Members of several Dayton religious organizations will meet at 3 p.m. today, Sept. 28, to view and discuss a DVD about Islamic radicalism that was mailed to some area homes and circulated with newspapers here and around the country.
The DVD, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," appeared as a paid advertising insert in the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun, Hamilton JournalNews and Middletown Journal, all owned by Cox Ohio Publishing, on Monday, Sept. 22. More than 70 other newspapers nationwide have also carried the advertisement.
Judith Martin, professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, said she thought a community dialogue is warranted because so many have received the DVD.
"It is our wish to discuss the film's content in an objective manner and answer any questions in an attempt to counteract the atmosphere of distrust and fear it could bring to our community," she said.
The DVD has prompted the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to call for the Federal Election Commission to launch a probe into the film's distributors, a pro-
Israeli organization created in 2006 called the Clarion Fund.
"'Obsession' does not offer an honest critique of violent radicalism as one would have hoped," said Ahmed Rehab, strategic communications director for CAIR. "Instead, it spends an hour attempting to blur the lines between the radical contingency in the Muslim world and mainstream Islam and Muslim society at large."
Gregory Ross, director of communications for the Clarion Fund, said many critics of the film, including CAIR, are "highly suspect." He said the Clarion Fund has done nothing wrong and the film is not an indictment of moderate Muslims. The intent is to inform the public about radical Muslim groups who strive to harm the United States and its interests, he said.
"We try hard to speak out and get moderate Muslims to join the fight against the radicals," Ross said, adding that the nonprofit group's second video, "The Third Jihad," will receive limited theatrical release next month.
Donations to the Clarion Fund have more than doubled since the DVD was first mailed shortly before Sept. 11 and inserted into newspapers in election-battleground states, including Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Locally, Cox Ohio Publishing Vice President of Advertising and Marketing Rob Rohr said the DVD met the company's advertising guidelines. He said the company understood the insert might generate controversy.
"In every instance where we review questionable material, we seek to honor First Amendment responsibilities that are the foundation of our company. Under that charge, we rarely deny access to advertisers who want to get a message out, even when those messages deal with controversial topics. We are confident that our readers can formulate their own evaluations of any content we distribute and clearly understand that advertising content does not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper."
The Rev. Gary Percesepe, executive director of Greater Dayton Christian Connections, called the film's release in swing states "a cynical attempt to influence the presidential contest by fanning the flames of fear and prejudice against Muslims, with the potential to inspire hate crimes against Muslims."
Ross denied that, claiming his organization is nonpartisan. "We just want whoever ends up (as president) to be informed and to respond," he said.
Percesepe believes it's time to set prejudices aside and bring down the walls that separate people of different faiths. "As 'people of the book,' Christians and Jews have a moral responsibility to stand in solidarity with their Muslim sisters and brothers and to denounce religious discrimination."