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never again? Simon Wiesenthal Center to screen Islamophobic film “The Third Jihad”

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

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.

Sincerely,

Hussam Ayloush
Executive Director
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



  • Madelyne

    So why not screen the video yourself, host a round table with Zudhi Jasser – he is also a Muslim and this is his second film on “radical” Islam and in both they are quick to point out that they believe the radical segment of the Islamic population is a small minority.
    Why do Muslims like yourself have a problem with that?
    Do you affirm Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state?
    Do you denounce Islamic terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hizbollah, and another you are well acquainted with the Muslim Brotherhood?
    It seems all you are trying to do is prevent some Muslims, like Mr. Jasser, from raising awareness on this issue and you are scared to discuss the issue and even debate him on point you may disagree.
    Don’t make this an issue on your hatred for Jews or trying to demonize Jews – the movie was made by a Muslim – or do you consider him an apostate?
    Have the courage to post this and not delete it – print screened it just in case you do.

  • cj

    I agree with the first post. You obviously consider him an apostate. Perhaps you should do your duty as a muslim and deal with him..?
    Or perhaps you should take a long look in the mirror and see if there’s any fault? Oh, of course not, it’s the ‘others’ who are the problem and you’re innocent of being a closed minded fool.
    Religion is the problem. Irrational beliefs in unproven nonsense that results in deaths and hatred is the problem.

  • cj

    Hey everybody, how about reviewing a shortened version of the film for yourself, and see if you agree with Aziz’s description of it.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-864522917532871834

  • The Clarion Fund

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    THE THIRD JIHAD DRAWS CAPACITY CROWD IN L.A.
    FILM PREMIERE AT WIESENTHAL CENTER’S MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE CELEBRATES COURAGEOUS VOICE OF AMERICAN MUSLIM PATRIOT
    (LOS ANGELES, CA – May 19, 2009) The Clarion Fund announced today that the West Coast premiere of its newest documentary film, The Third Jihad, was a stunning success, drawing a capacity crowd at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. Though the event was billed as a film screening, it was transformed into a celebration of the courageous voice of Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and American patriot who is leading the charge against radical Islam.
    “The Museum of Tolerance showed courage in hosting this event, and class in not responding to its critics,” said Peter Connors, Executive Director of Clarion. “It was the perfect atmosphere for Dr. Jasser to rally the American Muslim community to stop the radicals that are co-opting their peaceful religion and promulgating heinous human rights injustices.”
    Despite great personal risk, Dr. Jasser, a former physician to the U.S. congress and the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), has taken a leading role in exposing and fighting the threat of radical Islamism and jihadism in America. He promotes the synergy of the Muslim faith, in belief and practice, with the American values of democracy, freedom, and liberty.
    “It is time for the mainstream Muslim population – and the American public – to raise its voices louder than the theocrats, militants and radical Islamists who generally voice the ‘opinions’ of Islam,” said Dr. Jasser. “It is my mission to rally the Muslim ‘business community’ to begin speaking for themselves, so that the radical Islamists can no longer articulate and define what Islam is and what it isn’t.”
    The Third Jihad, which is narrated by Dr. Jasser, centers on the FBI discovery of a Grand Jihad Manifesto calling for “civilization jihadist process,” a cultural jihad to undermine the U.S. from within using non-violent strategies. Dr. Jasser illustrates how this silent war has already begun in America and other Western countries.
    “The most important contribution of this film is introducing the American public to moderate Muslims who unequivocally denounce terrorism and extremists in their midst,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, itself a producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary films The Long Way Home and Genocide through Moriah Films. “It provides a window into the inner struggle of these brave individuals over which values will ultimately prevail in their community.”
    The film features interviews with experts on radical Islam and American security specialists, including leading expert professor Bernard Lewis, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Senator Joe Lieberman, CIA Director Jim Woolsey, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as a first-hand account from a former terrorist. All those interviewed agree that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in America is a societal reality that cannot be ignored.
    The successful Washington, DC, and Los Angeles premieres of the film have paved the way for additional screenings across the country over the next several months, including an exclusive event at The New York Directors Guild Theatre in June.
    # # #
    The Clarion Fund (www.clarionfund.org) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that aims to educate Americans about issues of national security. The organization focuses primarily on the emergent threat of radical Islam. To that end, Clarion produces and distributes documentary films and facilitates online education to help Americans better understand the real dangers posed by radical Islam. In addition to RadicalIslam.org, the organization’s interactive online educational and social networking tool, Clarion has a popular live-blogging presence on Twitter: @No2RadicalIslam.
    Nancy Duncan
    Clarion Fund PR
    917-806-8809
    media@clarionfund.org

