Flier, DVD in Sunday paper cause a stir

The glossy color insert in the St. Petersburg Times Sunday featured searing graphics: images of New York's ground zero, a masked fighter and a child holding a rifle.

Included with the flier was a DVD of the controversial film: Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West.

The insert is part of an effort to distribute 28-million copies of the movie through 70 different media outlets — including dozens of newspapers in states hotly contested during the presidential election, such as the Miami Herald, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

"I got almost all the way through it, and I turned it off," said John Brough, 70, a retired businessman in New Port Richey who feared the film might encourage Americans to react harshly to all Muslims, despite a disclaimer noting most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror. "It seemed (designed) to get people up in arms."

Moya Neville, vice president of advertising for the St. Petersburg Times, cited free speech concerns in explaining the insert.

"I feel badly that there are some readers who are offended by this, but many of our advertisements don't make people happy," said Neville.

In January, state Attorney General Bill McCollum presented three screenings of the film, which compares the danger of radical Islam to the threat from Nazi Germany. Concerns expressed by Muslims about the showings led McCollum to create a 14-member Muslim advisory group for his office.

Greg Ross, a spokesman for the New York-based Clarion Fund (a nonprofit created a year ago to distribute the 2005 film) said, "We're only attacking a small swath of people in a giant religion who are bent on doing harm to Americans."

Donnie Ali, a spokesman for the Tampa office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said some Muslims were offended the insert came during Ramadan, a religious holiday. While some CAIR officials have angrily denounced the distribution, Ali offered a more measured reaction.

"Running from a film like Obsession would be like pouring gasoline on the fire of Islamophobia," he said. "Sometimes we have to define ourselves by showing the world what we are not."

Flier, DVD in Sunday paper cause a stir 09/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008 11:25am]

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