Travelling up to North York for the Toronto premiere of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West, I take the time on the Rocket to mull over a couple of my own obsessions.
Obsession one: While I abhor their use of violence, I root for both the Palestinians and the Israelis in their respective struggles for statehood and security. Naive? Wimpy?
Obsession two: Suicide bombing is an abomination, and so is being forced to live decade upon decade in refugee camps. Is one worse than the other?
Which leads to my third obsession. If the 9/11 terrorists "hate our freedom," then they have won, since they have succeeded in limiting them.
Prior to a recent screening of Obsession in Winnipeg, Muslim groups there called on the police to shut the event down because they felt it was hate propaganda. The police were unconvinced and the screening proceeded. Here, there's been no such outcry.
In fact, my program notes before a screening last week at the 1,800-seat Performing Arts Centre in North York, include an endorsement by the American Islamic Congress. Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress is one of the invited guests. Also on the bill is former Sea-Doo calendar boy and current federal Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day.
The meeting billed as "a community-wide call to action" is hosted by Orthodox Jewish group Aish Toronto, Ezer Mizion, an Israeli org that helps victims of terror, and the Canadian Coalition Against Terror.
Before the film, there's a very moving testimonial by victims of the Air India bombing. Then the father of Corporal Matthew Dinning, a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, reads the names of the 17 Canadians killed so far as their faces are projected onto the screen above, and while I question whether soldiers at war should be considered victims of terror, I feel choked up - they are all so young. The entire presentaiton is incredibly sobering.
The rest of the evening is a bit of a joke. First of all, I'm sitting beside a woman who asks me who I write for and then harrumphs and turns away. And when Fatah tells the audience the main victims of terrorism are Muslims and I mutter my audible agreement, she whips back around in her seat: "You seem to be mostly interested in what he has to say, don't you?"
Things get wackier still when right-wing Christian broadcaster Michael Coren introduces Stockwell Day by saying "thank God" he was named public safety minister. And then a real stunner: Day gets not one, but two standing ovations. (I remain in my seat, and so, surprisingly, does the woman next to me. Memo to me: never generalize about people.)
Day intensely courted the conservative wing of the Jewish community during his days as leader of the benighted Canadian Alliance, and his work seems to have paid off.
He makes a point of saying that if a Christian were distorting the faith, he'd be the first to point that fact out. Now that's a scary point."Muslims must stand up to those in the community who twist their faith," he says to rousing applause from the capacity crowd of non-Muslims.
Day isn't here to say anything that could help Canadians understand the terror issue today. He's here to ratchet up the fear. This is the order of the day, and Obsession delivers the goods. As mind-numbing a propaganda piece as there ever was, Obsession is a relentless journey through the entrails of Islamofascism.
There are shocking clips from Palestinian TV of children singing about killing the infidel. Young men are shown training to be suicide bombers. An endless procession of frothy imans spew invective at just about the whole of humanity except those who fall within their narrow comfort zone.
Indeed, the film really has me, scares me to death, in fact, until near the end when we see the iconic and fraudulent footage of the statue of Saddam being brought down in central Baghdad just after the U.S. invasion .
Come on, folks. This footage has been definitively discredited and acknowledged for what it is: staged U.S. propaganda. The fact is, Obsession may be a wake-up call, but to buy into its premise requires its audience to ignore the obvious question: Why is there this purported worldwide hate-on against the West?
Day's simple-minded assumption laces the entire Obsession narrative. We "need to come to grips with the fact that terrorists do this out of sheer hatred of differences,' he tells the crowd.
Nice try, but it conveniently ignores the elephant in the room: generations of mistreatment of the Muslim world by meddling Western powers propping up despotic, corrupt and sometimes, ironically, Islamist regimes; Israel's occupation of Palestinian land; the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq; and now a Canadian-backed onslaught in Afghanistan which is killing not just Taliban fighters but civilians as well.
I ask Fatah later why he lent his prestige to a meeting that inflamed more than educated. "I don't think the film was made with empathy for Muslim victims of terror,' he allows. "But you can't run away from the fact that notwithstanding all the Muslim suffering, from a very young age many Muslims are told that violence is the answer. I don't disagree with the fact that the Saudis and the Iranians are pushing a violent form of Islam."
Fatah does say he would have liked to see the film include issues of state terror as well as a critique of the Blair/Bush war on terror, "which has been an epic disaster," he says. "But simply slamming the film as Islamaphobia is no good."
Islamophobic or no, for a film that purports to take the threat of terrorism seriously, Obsession is singularly uninterested in getting rid of it.