jeff VanDenBerg, director of Middle East Studies at Drury University, called the film “a blatant piece of anti-Muslim propaganda.” He also wrote: “The film ‘Obsession’ plays to the crudest stereotypes. In the end, this kind of thinking will do far more to harm American security than it will to help it.” (News-Leader, 9/17/08).

The Detroit News & Free Press, aware of good interfaith relations in our region, opted not to promote this propaganda material, for which the Muslims are grateful. However, the promoters of this movie were not ready to back down in their quest– they used the U.S. mail instead.

Among suggestions in the package delivered to 28 million registered voters included a request for help promoting this DVD and an appeal to contribute their hard earned dollars, by making a tax deductible contribution to Clarion Foundation. This is an outrageous misuse of a 501(c)3 status—profiting a shadowy institution in its efforts to spread misinformation, influencing presidential elections in the process. The bigger question is whether the foundation violated IRS rules? CAIR recently filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission for possible misuse of the non profit status by using registered voter list to mail the DVDs, as a not for profit entity.

The DVD’s ultimate goal goes beyond their claim of educating the public about national security issues. The real beneficiaries of this project would be those who promote religious war, at the expense of thousands of American lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars. This is the last demand we want to inject into presidential politics at this moment of national emergency requiring solutions to real issues facing our country.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in a CBS interview on Sunday, September 28, 2008, states ‘as I go around the world, representing America, it is a humbling experience’. U.S. financial and military policies over the last 8 years have weakened America at home and strengthened those who hate America. The movie’s objective is to continue to propagate military adventures based on misinformation which will further undermine U.S. prestige in the world.

Of course, there is no denying that there are those who used religion to promote an anti-Western militant ideology resulting in the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts around the globe. Al Qaeda is a ruthless enemy that the United States must confront forcefully.  But, this effort needs to be dealt with in a manner that does not demonize an entire community of believers by promoting guilt by association.

American Muslim community is an asset in war against terror – it has successfully withstood extensive scrutiny as no other community in the history of our nation – 500,000 FBI interviews failed to prove a single case of subversion by patriotic Muslim Americans. This film attempts to obscure that fact – It is designed to drive a greater wedge between Islam and the West.

Propaganda material such as “Obsession” is not an honest critique of violent radicalism. It is a disingenuous piece that seeks to arouse suspicion against Muslims – blurring the line between few extremists and mainstream Muslims. No credible expert or reputable scholars appear in this movie, only shady characters claiming to be “former-terrorist” making bigoted statements in the movie such as – “Islam is not the religion of God, Islam is the devil.” Americans must reject this type Islamophobia. as they must reject anti-Semitism, racism and all other forms of bigotry.

It is time that the mainstream media and people of good will stand up to fear mongering and bigotry during the election season, especially when America is facing economic challenges at home and financial burdens of military operations abroad. Both presidential hopefuls, Obama and McCain must distance themselves from this type of election year tactics.

Victor Ghalib Begg

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