Ecumenical Church Body Accuses Radical Islam DVD of Misleading Viewers

The most prominent ecumenical church association in the United States has accused the filmmakers behind a controversial DVD on radical Islam of "distorting truth and misleading viewers."

The National Council of Churches (NCC)'s Interfaith Relations Commission says the DVD, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," has the effect of "fanning the sparks of mistrust, bigotry and hatred that undermine the very foundations of a multi-religious democracy."

"We are deeply troubled by the apparent intent of a film that presents a barrage of violent images, pieced together with the voices of commentators who move from speaking of 'radical Islam' to impugning Islam and Muslims more generally and presenting fear-mongering parallels between today's extremist terrorists and the Nazis," the commission expressed in a statement released late last week.

"[T]he content of this film has no useful analysis of terrorism beyond a shallow, monolithic, clash-of-civilizations theme that suggests that the only two responses to 'radical Islam' are war or appeasement," it added.

Since its re-release one week after the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in America, "Obsession" has drawn intense national attention, particularly for the distribution of 28 million copies several weeks ago through more than 70 mainstream newspapers, including The New York Times.

The DVD features an hour of actual footage from Arabic TV rarely seen in the West, interviews with former terrorists, as well as undercover footage showing suicide bomber initiations, the indoctrination of young children into hate and violence, secret jihad meetings and public celebrations of 9/11.

While some have touted the documentary as a "must-see" for revealing what many in the West are unaware of, critics say "Obsession" does not clearly distinguish between radical Islam and mainstream Islam.

Critics are also wary of the timing of the documentary's Sept. 18 re-release, which took place less than two months before the nation's presidential election.

Gregory Ross, director of communications for the group behind the DVD's mass distribution in recent months, however, said the timing of the movie's re-release was meant to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary and that the intention was not to sway voters to either candidate.

Regardless of what the intent may have been, the NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission has called for attention to be drawn away from the message of the DVD and toward the current and "unprecedented worldwide exchange" between Christians and Muslims.

"Building constructively on the foundations that unite us in fractured world provides a far more hopeful way ahead for Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike," the commission stated.

The NCC's statement was released two weeks after the conclusion of a Muslim-Christian conference hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury that brought together 17 prominent Muslims and 19 Christian leaders.

The statement's release also came just days before a delegation of 24 Muslim scholars was to meet in Rome with a delegation of Catholic leaders for a series of talks aimed at defusing tensions between Islam and Christianity.

The three-day meeting, which opened Tuesday, is being held under the banner "Love of God and love of neighbor."