My wife and I were sitting on the couch this past Sunday afternoon, with not much going on—as we rarely are on weekends these days—and as a way to pass the time, she suggested we watch a half-hour cut of the film The Third Jihad she’d stumbled on while dicking around on her laptop. Given all the controversy around the movie this past week in response to the revelation that the NYPD had shown it to officers as part of their training in counter-terrorism, and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s brief appearance, I figured it was worth the time. Know your enemy, right?
And just so we’re clear right off the bat, by “enemy,” I mean the forces that promulgate ignorance, not radical Islamist terrorists. Of the two very scary things, the former keeps me up far more nights than the latter.
I’ve watched a fair amount of agenda-laden documentaries in my day, and like anything, you learn to read them after a while—changes in musical cues, clever editing tricks like when a person’s audio continues after the video has moved away from them and you don’t actually know if what they’re saying was originally in that context, etc. The cut I saw of The Third Jihad looked relatively cheap, but it wasn’t the lowest-budget thing I’ve ever come across. I’d put it on par with an episode of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel, and not just because of all the crazy bullshit that was being spouted.
It was edited reasonably well, and despite gradually losing track of whatever its thesis was about homegrown American terrorists to talk about human rights atrocities abroad—an important subject, if not at all where The Third Jihad started out—in a basic attempt to vilify the followers of the fastest growing religion in the world while also offering winking reminders that not all Muslims are radicals bent on overthrowing western civilization, its point was made: “Islam is terrible.”
On the off-chance I could have my druthers on such a thing, I might expand that statement into, “Religion is terrible.” That seems to be a more accurate depiction of the course of human history, which despite the periodic unbelievably beautiful structure or work of art, has seen more bloodshed in the name of the various dominant gods of the moment than in any other. Even money. Maybe that’s a simplistic point of view—no argument is ever that easy; fair enough—but it’s truer than not, which is more than I’ll grant to The Third Jihad.
Listening to former CIA operatives and other supposedly credible sources feed the camera the old line about radical Islam being an “existential threat” to western culture, I couldn’t help but wonder, if this was the depth to which we as a people had plunged, what exactly was so worth saving? Do I believe that one day the United States will exist as a Muslim theocracy under the oh-so-spooky-sounding Sharia law? No, I don’t. On the other hand, I also don’t think that if it did, the scary brown men with the big beards could possibly fuck it up worse than we have.
Take, for example, The Third Jihad and the NYPD. Instead of giving New York cops—a group who, let’s face it, have probably already had their fair share of misinformation about Islam—a real education in what a terrorist looks like (anyone remember those Islamists who blew up that federal building in Oklahoma City? I didn’t think so.), they got narrator and star of the movie Dr. Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser, whose own Muslim beliefs were supposed to lend some sort of credibility to the blatant inaccuracies and propaganda that ensued.
I’m not saying Islamist-driven terrorism doesn’t exist. Hell, I’m not even saying it doesn’t exist in New York City. I’m just saying that for police officers—people commonly referred to as heroes, however problematic and, frankly, repulsive that might be most of the time—still in training and obviously impressionable, they deserve better than to be exposed to that kind of filth. It’s one thing lazing around in your pajamas on a Sunday afternoon with your wife; it’s another when it might cut into your response time in showing up to a vandalized mosque.