The Battle of the Films - Obsession and Fitna Versus Schism
by Sheila Musaji
9/28/08 update, see also: Resources for Responding to “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West” DVD Mass Distribution to 28 million Americans. Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad? for a background on those responsible for the production, mass distribution, and promotion of the film. In-Depth Summary & Analysis of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West” for a point by point discussion of the film.
First we had Aish Hatorah’s Obsession film (over an hour long). Then we had Geert Wilders’ Fitna film (17 minutes long). And now, a Saudi blogger named Raid Al-Saeed has put together a film called Schism (9 minutes long) to show how easy it is to take scriptural verses and random film shots out of context and create propaganda that will demonize “the other”.
As Eboo Patel commented when Fitna came out “So how do we respond? Religious pluralism goes beyond mere tolerance for diversity. It requires that we respect one another’s religious identities, develop mutually enriching relationships with each other, and work together to make this world a better place. How do the forces of pluralism fight back? For pluralism to become real, it needs advocates who can articulate its essential message in a powerful way.”
It would seem that al-Saeed in Schism has attempted to do just that - articulate the problem with this sort of sleazy propoganda in a powerful way, using the same medium as previous propoganda films and showing that stereotyping can go both ways.
According to the Arab News Raid Al-Saeed who said in an interview: “I made it in less than 24 hours. In ‘Schism,’ I have used the same methodology that Wilders has used and that involves taking texts out of context,” ... adding that he made the film to prove that it is incorrect to judge Islam by watching “Fitna.”
It has taken awhile for this film to be available online. He first posted it on March 1st, but you tube took it off because of “inappropriate content”. al-Saeed objected on the grounds that if Schism was removed for that reason, then Fitna should also be removed for the same reason. Schism is now back online.
I have watched all three of these films (Obsession, Fitna, and Schism) and in my view Schism uses exactly the techniques used in these more high budget propaganda pieces. He opens with shots of the Bible, and then intersperses verses from the Bible (new testament) with provocative images (IDF soldiers beating Palestinians, Nazi Germany, a KKK cross burning, Srebenica massacre, violence in Northern Ireland, Christian Penitentes, etc.) with a background of emotional music and builds an emotional response on the part of the viewer.
He ends by saying (paraphrased) that it is easy to do this, but we shouldn’t because it is wrong, that this is basically nonsense, that his film Schism is crap as is Fitna and that such exercises in futility won’t help us to make the world a better place.
And his final scene is the Qur’anic verse 5:48 ... To each among you have we prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.
I might have added: Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (Not that you may despise each other). Qur’an 49:13 which is the verse that has always been displayed on the front page of The American Muslim site.
I was relieved after seeing Schism and reading about the producers motivation that this film was clearly not in the same category as Obsession and Fitna. Al-Saeed’s film was clearly made by a Muslim who was frustrated (as we all are) by the barrage of propoganda and Islamophobia being aimed at us, but who clearly saw the problem and was attempting to appeal for an end to stereotyping and prejudice against anyone. It is an appeal for reconciliation and tolerance.
I hope that his voice is heard, and that we as Christians, Jews and Muslims can find ways together to isolate the voices of the extremists among us without resorting to demonizing each other. I am concerned, however that if the incredible onslaught of Islamophobia that we are currently experiencing continues it wouldn’t be surprising if someone else makes a longer film using even more emotional examples that has a different motivation - revenge rather than reconciliation.
(Note: You can view Fitna at http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/020486.php and you can view Schism at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGw6rsQ8xHk Watch them both and compare your reaction - if you think one of them is accurate and the other one isn’t, then perhaps your bias is showing.)
Update: There is another version of Schism online now that includes footage of Jesus Camp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpiccERJaFk