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Published: Saturday, 9/20/2008

Ad worries members of Muslim community

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A DVD inserted as a paid advertisement in The Blade and many other newspapers Sunday drew expressions of concern, even anger, from members of the Muslim and interfaith communities during a gathering yesterday on the University of Toledo health science campus.

The event, organized by the United Muslim Association of Toledo, was billed as a news conference about the DVD, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West.

But with about 80 people in attendance - including representatives of five Toledo-area mosques, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio - most questions and comments came from the audience.

Nadeem Salem, a financial adviser and member of the Muslim community, said that the distribution of the DVD in select cities in presidential election swing states signified "that it was a political ploy to create hatred and fear of Islam and Muslims, making them a false national security threat among the general public.

He said American Muslims are an integral part of the United States and "have pledged to defend it from external and internal hostile elements. As a matter of fact, many Muslim Americans serve in the U.S. military with pride and honor."

Amjad Doumani, who said he was attending as a Muslim and a concerned citizen, said, "I'm a little bit disappointed in all those newspapers that agreed to take money to distribute such a message of hate at this time."

Mr. Salem, Mr. Doumani, and other speakers said they feared a backlash from the DVD that endangered the safety of Muslims.

Aalaa Eldeib, principal of the preschool-through-12th-grade Toledo Islamic Academy, said the doors of the Sylvania school have been locked since Monday - visitors have to be admitted by a staff member - and are likely to remain so next week because "we didn't know what the ramifications [of the DVD] were. This jeopardizes all our safety."

Juanita Greene, executive director of the Toledo Board of Community Relations, said she got a call from a young person who asked, "Should I be afraid to go to school today?"

"A lot of people are confused. 'Why is this coming out in my newspaper?'•" Ms. Greene said. "This is not what our city is about. Our city is about culture and respect."

Judy Trautman, of the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio, said, "As an American, I am very offended by this obvious attempt to manipulate the voting public so close to an election. As a member of two boards of interfaith organizations, I'm absolutely outraged at the amount of money behind this campaign.''

She urged participation in the Erase the Hate campaign and the council because "we're deeply committed to being community together."

Dr. Zaheer Hasan, who moderated the event, thanked the Muslim community for attending and, addressing them, said: "I want to say that all of these kind people who came here to stand by you, God willing, God hope that they never face what you faced. But if it ever happens, I will wish for all of you to be there for them.''

He said afterward that members of the Muslim community were to meet last night to discuss placing a full-page ad in The Blade.

It is estimated that 28 million copies of the DVD inserts were delivered last weekend as paid advertisements inside newspapers throughout the country, most concentrated in presidential election swing states such as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

In Ohio, six of the state's eight largest newspapers ran or will run the advertisement. In addition to The Blade, those papers included the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, and (Youngstown) Vindicator. The Dayton Daily News plans to run the insert on Monday.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer have not run the advertisement.

Among other papers nationally, the New York Times distributed it in select markets.

The DVD's sleeve describes the video as using footage from Arab television for "an 'insider's view' of the hatred the radicals are teaching, their incitement of global jihad, and their goal of world domination."

The 60-minute video mixes those television scenes with its own interviews with various commentators on the dangers "radical Islam" poses to western civilization.

The opening scenes include a disclaimer: "It's important to remember, most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terrorism."

What follows are scenes of Muslim militants and demonstrators burning American flags, children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, crowds chanting "Death to America," and Palestinians celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Joseph H. Zerbey IV, vice president and general manager of The Blade, emphasized that the DVD was a paid advertisement.

"The DVD is not a news product and its content is not a reflection of the views or opinion of The Blade, its owners, or its employees," he said in a statement.

Mr. Zerbey said that it was his decision to accept the paid advertisement insert to run with the Sept. 14 paper, and that he and other Blade managers watched the DVD before making the decision.

The newspaper has guidelines for rejecting objectionable advertisements, and the Obsession video did not cross that threshold, he said.

"If it is illegal, if it is immoral, or if it is obviously offensive in a brutal, demeaning, violent manner - we would not run it," Mr. Zerbey said. "I didn't see any of that in this DVD."

He added: "If people disagree with the content of the DVD then they need to contact the people that produced it."

The DVD's sleeve has an address and phone number for the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit group that claims political non-partisanship and whose mission "is to educate Americans about issues of national security."

Mr. Zerbey declined to disclose how much the group paid The Blade to run the inserts.

The Clarion Fund did not return phone messages seeking comment.

The DVD presents a condensed version of the 77-minute Obsession video, first released in 2006.

Staff writers JC Reindl and Alex M. Parker contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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