On August 30th the 'documentary' Obsession: Radical Islam's War With the West was shown in Saint Louis. Prior to the showing of the film we had approached our local Interfaith Partnership group and asked if they would stand with us to express their objection to this film, and were told that 1) this was not an interfaith issue, and 2) is was a matter of free speech.
I understand that all of us have a right to free speech, and that even hateful speech is protected. I do not understand how any part of the religious community can not only condone but promote propaganda and racism directed towards another religious community. The showing of this film was legal, but we question that it was moral.
This 'event' was sponsored by Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, advertised in the Jewish Light as a community wide event, and in Jewish in Saint Louis and at the event Robert Cohn, Editor of Jewish Light praised the film and the speaker. The organizations who were listed as event sponsors in the program were: Aish Hatorah of Saint Louis, Branches of Issachar, Citizens for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East, EMMIS Communications, and Saint Louis Hillel. Branches of Issachar is a Christian group, but we have been unable to find any information about them. A billboard complete with stereotypical Arab was posted on a local highway to advertise the event. Aish Hatorah's spin off organization Honest Reporting also produced this film.
Over 1,000 people (including children) attended the screening, among them was our little group of 6 Muslims. Fortunately, we sat together because as the evening progressed we drew comfort from each others presence. The audience seemed to be primarily Jewish, but with a large Christian contingent also.
The film was a classic propaganda piece - in its 1 hour and 17 minutes, except for a disclaimer that this was not meant to be about all Muslims, the balance of the film was relentless in its depiction of issues, political movements, individuals, and positions as connected to the religion of Islam.
It is a fact that the Mufti of Jerusalem sided with Hitler and that there are photographs of him with Hitler (as shown in this film). It is also a fact that there are photographs of Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, and Catholic bishops and cardinals with Hitler and even giving the Hitler salute. It is also a fact that there were Muslims and Christians who protected Jews from the Nazis, who fought against the Nazi's, and who were killed in concentration camps. There are Muslims who have been declared "righteous gentiles" by Yad Vashem and other Holocaust memorial groups. The majority of Allied troops that landed on the beaches of Provence in August, 1944 were "free French" Muslims from North and West Africa. Muslims fought with the Allies in France, Italy, Stalingrad, and Leningrad. Are they now forgotten?
Bigotry and hatred can be found in all communities - for every photograph or speech in this film another could be shown just as virulent from another community, e.g. American protestors burning the American flag, Jewish Israeli children signing missiles with love, photos of Christian clergy with Hitler, Hitler's statements about Christianity, Nazi insignia with Christian symbols, statements by Meir Kahane or other Jewish Defense League members, or by Christian white supremacist clergy, Jewish Israeli's having a party to celebrate the Hebron massacre. Statements by extremist rabbis that during time of war the enemy has no innocents, or that call for the extermination of the enemy. Signs in a U.S. shop window calling Palestinians pigs and cockroaches. The list is long, and the effort to demonize each other pointless.