“Obsession” Video Sparks Online Debate over Muslims in the Media

“Obsession,” a film about “radical Islam’s war against the West,” is controversial both in its content and also because of its timely promotion just after the seventh anniversary of September 11, 2001, and weeks before the 2008 US presidential election. The film itself does not mention the presidential campaign and was actually produced back in 2006 by The Clarion Fund, a non-profit, making it illegal for the organization to take choose sides in campaign politics. On NPR critics of the film claimed producers and promoters of “Obsession” attempted to sway voter opinion in favor of John McCain.

Approximately 28 million free DVDs of the film were sent to homes in swing states across the US as advertisements included in newspapers and other print publications. The News & Record was the first publication to publicly decide not to distribute the DVD advertisement. Editor John Robinson announced the decision and mentioned backlash on his blog. Fox News coverage and interview with film makers sparked debate online over mainstream media coverage and advertisement of the movie. The American Muslim founding editor Sheila Musaji presents an in-depth perspective on terrorism, Jihad, and radical Islam for readers.

As Sheila Musaji points out that the focus in “Obsession” on radical Islam constitutes a real threat to the Muslim community, too.

Such [extremist] individuals and groups are marginal at best, but they are “useful idiots” in this well coordinated and well funded campaign of villification of the entire Muslim community. Local communities need to speak out forcefully and loudly against such individuals and groups and the venom they spread. They are certainly not a threat to America, but are a threat to the Muslim community.

As the Inside Islam project begins to take shape, the questions surrounding this movie reflect those that we hope to address further: How can we address issues of radicals and terrorism without equating them with all of Islam? How will the Muslim community respond to the film’s sequel, “The Third Jihad,” about radical Islam attacking America from within? Can media legitimately capture Muslim opinions, perspectives, languages, without vilifying all Muslims and separate the actual threats of war and terrorism from Muslim culture?

Bloggers, web journalists and users took the discussion about the film and radical Islam online. New media, social networks, and other emerging terms yet to be fully defined, are becoming more mainstream tools with diverse users. These new tools increase access to resources and people all over the world. Reactions and information from the Muslim community on the web rapidly measures the importance of discussing religious attitudes and Islam in general.

News & Observer: Readers obsessed with anti-Islam video

Babalu Blog: Reaction to “Obsession”

The American Muslim: In-depth Summary and Analysis of “Obsession”

The Kassandra Project: Mailbox “War of Terror” Propaganda

The Huffington Post: Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After “Obsession” DVD Hits Ohio

Watch Obsession: “Radical Islam’s War Against the West” (Abridged Version) and leave a reaction in the comment section for this post.

Leave other published reactions, or leave a new one, in the comments section. Suggest topics for public radio on the “Muslims in the Media” post before the show airs on October 30, 2008.

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