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Church Council Attacks "Obsession" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 03, 2008

"Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" is a DVD, distributed to 28 million newspaper subscribers this Fall, which warns about radical Islam's hatred of free speech and religious pluralism, not to mention of Christians, Jews, moderate Muslims and secularists who will not bend to its harsh tenets.

But the National Council of Churches (NCC) would prefer not to hear about it and, not wanting to criticize radical Islam, is instead robustly denouncing "Obsession."  "While this film purports to educate and offers, at the outset, a disclaimer that it is not about the majority of peaceful Muslims, we see its content as serving only the aims of distorting truth and misleading viewers, fanning the sparks of mistrust, bigotry, and hatred that undermine the very foundations of a multi-religious democracy," declared the NCC's Interfaith Relation Commission.

Two of the four spokespersons for the NCC blast against "Obsession" are openly lesbian and presumably would not fare well under Islamist theocracy.  One, Gwynne Guibord, a former official with the predominantly homosexual Metropolitan Churches denomination and now an Episcopal priest, is co-convener of the National-Muslim Christian Initiative, working closely with the Islamic Society of North America. Diane Eck, a United Methodist and Harvard professor, who was the first openly lesbian house master at a Harvard dormitory, chairs the NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission.  She is also the founder of The Pluralism Project, a celebrant of religious diversity that likewise would not thrive under Islamist influence.  Peter Makari of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination is the commission's vice chairman.  And NCC interfaith official Antonios Kireopoulos, an Eastern Orthodox, is another contact person for the denunciation.  

“We are deeply troubled by the apparent intent of a film that presents a barrage of violent images, pieced together with the voices of commentators who move from speaking of 'radical Islam' to impugning Islam and Muslims more generally and presenting fear-mongering parallels between today's extremist terrorists and the Nazis,” the NCC interfaith maestros intoned.  Note how “radical Islam” requires quotes, as though it's almost dubious that such a thing exists.  “The National Council of Churches and its member churches consistently and adamantly denounce anti-Semitism in all its forms and condemn all forms of ethnic, racial, and religious hatred, including the Islamophobia typified in this film.”

Yes, the NCC is quite willing to denounce Christians and others who are ostensibly guilty of “Islamophobia.”  But the NCC’s silence about violent Islamists for years and decades has been loud and sustained.  The NCC is against “religious hatred,” but generally will not name the persons or ideologies fomenting it if they happen to be Islamist.  The NCC has of late been willing to criticize Iran's chief theocrat for his anti-Semitic rants.  But the NCC will not elaborate what motivates Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the same way it would readily condemn “fundamentalist” Christians who are purportedly extremist.  Most egregious about the NCC's refusal to critique theocratic Islam has been its almost complete silence about fellow Christians who are persecuted and even martyred.  It has acknowledged the plight of Christians in Iraq, but only because the NCC can, by implication, fault the U.S. rather than Islamists.

“Obsession” shows Islamist mobs performing Hitler-like salutes and chanting “death to America” under the guidance of clerics.  Palestinian children tell how they will gladly martyr themselves so as to kill Jews.  “I hope Bush dies in flames, and I want to go to Ariel Sharon and kill him with a gun and stab him with a sword,” enthuses one 10-year-old Palestinian girl.  Jihadist theology, with its hatred of the West, is shown to infect public school books even in “moderate” Muslim countries.  Meanwhile, the film illustrates why the West should be most distressed about radical Islam: the murderous terror strikes of recent years in New York, Washington, London, and Madrid, not to mention throughout the Middle East.

“The stated aim of this film is to alert and educate the public about the dangers of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam,” the NCC complained.  “We recognize that in all our traditions, extremists and radicals have forged the weaponry of violence.”  The NCC would be hard pressed to name the Christian or Jewish clerics who are calling for holy war against infidels and theocratic suppression of dissent.  It likes to remember the Crusades of 1,000 years ago, of course.  And perhaps the NCC implicitly regards the U.S. War on Terror as a Christian-Jewish “crusade” against Muslims, on the same moral plane as Islamist terror strikes against Western civilian targets.

Of course, the NCC cited its “Muslim dialogue partners” as joining it in thoughtfully condemning all "religiously motivated violence," in contrast to the "shallow, monolithic, clash-of-civilizations theme that suggests that the only two responses to 'radical Islam' are war or appeasement."  The NCC worried that "such a false choice serves only to incite the fear of Islam and aggression against Muslims." 

Graciously, the NCC offered its solidarity to "Muslim colleagues and fellow citizens who have experienced the de-humanizing effects of stereotyping and bigotry.  As Christians, we are mandated to uphold the values of the Gospel. As Americans, we stand with all who are determined to create just and fair democracy."

Tragically, the NCC's vaunted "dialogue" with purported spokespersons for Islam nearly always takes priority over any concern for the truly persecuted or for genuine democracy.  And the NCC will not likely any time soon offer its solidarity to oppressed Christians, Jews, secularists and far more numerous moderate Muslims who, in dozens of nations, routinely feel the terror of the radical Islam that "Obsession" attempts to expose.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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