(TALLAHASSEE, FL, 2/12/2008) – In a meeting today with state and national Islamic leaders in Tallahassee, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum agreed to establish a Muslim community advisory group.
Today’s meeting came following a controversy in which McCollum’s office reportedly directed staff throughout the state to view the controversial anti-Islam film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The film includes interviews with infamous Islamophobes like Nonie Darwish, Walid Shoebat, Daniel Pipes, and Steven Emerson.
During the meeting with representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the ACLU of Florida, and the Florida Muslim Bar Association, McCollum also agreed to offer educational programs on Islam and Muslims to his staff and to help build better relations between the Muslim community and law enforcement agencies.
“The challenge for all state and federal law enforcement agencies is to treat Muslim Americans as partners in keeping our country safe,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam al-Marayati, who took part in today’s meeting. “Reliance on propagandistic films like ‘Obsession’ is an obstacle to that objective.”
“We commend Attorney General McCollum for taking the time to meet with us and to address our concerns by creating a Muslim advisory group,” said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier, another meeting participant.
Interfaith leaders who took part in the hour-long meeting with the attorney general included Rabbi Steven Jacobs and Rev. Dr. Sandra Hulse. “We ought to be obsessed with the truth, not distortions that lead to demonization and hatred of any group,” said Rabbi Jacobs following the meeting.
Critics of the “Obsession” film say it offers an inflammatory portrayal of Islam and stigmatizes all Muslims as potential terrorists.
An article in today’s St. Petersburg Times quotes Jack Shaheen, author of four books on anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias, as saying, “[Nazi propagandist] Goebbels would be proud [of the film].” Shaheen added: “This film has a place in cinema history with the racist film Birth of a Nation and the Nazi film Triumph of the Will because it so cleverly advances lies to vilify a people.”
SEE: McCollum, Muslims to Discuss Film (St. Petersburg Times)
Nonie Darwish once wrote that “Islam is cruel, anti-women, anti-religious freedom and anti-personal freedom in general.” Walid Shoebat told a Missouri newspaper that he sees “many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam” and “Islam is not the religion of God — Islam is the devil” (Springfield News-Leader, 9/24/07). He was also quoted as saying: “What was in [Islam’s Prophet] Mohammed…was Satan.”
Shoebat’s claims of being a former terrorist have been questioned by academic experts, most recently following his speaking appearance last week at an Air Force Academy conference on terrorism. Critics say Shoebat, who tells audiences “I am a proud Islamophobe,” is an evangelical Christian who falsely claims to be a former Muslim terrorist.
SEE: Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims (New York Times, 2/7/08)
In 2001, Daniel Pipes claimed the “presence” and “enfranchisement” of American Muslims present “true dangers to American Jews.” Pipes once wrote on his website: “Yes, I do support the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II.”
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CONTACT: CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier, 813-731-9506, E-Mail: email@example.com; MPAC – Edina Lekovic, 213-383-3443, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org