As part of a larger week centered on radical Islam and terrorism, several students gathered in Corwin Pavilion last night to watch a film that some campus community members have denounced for its allegedly hateful message.
Third-year political science major Alan Levine coordinated the screening of “Obsession” for nearly 250 audience members, speaking on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The film was presented in Corwin Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. under the broader wing of conservative pundit David Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” an event being observed at about 200 campuses nationwide. Levine began the presentation by paying homage to those who lost lives due to radical violence.
“I’d like to commemorate all victims of terrorism,” Levine said. “I’d like everyone to keep this in mind as we watch this film.”
The event, which also featured a discussion with Elan Carr, a veteran of the war in Iraq, drew both supporters and opposition. Members of Campus Democrats and Muslim Student Association distributed fliers preceding the screening of the film, in hopes of clarifying what they allege are misconceptions of Muslims portrayed in the video. MSA President Faheem Ahmad, a third-year cell and developmental biology and history double major, said the groups were not attempting to silence the film’s presenters.
“We’re not against free speech,” Ahmad said. “We’re just against the message of this movie.”
As an act of solidarity, IFAW’s opponents wore green to the screening. Associated Students Rep-at-Large Hassan Naveed said he felt the message of the film was misleading due to its incorrect assumption of all Muslim people holding extreme views.
“The problem we have with this movie is that it generalizes Muslims,” Naveed said. “Our intent [was] peaceful protest.”
The film, which alleges that fanatical Islam is a “dangerous ideology fueled by hatred,” includes a disclaimer indicating that it does not mean to implicate the entire Muslim population in its indictments.
It goes on to compare the present-day ideology of extremist Islam to that of Nazi Germany. Footage from the late 1930s was alternated in sequences with modern-day clips of terrorist bombings and even radical music videos.
Following the film, Carr, a University of California, Berkeley alumnus, said college students across the country should challenge the views of radical Islam, which he claimed is “an ideology which has ruined so many lives.”
Voices of dissent and whispers of anger arose from the audience. Carr continued discussing a brief history of Islam, the spread of democracy and the “vile, hate-filled” strain of the religion. After concluding his speech, several audience members asked Carr questions concerning Islam and the film.
Despite the hostility brewing in the forum, Levine said he felt the event was a success.
“People left with optimism, which is hard to accomplish when you’re talking about terrorism,” Levine said.
Third-year film & media studies and sociology double major Dmitriy Katsel said Carr made his point without being biased toward either side.
“The speaker was very eloquent,” Katsel said, “He seemed to portray a balanced reality without focusing too much on the extremist side.”
Following the discussion, tables were set out in front of Corwin Pavilion with information on campus groups in opposition to IFAW, including Queer Student Union, INDUS, Environmental Affairs Board and the A.S. Student Commission on Racial Equality. The Campus Democrats also held an alternative forum in the MultiCultural Center Lounge that allowed audience members to listen to students and faculty members with views differing from the video.
About 50 people, mainly clad in green, were present at the discussion afterwards, which offered presentations by two UCSB faculty members.
Professor of Arabic and religious studies Juan Campo said it is important to know who is funding Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, adding that David Horowitz was formerly affiliated with Marxism.
Associate professor in the Dept. of Communication Dr. Walid Afifi alleged that the movie was dangerous because of its caricatures of all ethnicities, including Jews and Muslims.
Third-year political science major Brenna Barber said that in handing out informational leaflets and holding a forum following the designated speaker, the groups in opposition to the film properly exercised their freedom of speech.
“We [were] not trying to infringe on the speech of the movie,” Barber said. “We’re just trying to promote intelligent conversation.”