Last weekend, millions of copies of the 2005 hate-film Obsession were distributed throughout the U.S. (primarily in swing states) in about 80 newspapers. The film says its purpose is to warn Americans about radical Islam. But in reality, the film's message is that Muslims are an angry and barbaric mob, hell-bent on conquering the West through violent jihad.
This type of prevalent propaganda has ushered in a new kind of hysteria: Islam, Muslims and jihad -- McCarthyism 2.0.
The film starts with a brief disclaimer that most Muslims are peaceful, but then shows a series of violent images to ensure you think anything but that. The images are from around the world, some of them very old, of Muslims being aggressive and outraged. After seeing the images, the average viewer will have no choice but to conclude that Muslims are fanatical, that they are an immediate threat and that they must be stopped.
The reality portrayed by the movie is unrealistic and out of proportion. There simply is no global jihadist movement to conquer the West. These people cannot even take over their own countries, let alone take over America.
Nobody is ignoring the significance of groups like al-Qaida, but they are the small exception and not the norm. They are the Muslim equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan, Michigan Militia or skinheads -- a problem, but not an epidemic. Isolating the extremists, educating the masses and dialogue between faiths and cultures -- not Cold-War-style hysteria -- are the keys to battling such groups.
HAZEM R. BATA, executive director, Orlando Council on American-Islamic Relations