The Islamic Post Blog

“Obsession” Decried, Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service Investigate by Khalida
December 1, 2008, 1:13 am
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, National

By Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writer

In the arena of politics, Americans have come to expect any manner and number of spectacles inspired and expedited by the desperation of political contenders, and their avid well-wishers, as they seek to slay the reputation, integrity, and good record of one another.  Election 2008 being no exception, two citizens organizations have lodged official disapproval and detestation of the distribution by mail, and via a Sunday edition of at least 70 U.S. newspapers, of an inflammatory DVD purportedly to warn Americans of the dangerous threat of “radical Islamic elements” to the security of the United States. The film is entitled “Obsession, Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” and was distributed by a tax-exempt organization called the Clarion Fund.
Hate Hurts America (HHA), denounced the film with extensive research into the supporters of the production. HHA is “a nonpartisan diverse community coalition that brings together Americans of various faiths, races, and backgrounds in a unified stance against hate, incitement, community divisiveness, and intolerance – particularly against America’s minorities,” according to its website. “Although HHA is an advocate group for the Constitutional right of free speech, though biased or bigoted – they declare that “we also believe that while Americans should respect the right of bigots to free speech, we are under no obligation to accept, embrace, or promote their bigoted endeavors. In fact, we believe in asserting our own free speech toward exposing bigotry and challenging intolerance.”
With regards to “Obsession,” in particular, the group explains how the film “begins with a brief disclaimer that states: ‘It is important to remember that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror.’ However, the remainder of the film distorts facts and events” about Muslims to the degree where the intentions of the producers were called into question.
On the website, HHA published an expose′ and detailed rebuttal of the information contained in the above-mentioned DVD. “The HHA coalition believes that “As American citizens, we are alarmed by the massive distribution of this hate DVD, through the swing states” -key states whose votes are sought after by the presidential candidates. The distribution of the film was funded by The Clarion Fund, although HHA found the monetary sources of Clarion itself to be elusive. The group further states that the source of the widespread distribution, as well as the sponsoring individuals, or groups behind it, should be clearly known by all.
In its turn, the Council on American Islamic Relations filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commmission citing that –in addition to the exaggerated information contained in the DVD– the timing of the distribution of the anti-Islamic propaganda may have been purposely planned to coincide with the presidential election in order to influence public opinion against one of the candidates. In a statement to the press, the Council on American Islamic Relations’ executive director Nihad Awad declared, “American voters deserve to know whether they are targets of a multimillion-dollar campaign funded and directed by a foreign group seeking to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria as a way to influence the outcome of our presidential election.”
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Meg McLaughlin undertook an investigation in order to find the source of the DVD newspaper inserts, an estimated 28-million copies, which were broadly disbursed from around mid-September. Ms. McLaughlin’s state of publication, Florida, was one of at least 15 states inundated by the video, and was also carried by the St. Petersburg Times in Tampa.  According to her article, “Senders of Islam movie ‘Obsession’ Tied to Jewish Charity.” the Clarion Fund, was also found to be connected by a number of links to the Israeli charity and public relations organ, Aish HaTorah.  Some staff members and employee’s names are listed simultaneously in both the Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah.  McLaughlin mentions that “Clarion’s address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, which in turn is a fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah. The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to the group called HonestReporting, which produced Obsession. Honest­Reporting’s 2006 tax return uses the same address.”
Ms. McLaughlin also found that “two of the three Clarion Fund directors at the time of its incorporation in November 2006 appeared as Aish employees on Aish Web sites at the same time. The third appeared on the Aish executive committee. A June 15, 2001, article in the Jerusalem Post stated that Aish HaTorah provided, at that time, $150,000 in seed money to create an organization called Media Watch International’ which merged with HonestReporting, the group that made the Obsession video, four years later.
Clarion’s point of view is being promulgated as ‘free speech’ in hopes that the DVD be categorized as a politically neutral piece. However, Ms. McLaughlin’s article relates the opinion of Marc Owens, a Washington tax attorney who has worked for 10 years in the Tax Exempt department at the IRS, and who surmised that if the agency finds a definite link between the DVD and the Aish organization, it will assess if the film is actually meant as “an inflammatory hate message instead of a charitable, educational message.”  The answer found by the IRS will determine whether or not the groups will retain their tax-exempt status.
-Researcher Dalya A. Wadud contributed to this report.


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