Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West

In recent months a documentary by the name of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West has been doing the rounds as part of the presidential debate, following mass distribution in “swing states.” The video itself is available in full on YouTube.

Obsession: a review

Part 1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMLJJEDDDGc)

The film starts with text including the following:

“It is important to remember that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror.

This is not a film about them.

This is about a dangerous ideology, fuelled by religious hatred, and the threat it poses to Muslim and non-Muslim alike.”

Interview with Walid Shoebat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walid_Shoebat), a “former PLO terrorist” whose claims have been repeatedly questioned by individuals on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was allegedly involved with the PLO before converting to Christianity and becoming fervently pro-Israel. Claims that Americans do not understand why anyone would carry out attacks such as 9/11.

Interview with rep. from Center for Security Policy (http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Security_Policy), a national security think tank which promotes “assertive” (in the blast-them-into-the-ground sense of the term) foreign policy from the US.

A lot of gory and unpleasant images. Emphasis on “this is *their* war, this is how *they* see it” – with no reference to what material factors (occupation of Palestine, atrocities in Chechnya) could be encouraging the uptake of this ideology.

Part 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bev054pNzI&feature=related)

Interview with Nonie Darwish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonie_Darwish), described as “Daughter of a Shahid (Martyr)”. Her father was targetted for assassination by the Israeli Defence Force in 1956 due to organising attacks against Israel from then-Egyptian Gaza. Founder of “Arabs for Israel.”

Again – “this conflict is a declaration of war by radical Islam on Western culture,” make the situation a conflict of ideologies without reference to material problems, emphasise positive Western traits (democracy, women’s rights, pluralism) to make critics seem negative.

Interview with Daniel Pipes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Pipes), controversial writer, often considered anti-Islamic and/or anti-Arab. Takes an “enemy within” attitude to Muslims in Europe and the US. Claims Obama was a practicing Muslim (false), and that this makes him an apostate and therefore target for assassination.

Point: Muslims are victims of the Islamists also, not simply Islam vs West, more Radical Islam/Islamism/Jihadism vs World.

Over one billion Muslims in the world, hard to point down who supports what, who thinks what, etc. Pipes: 10-15% estimate of the world’s Muslims support militant Islam (how did he reach this figure?) That figure for support of militant Islam, support for anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism “much larger.”

Commentors often deliberately conflate militant Islam and the concerns Militant Islamic groups raise – the only “good Muslims” we see are those who take a neutral or pro-Israel stance, with active criticism of Israel identified as “siding with the terrorists.”

Part 3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bJE6bIiXps&feature=related)

Violent indoctrination in schools, jihad = conquering the world for Allah, kids being taught jihad.

Interview with Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_Media_Watch), Israli settler, documentor of media and school materials in Palestine & alleged contradictions between domestic and international messages. Identifies militant Islamic messages with mainstream Arab-Islamic culture.

Weren’t we told quite explicitly at the start that this film had nothing to do with moderate Muslims?

Steve Emerson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Emerson) claims radical Muslims believe West in a conspiracy to subjugate Islam. This claim used to recruit other Muslims for the cause. Again, little to no inspection of the issues in question – foreign policy by multiple governments, many but not all with the involvement or co-operation of the United States, which negatively impacts Muslims – or how they could relate to people getting involved. It’s all a conspiracy so we don’t need to look at their motives.

None of this is to say that their concerns are necessarily valid, nor to validate the victim mentality some Islamist preachers seem to advocate. Nor do I want to dismiss the ideological component in terrorism. However, I feel disregarding the material issues raised by many preachers, and their value in attracting people to Islamism, is a mistake.

Footage from Iranian TV: claim “every Muslim and every honourable man who is not a Muslim” must stand up against this. Non-Muslim jihad?

Khaleel Mohammed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaleel_Mohammed), claims Israel belongs to the Jews according to the Quran, claims “95%” of Muslims are exposed to anti-Semitism by age eight. Points out jihad simply means “struggle”, usually in reference to personal struggle. Shoebat’s response: “Yes, Jihad means struggle. So does Mein Kampf” (Godwin ftw!)

(Again, I thought this wasn’t about Muslims in general, but specifically the Islamists?)

Culture of Hatred: compilation of clips of anti-West propaganda (British drink the blood of the elderly).

Part 4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J61r-NRHPtQ&feature=related)

After 9/11, people looking for why attacks happened. Some “even started blaming themselves” (aka, questioning foreign policy with regard to the Middle East.) Frequent blaming of “academia” (The Liberal Establishment ™) – this somewhat indicates the audience they are looking for with this film, in that “liberal academia” (along with the “liberal media”) is one of the favourite scapegoats of USA conservatives.

Activities such as questioning the material roots of terrorist attacks or the possibility of government policy creating resentment are dismissed as a distraction as the problem is purely down to ideology.

Islamist approach described as “To get people to fight, make them think there is a threat and that they are in danger,” with the implication that said threat is a fabrication on the part of the Islamists. With both Iraq and Afghanistan occupied, threatening language towards Iran, and the open-ended nature of the “war on terror,” it’s hardly surprising that people feel that they are in danger.

Claim of “general response in the Muslim world of delight” after 9/11 esp. Palestinians. Footage of celebrations labelled as September 11. Again, describing all Muslims when video only claims to describe Militant Islam.

Part 5 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jwL_GefwUE&feature=related)

Radical Islam not limited to “Islamic World.” Footage of pro-jihad rally in London, chants of “Bin Laden,” placards “Islam will dominate the world,” etc.

