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Rebutting Obsession

The film, Obsession, purports to be about national security issues; but it does not offer the kind of careful analysis that such crucially important topics deserve. Instead, it offers an agenda-driven combination of emotionally laden images, distortions, omissions and, deliberately or not, outright misstatements.

It is our assertion that this film’s title, Obsession, works as a command as much as a description. We believe that the attitudes and ideologies appearing to drive the film are mirror images of those that the makers of Obsession impute to what they dub “radical Islam:” a unifying, objectifying fear and hatred of a collection of disparate countries, religious orientations, ethnicities and political cliques that combines them into one powerful, inexplicable, alien enemy — one that, the film hints ominously, includes our Muslim fellow citizens and recent immigrants to our country. At a time of transition and economic pain for the United States, Obsession builds an epic narrative that allows the viewer to project all of his or her real and various fears and anxieties onto one externalized, hated foe.

Most dangerously, the film is structured to belie its ostensible disclaimer of any intention to portray the entirety of Islam as a violent and hateful religion. Stock footage of Muslims bowing in prayer or circling the Ka’aba at Mecca are interspersed with frightening images of gun-wielding youths and speakers who misuse traditional Islamic concepts such as jihad to incite violence. Eerie, “Middle Eastern”-sounding world-beat music sets off both sets of clips.

The frankly anti-Islamic message of Obsession is most apparent when the viewer is being warned about the “danger at home.” Undercutting the narrators’ assurances that the masses of peaceful, “good” Muslims are not to blame and ought not to feel insulted by any insinuation they might infer from Obsession, is the repetition of the word “infiltrated,” and the frightening message that the saboteurs among us may be indistinguishable by dress, manner or any outward sign — save that they are Muslim. To understand why this is dangerous, one need only remember the situation, during World War II, of Japanese Americans and the stigma faced earlier in the 20th century by non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, including Jews1. Anyone needing reassurance after viewing Obsession might find it in remembering the degree to which all of those groups have, after all the fuss, helped to shape and become shaped by the culture of our country.

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