The makers of a controversial documentary about Islam are spending millions of dollars to distribute their film on DVD as a paid advertisement in newspapers across the country, including today's Tampa Tribune.
The film, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West," is meant to scare viewers and to draw attention to Muslim extremist activities around the globe, said Gregory Ross, director of communications for the Clarion Fund.
The Tribune is one of about 70 newspapers that agreed to bundle the film inside its paper. The DVD also will be included in next Sunday's Tampa Tribune.
To date, about 28 million copies of the DVD have been distributed through newspapers and direct mailings in states such as Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan and Florida.
At least one newspaper, the News-Record of Greensboro, N.C., declined to distribute the DVD based on its advertising policies.
"It's the reader's choice whether to open it up and view it," said Tampa Tribune Publisher Denise Palmer.
Palmer said the Tribune's decision to distribute the DVD was based on freedom of speech.
"As long as it's solidly in the advertising content," she said, "people should understand it's an advertising message."
She declined to say how much the newspaper was paid.
"Obsession" offers a disclaimer that not all Muslims are extremists, but the film features incendiary scenes of radical Islamists around the world calling for the destruction of the United States and other countries. It makes numerous comparisons between the efforts of these extremists and Adolf Hitler's Nazi party.
Originally produced in 2006, the nearly 2-year-old movie is being rereleased now as a truncated 60-minute DVD. The full 74-minute DVD is being sold online for $14.95.
Ross said the timing is meant to honor the recent anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers. The film includes repeated video footage of the two airliners crashing into the towers.
He denied that the film is meant to influence the current presidential election.
The DVD is being criticized, particularly by Muslims, for inciting fear.
"The film goes beyond an honest critique of terrorism and radicalism," said Ahmed Rehab, strategic communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "They're exploiting the fear and hysteria in this country to try and sell a larger conflict that is essentially a religious conflict."
Ross said the film should scare people.
"It's a scary thing. There's people out there who want to kill us," he said. "People say that's fear-mongering. Some people might have said Paul Revere was fear-mongering."
The movie offers little documentation to back up some of its claims. For instance, the film says there are 1 billion Muslims in the world, but only about 10 percent to 15 percent are believed to be radical. The number of Muslims who are anti-American, the film says, is much larger.
"Some of the times in the film, we're referencing sources, but then other times it's discovery we've done on our own," Ross said. "It's no different than Al Gore or Michael Moore or anything else drawing from the public sources and making claims."
"Obsession" is being distributed by the Clarion Fund, a New York-based nonprofit organization founded in November 2006 by Raphael Shore, a native of Canada who produced and co-wrote the film.
Clarion exists to "raise awareness of American national security issues," Ross said.
The organization has relied on private donors to cover distribution costs. The identity of those donors is unknown. Clarion has yet to file a 990 tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, which is required of all tax-exempt entities. Ross said the group's first tax return is expected to be filed shortly.