I’ve argued in the past that muslims and jews in the West should make common cause in fighting against prejudice and tolerance – and in doing so, lead by example in terms of demonstrating the value of tolerance and respect based on our shared Abrahamic heritage. One ideal joint project would be for the ADL and CAIR to join forces and compile a national database of anti-semitic and Islamophobic incidents and hate crimes, for example, and perhaps start a group blog project discussing various issues.
Unfortunately, despite many previous examples of common cause that move such a vision forward, sometimes the innate prejudices of both groups moves the process backwards. Case in point – the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles will screen the grotesquely Islamophobic film The Third Jihad. As CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter explains in a letter to the SWC, The Third Jihad is the equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as far as its intention in portraying muslims in the United States and Islam as a whole as a fifth column, a Dolchstoßlegende for the modern era.
The full text of the letter from CAIR-LA to the SWC is reproduced below. This is shameful indeed and only underscores the importance of working together so that this rift cannot widen.
Rabbi Marvin Hier
Dean & Founder
Simon Wiesenthal Center
1399 South Roxbury Drive
Los Angeles, California 90035
May 14, 2009
Rabbi Marvin Hier:
I am contacting you to express the American Muslim community’s deep concern and dismay at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s plans to show the universally discredited anti-Muslim propaganda film, “The Third Jihad,” this Sunday at the “Museum of Tolerance.”
This film, like its discredited predecessor “Obsession,” seeks to portray American Muslims as a fifth column within the United States. It is the moral and ethical equivalent of the scurrilous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” You, of all people, should know the negative impact such false and defamatory portrayals can have on a minority community.
Screening “The Third Jihad” is akin to showing the Nazi-era film “Triumph of the Will,” which stereotyped Jews, or “Birth of a Nation,” which vilified African-Americans. Would you show “Triumph of the Will” or “Birth of a Nation” to your audiences? No, and rightly so.
The film disingenuously claims it is only targeting “radical Islam,” yet a Twitter account of the Washington, D.C., screening on Wednesday night stated:
“`Three Jihads’ First, 7th century burst out of Arabia…Second, Turks push to gates of Vienna… Third, TODAY…The 1400-hundred year war” clash has been going on since the beginning of Islam.”
These statements encompass the entirety of Islamic history and culture. Is that what the Wiesenthal Center believes we are fighting and have been fighting since the inception of Islam?
Furthermore, “The Third Jihad” resorts to innuendo, minimalism, sensationalism, and conjecture. In a pluralistic society in which healthy community relations are a necessity, agenda-driven films such as this do little to defuse confusion about religious minorities and educate the public in an honest and credible manner.
Following the release of “The Third Jihad” last year, the producers were forced to remove demonstrably false information. The film’s narrator, Zuhdi Jasser, also makes the false claim that CAIR avoided participating in a Muslim rally against terrorism he sponsored in Arizona in 2004. In fact, representatives of both CAIR’s Arizona and national offices asked to join in the effort, but Jasser refused.
As an institution that claims as its goal battling hatred and bigotry across the world, I am disappointed to see the Wiesenthal Center engage in promoting hatred and bigotry against another minority – American Muslims.
An investigative report in the St. Petersburg Times revealed ties between the film’s distributor, the Clarion Fund, and the Israel-based group Aish HaTorah. It is unfortunate that, per your institution’s stated mission, it apparently continues to believe it is benefiting the state of Israel by promoting anti-Muslim prejudices and propaganda.
I urge you to cancel the film screening and join the American Muslim community and many other Americans in finding ways to bring about peace and harmony among all people.
Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area
Related: my earlier post about the fallacy that Islam is inherently anti-Semitic, and previously discussed the differences between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Also, recall that the Third Jihad is a sequel by the same people who brought us the film Obsession, whose trailer I hosted at this blog in the name of free speech, and which was an incitement for the Dayton mosque tear-gassing incident. There’s a lot more on the agenda of the producers of the Third Jihad at the debunking and response site, Obsession with Hate.