  • Your Name

    In a divisive situation, there is always hope that certain words will encourage peace and that certain actions will promote understanding. Unfortunately, the actions taken by the Wiesenthal Center, that is supposedly known for “confronting hate” and “promoting dignity”, has exemplified hypocrisy in it’s mission statement by screening The Third Jihad. Ironically, they managed to “promote hate” and “discouraged dignity”. Sadly, when the victim becomes the aggressor, chances for hope quickly diminish.

  • Motamer

    I am reposting a comment to Rabbi Hirschfield’s response to Aziz’s piece here.
    M
    Original Post:
    May 19, 2009 5:17 PM
    Rabbi Hirschfield,
    You assume the role of the neutral sage who sends everybody to their room without regard to partisanship, but you don’t play that role too well and your biases quickly ooze through.
    On the one hand you scurry to offer homage to the Weisenthal Center as a “large and influential” organization, But then you turn around and strip CAIR from the same – though it also be a “large and influential” organization. In fact, you explicitly cast your own aspersions on CAIR by entertaining the cynical and preposterous fantasy that CAIR may possibly accept that the Elders of Protocols of Zion is partially true.
    This is neither fair nor honest on your part. CAIR has never said anything to lead you to believe that, indeed it has explicitly stated the very opposite. So your brand of humor, probing, or whatever that was completely backfired and only displayed your double standard in showing respect to established Jewish organizations while working to undermine respect for established Muslim organizations.
    This sort of antagonism and display of contempt and disdain for Muslim enfranchisement that you – hopefully inadvertently – infuse in your piece, is in turn carried out explicitly in this film. A film whose hypocritical and deceptive nature you apologize for by pointing out that it has “elements of truth” in it. What are those elements of truth? That Muslims have a radical minority? Is that a revelation missed upon us? Do we need a new film for that? CAIR is the first to acknowledge and condemn violent and radicalized tendencies among Muslims.
    Oh but that’s not even it.
    You see the film is not so much concerned with “that” minority, the radical minority, the real threat. You, like the film, befuddle the tiny fact that the minority targeted in 3rd Jihad is a whole other minority, it’s the religious minority of American Muslims in the US – a minority vis-a-vis Christians, but mainstream American nonetheless – living and working through honor, hard work, and fair opportunity to represent the underrepresented.
    The Third Jihad is about casting suspicion on the mainstream American Muslim establishment as some sort of fifth column conspiratorial, massively deceptive insurgency that is out to take over America. There is zero truth in this claim. That precisely invites a comparison to the Elders of Zion, and missing that on your part does not say much for your actual familiarity with the film.

  • WDSF

    Totally agree with Motamer!

  • Have Seen the Film

    You obviously haven’t seen the film, and apparently neither has the CAIR official who wrote the letter. Basing an opinion on a couple of “twitters” is bound to make you look stupid. The film, which is narrated by an observant Muslim, states right at the beginning that it is NOT about Islam and Muslims as a group. It is about a relatively small group of radical terrorists who want to take over the world. They use Islam as justification for their acts.
    The spread of radical “Islam” truly is a world problem. Or have you forgotten 9/11, Mumbai, the Bali bombings, etc? This isn’t made-up stuff; this is real. The Saudis have used their wealth to spread a message of hatred. I have seen this myself in both Africa and the U.S.
    BTW, CAIR has been linked to the same radical sources.
    If you think that democracy and Islam are incompatible, then you are part of the problem the film discusses. You are either for love or for hate. We all have free choice. What do you choose?
    Next time, try actually viewing the film you criticize.

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