Critics of the New York Police Department's use of the film "Third Jihad" for training not only have their facts wrong, they're missing one of the program's key point, argues Muslim reformist M. Zuhdi Jasser.
Jasser, who narrated the film, responded with two op-ed columns, one published Friday by the National Review and one Sunday in the New York Post. He focused on a New York Times report last week about the NYPD's use of the film, calling the story "shoddy and biased."
Investigative Project on Terrorism Executive Director Steven Emerson also published a lengthy analysis of the Times story here.
Media reports have bashed the film as generalizing Muslims as radicals and criticized officials for allowing it to be screened to nearly 1,500 officers. The Times got its most damning quote about the film wrong, Jasser wrote, saying it interspersed graphic violent images with the narration "This is the true agenda of Islam in America." In fact, the film cites a Muslim Brotherhood document which "shows the true agenda of much of Muslim leadership here in America."
The narration also included this disclaimer prominently: "This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are radical."
Yet the unquestioning nature of news reports critical of the film actually proves producers' points, Jasser wrote. Any criticism of radical Islam, be it from people outside the faith or devout Muslims like himself, is dismissed as bigoted. Drumming up outrage via the media helps shove moderate and reform-minded voices out of the debate, leaving Islamists alone to define the faith.
His work on the film was part of his own battle "against the radicals who seek to hijack our faith," Jasser wrote. He founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and joined the American Islamic Leadership Coalition as part of that effort to show the diversity of though among Muslims.
"That is what the vicious distortions about this film do to my work and the work of so many others within the House of Islam who are trying to publicly take on the American Islamist establishment."