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A radical discussion

On a night of earnest reflection and heated debate, Hoos for Israel and Students Defending Democracy hosted a screening of the film "Obsession -- Radical Islam's War Against the West."

Hoos for Israel supports the existence of an independent Israeli state. The club promotes travel in Israel, sponsors speakers and highlights Israeli food and culture, aspects of life in Israel often neglected by the mainstream media. Students Defending Democracy is an organization that supports democracy as an ideal, though not the imperialization of democracy. They also advocate education about democracy so that citizens know they have rights that should be protected. For fourth-year College student Marie Cohen, president of Hoos for Israel and co-president of Students Defending Democracy, "Obsession" was a perfect fit for her organizations' goals.

"'Obsession' is a pretty well-known, award-winning film," Cohen said. "It's been shown on a lot of college campuses. Our reason for showing it was because the main threat to the existence of Israel is terrorism."

The film, shown last week, presents radical Islam as a growing threat from the Middle East, where terrorists seize the Islamic religion and twist it for their own bloodthirsty purposes. Radical Islam is clearly defined in the film: It is an extreme form of Islam not to be confused with various ethnic groups in the Middle East. The film emphasizes that radical Islam is not a race of people, but a terrorist movement, and does not resemble the beliefs of moderate Muslims.

According to the film, extremists adopt certain verses from the Quran that refer to jihad and use them to justify violence against the West, which they claim wants to wipe out Islam. Islamic radicals have declared war on the Judeo-Christian culture; battles can be seen worldwide, including the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States; the bombings in Madrid and London; and attacks in Russia, Bali and Istanbul.

"Obsession" features footage from Palestinian TV, such as scenes of young Islamic children who adamantly scream that they will become suicide bombers in order to participate in the global jihad. The film also compares radical Islam and Nazism, suggesting the current war declared by radical Islam is like the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jews.

According to third-year College student Gary Lawkowski, co-president of Students Defending Democracy, it is important for students to be aware that radical Islam is a global concern.

"There is still this threat and it is dangerous and prevalent," Lawkowski said.

The film did not suggest a solution to the problem, but encouraged students to ask questions instead. A discussion followed the film, headed by University Law Lecturer Frederick Hitz, former inspector general of the CIA.

Hoos for Israel and Students Defending Democracy chose Hicks because "he's teaching an undergraduate class on anti-terror and intelligence, and he has had firsthand experience in this subject, and he is very good at controlling discussion," Cohen said.

Hicks began by asking those in the audience if they thought the film made a convincing case against radical Islam, specifically referencing the Nazi comparison. Many students replied that the two cases were incomparable, saying the film is actually a form of propaganda itself.

The film was heavily criticized by some in the audience, who cited a scarcity of credible sources as one unconvincing aspect. The motivation of the film was also questioned, with some arguing the film was an American attempt to combat terrorism or possibly a plug for the Bush administration.

"We got mixed responses," Lawkowski said. "I think it was more reflective of people's previous political views than a response to the film. People saw what they wanted to see rather than what was there."

Though the film drew some complaints, Lawkowski said he considers the screening a success.

"There was good turn-out, good discussion," he said, adding that Students Defending Democracy will plan similar events in the future to raise awareness of the threat of terrorism.

Cohen said there will be further cooperation among the two organizations in the future, when appropriate.

Though students disagreed about the film's intentions, Hicks summarized one message he believes should be gleaned from the showing of "Obsession."

"This is a clear illustration that none of us know much about what is going on in that region of the world, and we must recognize that these are issues that people feel strongly about and must inform themselves," he said.