My sister sent me a link to a blog post with a first-hand account of an incident at a mosque in Dayton, Ohio. The first-hand account differs drastically in tone and content from an article in the Dayton Daily News covering the same incident. Although police concluded that there was no evidence of a “biased crime,” individuals within the mosque noted that the recent release of a DVD, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, may have provoked the incident.
The Clarion Fund, a “non-profit, non-partisan” organization whose primary focus is “the most urgent threat of radical Islam,” engaged in a mass mailing of the DVD beginning on September 14, 2008. The group’s web page for the DVD touts that 28 million copies of the DVD have been distributed. The web site contains little information regarding the content of the DVD, but the imagery is strong. Emblazoned across the top of the screen is the DVD’s logo: the “O” of “Obsession” is the star and crescent symbol commonly associated with Islam, and the “n” is formed in part by a gun.
The DVD is viewable on YouTube. The DVD appears in ten six-minute video clips that must be watched individually. Although the DVD begins with a statement that not all Muslims are terrorists, it proceeds in broad generalizations to link Islam to terrorism and to compare Islam to Nazi Germany. One commentator goes so far as to note that the “war on terror” is “history repeating itself,” i.e., a failure to act tough in the war on terror will result tragedies akin to the Holocaust. The DVD includes a barrage of images of large groups of Muslims worshiping, calls by individual Muslims to attack the United States, and pictures of Arab children with guns. The images are terrorizing; they invoke panic and mistrust, and play on our fear of future attacks against the United States.
The most striking aspect of the DVD is its lack of specification; the DVD conflates terrorist groups and acts, and associates these groups and acts with one religion. At the beginning of the DVD, images of terrorist attacks abound. A map is filled with red dots demarcating the locations of terrorist attacks throughout the world. The red dots expand, seeping outward like blood. Nonetheless, there is no explanation of the groups who perpetrated these acts or the ideologies underlying their attacks. In fact, there is little by way of factual development throughout the DVD. Each attack is attributed to Islam without distinction.
Linking a religion to terrorism is dangerous and invites hate crimes, such as the incident at the mosque in Dayton. Making the war on terror synonymous with a “war against Islam” continues down a road that has threatened the rule of law in the United States. The war on terror is not a war in the traditional sense: there is no defined enemy, time limit, or rules that apply. Guantánamo is an example of the ways in which this limitless war has affected individuals from countries all over the world, some of whom have only the most attenuated ties to any wrongdoing. It is grievous error to engage in broadscale attacks that are not based on specified wrongdoing. In this manner “Obsession” and the Clarion Fund’s attacks against Islam commit the same mistakes of the Bush Administration and its war on terror. As a result, many innocent individuals are caught up in campaigns playing on racist and nationalist fear of "the other."