LA Sheriff Baca & Actor Mike Farrell Join Coalition Opposing Anti-Muslim DVD
October 13, 2008
Sheriff Lee Baca, actor Mike Farrell and nearly 20 members of the newly formed Coalition for Renewing American Democracy held a press conference earlier today to voice their unified opposition to an anti-Muslim DVD called "Obsession."
Since mid-September, roughly 28 million copies of a DVD called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" have been distributed as advertising inserts in 70 newspapers in 12 key election swing states. While the DVD begins with a statement that most Muslims do not support terrorism, it immediately sets to work undermining this idea. "Obsession" is anti-Muslim propaganda which aims to produce anxiety, mistrust, and deep unease in the average American viewer about the presence, activities and attitudes of millions of their fellow Muslim American citizens.
"This is no longer a discussion about Muslims," said Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, co-founder of JewsOnFirst.org. "This whole enterprise becomes the responsibilites of Christians and Jews and other religious people to stand in their pulpits to educate and refute these claims. I think that this distribution will have echoes in this society for a very, very long time. We will for a very long time be involved in rebutting, correcting the record, and defending those people who are being defamed."
Rabbi Allen Freehling, Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Commission on Human Relations, added: "We are here as a group of diverse individuals representing all kinds of communities to indicate to those people who, for their own self-serving purposes, created this DVD to let them know that they will not succeed. They may have started something that they may resent in the long run. After all, they were hoping for destruction and violence, they were hoping to divide us. The fact of the matter, this has brought us closer together to communicate to the community at large to indicate that those who spew hate will not succeed."
At the press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca also stressed the role of law enforcement in protecting people of all backgrounds.
"Hate crime is something that concerns all Americans, since civil rights and human rights are constitutional guarantees," Baca said. "The proposition put forth by some who are extremists, who want not only to defame a religion but incite other people to discredit them and therefore act out in a violent way toward people of that relgion, is a totally unacceptable practice that cannot in any way be condoned. Law enforcement is vigilent to protect people and their right to practice their religion."
Dr. Maher Hathout, Senior Advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, added: "Democracy becomes healthy when citizens are aware and when they ask questions. I believe the current hurricane of hate we are fighting will ultimately dissipate because the very fabric and the very core of the American people is good and they will eventually resent this vulgarity in dealing with serious issues. The makers of 'Obsession' have the right to speak and we have the obligation to respond. They speak hate and we will speak love. They will speak division and we will speak unity."
Other speakers at the press conference included actor Mike Farrell, Rabbi Steven Jacobs (Progressive Faith Foundation), and Dr. Xandra Kayden (UCLA professor).
The coalition also released a statement, signed by more than two dozen religious, civic and law enforcement officials, voicing their "deep concern over the recent distribution of a deeply divisive and anger-provoking DVD" which undermines "our common and cherished beliefs by inciting fear and furthering ignorant stereotypes." (Click here to read the full statement.)
The statement from the Coalition for Renewing American Democracy reads, in part:
"We, as members of civic and religious organizations along with law enforcement, come together united against hate and extremism. We believe that the best way to counter political and religious extremism is through cooperation and coordination. Those who divide our pluralism along the lines of religious or political views only further the cause of extremism. They profit from the fear generated from propaganda while we are on the front lines of pursuing effective public policy to eradicate terrorism."
America stands for the core values of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, pluralism, and equality for all. The Coalition for Renewing American Democracy seeks to work with a diverse group of faith and civic leaders and communities to renew America's promise by engaging elected officials and community leaders to promote security and guard against discrimination. (source)