A controversial video about the dangers of radical Islam that has been distributed to millions of American homes in key electoral swing states as part of their daily newspaper bundle has become the target of a formal complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Wednesday.
The 2006 DVD “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” has been distributed free-of-charge in 70 newspapers, including the New York Times, reaching 28 million people in battleground states in a campaign that a national Islamic civil rights group has said may violate federal election law.
Produced by the non-profit Clarion Fund, the DVD claims to give “an ‘insider's view' of the hatred the Radicals are teaching, their incitement of global jihad, and their goal of world domination” using Arabic television footage “rarely seen in the West.”
'The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,'' the sleeve of the DVD Americans received in their newspapers over the past week and a half reads. ''But it's a topic that neither the presidential candidates nor the media are discussing openly. It's our responsibility to ensure we can all make an informed vote in November.''
The Washington D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a complaint with the FEC Wednesday asking it to investigate whether the organization violated election rules governing the contributions of charitable organizations and foreign nationals to a presidential campaign.
According to U.S. law, 501(c)(3) organizations may not engage in political activity, endorse campaigns or conduct campaign activities that seek to influence elections .
According to the Patriot News in Pennsylvania an article on the group's Web site, www.radicalislam.org explicitly backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain: "McCain's policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while [Barack] Obama's, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse.”
Gregory Ross, communications director for the Clarion Fund, was quoted as saying the article "crossed the line" and would be removed.
Ninety-five percent of the papers containing the DVD were sent to 10 key swing states in what CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper called “an unprecedented, mindboggling campaign” by a non-profit organization that has refused to reveal the funding source for the mailing.
Despite several attempts by AlArabiya.net to contact the Clarion Fund no calls were returned.
“This is typical right-wing pro-Israel stuff,” Hooper told AlArabiya.net in an interview.
The New York-based Clarion Fund, whose motto is National Security through Education, does not list any information about its Board of Directors or contributors on its website. CAIR alleges in its complaint that employees of the Clarion Fund serve as employees for the Israeli-based Aish HaTorah International, which may have provided funding, marketing and distribution for the DVD.
According to Ross financing for the film came from “a concerned citizen who has a long standing relationship with our organization,” according to an interview published on ArtLindsey.com. “The cost was under $500k and it took over a year to complete."
The proceeds, he noted, have primarily gone into marketing the film.
But some of the marketing backfired as subscribers, offended by the DVD’s inclusion in their local newspaper, protested to their newspapers and a fiery debate erupted throughout the media and in blogs as more and more people received the film.
One person reported getting an automated phone call asking that person to watch film and then “keep it in mind when you go to the voting booth.”
Interfaith leaders, newspaper editorials and letters-to-the-editor have condemned the video as offensive and called for an FEC investigation. At least two papers refused to distribute the DVD.
“There are a lot of false statements, inaccuracies, a lot of exaggerated statements,” Mohamed Al-Darsani, imam and director of the Islamic Center for PEACE in Fort Myers, FL, told AlArabiya.net in an interview.
A scene showing an Arabic text that purports to teach Jordanian and Palestinian children racism is in fact a dictionary entry, and rants against America or others are not put in context, explained Darsani. His organization started a website, www.obsessionwatch.org, to counter the claims made in the DVD and oppose the campaign.
“This is an organized campaign, well financed right now and the consequences are going to be very very dirty,” he said. “Whereas they’re focused on the election we’ll (Muslims) live with it for generation.”