MICHAEL JEWELL A&E Editor
Imagine my delight when I discovered a copy of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” in my inbox at the District office. Obviously, the pseudonymous producers behind the film, an alarmist piece of right-wing anti-Islamic propaganda, expect me, as the paper’s A&E editor, to perhaps encourage District readers to look into the film, or even organize a screening. It is my pleasure to disappoint them.
I find myself somewhere in the middle of the clumsy, dangerous dance between the shadowy apparitions known as “Islam” and “the West.” I know from my own country’s affairs thrown into constant flux by fundamentalist Christians that my cherished secular society is under constant threat. I choose not to respond, as the producers of “Obsession” have, with blanket mischaracterization, appeals to anti-ethnic sentiment, over-simplification and the constant drumming up of fear of an invisible, ever-present threat. The film’s shadowy producers, hodgepodge panel of “experts,” highly politicized distribution and the lamest trick in the book, comparisons to the Nazis, undercuts any shred of credibility “Obsessed” hoped to imitate.
I’m a secularist, and I envision my country made up of equally protected religious groups living in harmony with each other and with the non-religious like myself, and most importantly, keeping their noses out of government. Europe is having a tougher time upholding this egalitarian dream, with Saudi-funded religious schools, five legally recognized Islamic civil courts in England, critics, questioners, doubters like former Dutch PM Ayaan Hirsi Ali, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and publisher Martin Rynja living under the constant threat of violence, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference threatening the UN Human Rights Council to make defamation (or criticism) of Religions illegal.
This last point is the most dangerous. Criticism of power, especially in the form of humor, is the most powerful weapon against irrationality, baseless authority and oppression. The ability to question our own beliefs and modify them if they are shown to be unreasonable makes us stronger. The supposed immunity to criticism and a base proclamation against being questioned is the last hope of those who know their views can’t stand up to scrutiny.
In my wildest fantasy, worldwide adoption of critical thinking will quietly and decisively put superstition to bed, but the best I can hope for is moderation. The Christian faith in general experienced a mainline shift in behavior when early Deists like Thomas Hobbes worked within to reconcile basic, rational morality and a Hellenistic scientific inquiry with their theistic worldview. Islam, too, will reform and revoke its fear of modernity, but on its own terms, and should be helped with the cooperation of a secular society without enabling their recent insular behavior. The path to peace lies not on the battlefield, but in the classroom.