Obsession

There must be some agreement among right-wing “documentary” producers that associating their objects of hate with Hitler is the best way to rally their troops.

First, I saw Expelled, which was full of heavy-handed associations between Nazis and “Darwinists.” And now, I watched the movie Obsession. A DVD was included as an advertising insert in The Chronicle of Higher Education, of all places. Short summary: radical Muslims are the Nazis of today, and those of us dubious about getting on board the neocon crusade against the jihad are the Chamberlain-like appeasers of today.

The movie is embarrassingly propagandistic. (I wonder what Leni Riefenstahl would have thought.) The producers get so caught up in presenting the Daniel Pipes take on Islam that they must not have paid attention to some of what they ended up with. For example:

  • They go on and on about how Islam wants to take over the world, showing clips of all varieties of Muslim preachers (not just loonies) talking about how Islam shall conquer all. Of course, you bloody fools. It’s a missionary religion. Sort of like Christianity. Talking about converting the world to Islam need not imply any sort of violence. You get very similar pronouncements about conquering the world with the Gospel from conservative Christian pulpits all the time. And if the Christian preachers happen to have the book of Revelation on their mind, you can get some very violent imagery about the fate of infidels. It’s religion—who knows what all the drivel will translate to in terms of acts in the real world.
  • They showed a clip of churches being blown up in Bosnia. No mention, naturally, of Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) acts against mosques and other architectural symbols of a Muslim presence in Bosnia. The overwhelming impression the movie projects is a bunch of Muslims brainwashed with Nazi-like propaganda, who blindly strike out against anything Western. Surely the Muslim hordes must be irrational, or evil, or acting out of entirely phantom grievances. After all, they’re complaining about us, the Judeo-Christians, the only true civilization. Such appalling ingratitude, when we endure so much sacrifice to invade their countries out of nothing but the goodness of our hearts, to bestow freedom upon the benighted.
  • Oh yes, they included a clip of Saddam’s statue being pulled down in Baghdad. Nice touch, that one. As far as I’m concerned, any movie that shows that without a sense of irony forfeits all claim to intellectual honesty. But the producers don’t care. They’re playing to the Christian, flag-waving audience.
  • They go to some trouble, at the beginning and end, to mention that it’s a minority of Muslims who are attracted to terrorism, and that they have nothing against moderate Muslims. Fair enough. But it’s not that believable when they drop broad hints that what they call radical Islam is just an intensification of ordinary Islam. Their talking heads, after all, keep lapsing into talking about nasty aspects of Islam, without qualification.
  • Oh bloody hell, I’m not going to go on all night. Practically every scene is a study in the art of lying. Mainly by omission. Their dishonesty manages to taint even the bits that really are disgusting, such as clips from Arab TV stations in full-blown anti-Semitic idiot mode. But nothing has any context, so we’re supposed to believe that all this is a rerun of Nazi Germany. Enough—this is just tiresome.

This kind of propaganda is worrying, particularly if it has any influence. Terrorism associated with Islam and the frightening extent of Arab anti-Semitism are serious concerns. Which is exactly why responses should not get mixed up with the right-wing desire to exploit concerns about Islam to advance their own brand of religio-nationalist fanaticism.

While I’m at it, this necon version of “criticism” of Islam makes life more difficult for those of us who are interested in genuine criticism of Islam. For example, a couple of years ago I was making a conference presentation in Vienna, Austria, based on a paper I co-wrote about pseudoscientific concepts of gender in popular Islam. I then had to field a question from a nuisance of a graduate student who felt the need to demonstrate her political soundness by objecting to a paper critical of Islam being aired (by an American!) in the current climate. I had to explain that no, I was not some kind of neocon, and why the hell was this an issue anyway?

I resent having to spend time on such nonsense. I blame the multicultural Islamophiles, but just as much the crusading Islamophobes. A pox on them all.

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