People “in denial” over Jihadist presence in West. “Political correctness” blamed.

al-Muhajiroun (now-defunct group in the UK, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Muhajiroun ) “fully fledged terrorist entity”.

Brigette Gabriel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigitte_Gabriel), Lebanese American, founder of American Congress for Truth – dedicated to promoting “National Security” among US citizens. Anti-Islamist writer.

Footage of Islamic protest in US, “our loyalty is not to [American] flag but to Allah.”

Islamists unwilling to acclimatise to US culture, interested in instituting Shariah law.

Footage of head of al-Muhajiroun, first condemning 9/11, then referring to hijackers as “Magnificent 19”. Footage of Abu Hamza (hook). Lots of preaching of jihad. Interview with Glen Jenvey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Jenvey)

Part 6 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l17LmCEp1QI&feature=related)

British citizens in terror camps in Pakistan. “I am willing to kill British soldiers simply because of the fact that they are engaging in a war that is against my brethren.” Material cause – yet not investigated by documentary, all about ideology.

Footage of the France riots in 2005 – down to radical Islam? Rather than conditions in Paris slums, racism, etc.?

Culture of Denial – people refusing to believe Islamists have declared war on the West.

Footage of Hitler – further Godwin!

Michael Moore (again, appealing to conservative viewers, guaranteed to get the blood boiling) – “there is no terrorist threat.” Multiple attacks from multiple groups, yes, but no one specific threat per se.

Interview with Alan Dershowitz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Dershowitz), law professor, advocates/d torture of terror suspects. Also claimed Robert Kennedy prelude to Islamic terrorism; assassin was Arab but not Muslim.

Dire warnings about Hollywood, “if it happened to them they’d feel different”; like academia and media ref. earlier, appealing to stereotypes to get blood boiling (“The Liberal Establishment”).

More Godwinning. Implication people who “underplay” Islamist threat similar to Chamberlain with policy of appeasement?

Part 7 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYR5F3mbQ-4&feature=related)

Churchill – warned of threat of fascism, yet ignored – implied parallel to hawks with doves as Chamberlain? (Because of course, the anti-war lobby controls the political establishment in the US…)

More “the media” blame, underplaying threat. Dire warnings.

Interview with Alfons Heck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfons_Heck), Nazi in his teen years, later writer on fascist totalitarianism. Parallels of Islamism and Nazis. Pictures of Islamists performing Hitler salute. Comparison of Palestinian and Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda (similarities not entirely surprising; two groups of nutjobs with a grudge against the Jews, one of which was probably the most notorious entity of the 20th century.) Point: Germans were intelligent, reasonable people who fell for the mass demonising propaganda and committed atrocities. Why wouldn’t Muslims?

Video of children training with guns, giving anti-Semitic and pro-jihad statements, etc.

“What the Muslims do to their own children is even worse [than Hitler].”

Part 8 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLXZpOG4VCI&feature=related)

Footage of Islamist anti-Semitic propaganda (dude, we get it. they don’t like the Jews. how many examples do you need?) Modern-day blood libel from mainstream Middle East TV show (?). More Nazi parallels. Material described as “the propaganda of Islam is very similar to the propaganda of Nazism” – from woman who earlier claimed “Islam != Islamism.”

Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem – Nazi propaganda in Middle East. Meeting between Hitler and Mufti. Claim Germans told Mufti and Hitler had same goal – extermination of Jews – hence co-operation with non-Aryans.

Bosnian Muslim division of SS.

Shoebat – secular dogma of Nazism less dangerous than radical Islam. Possibility of “several Nazi Germanies” due to work being done in multiple countries. (If you not only compare your enemy to Hitler but actually say they’re worse, is that a super-Godwin?)

What do they want? “Destroy Western civilisation”

Islamist rants against Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism. Footage of sacrilege of various religious sites.

Part 9 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDPzPgkr4vk&feature=related)

More footage of sacrilege. Cross burning in London. “We will conquer the world.” More Nazis.

Tony Blair: Terrorists not representing Islam. Counter: teach it in schools, promote peaceful Islam, not enough to sit back. Footage of anti-terrorist Islamic preacher. West needs to support & empower anti-terrorist Muslims.

Part 10 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lioOCOalPao&feature=related)

“Our values,” “our way of life,” etc. Various acts of defiance – toppling of Berlin wall, Tianenmen Square. Toppling of Saddam Hussein statue – attempt to identify war in Iraq with anti-repression movements.

Warnings to take action.

Conclusions

Overall this film was very much a mixed bag. While stating several times that this was a documentary about Islamism, rather than about Muslims in general, statements from a number of interviewees undermined this greatly. Similarly, the phenomenally over-the-top references to the Nazis became repetetive and meaningless fairly quickly – for their overuse, and for the inaccuracy in the comparison of both ideology and practice between Islamism and fascism.

My main concern, however, was that the film essentially reduced a diverse number of movements, conflicts and societies – the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the regime in Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, activities across the Indian subcontinent, the Chechen conflict – down to “ideology,” more specifically the ideology of Islamism. This, in turn, acts as a bar both to self-criticism (“it’s nothing to do with us, they just hate our way of life”) and to any attempt to understand or even consider certain factors in the growth of jihad.

With that being said, the comments I had heard about the film had made me expect it to be much more virulently anti-Muslim than it in fact was.

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