The screening of an anti-Muslim film for nearly 1,500 New York City police officers as a part of a terrorist training initiative has Muslim officials calling for the resignation of Ray Kelly, police commissioner of New York, and a retraining of all officers that were exposed to the film.
The Third Jihad, a 72-minute film warning against the dangers of shar’ia law, umbrellas everyday Muslims as active threats against America. The narrator says, “Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate…when in fact if you look a little closer you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.” The repeated theme of the film is the homegrown threat of Islam (it seems that in this case Islam and terrorism are synonymous), consistently showcasing a black and white flag, denoted as the flag of the Muslim faith, flying over the White House.
With the infiltration of this rhetoric on a civil service level, a post-9/11 narrative of fear and misjudgment continues to shape the city to this day.
When the Village Voice broke this story about a year ago, deputy NYPD commissioner Paul Browne was quoted saying that the film was “found to be inappropriate,” and falsely reported that “it’s not shown for any purpose now.” Zaed Ramadan, president of the Council of American Islamic Relations, had also approached Kelly about the issue last Fall, who reportedly promised, “to take care of it.” However, Kelly himself makes a 30-second appearance in the film.
While the Human Rights Watch has called for a “real investigation…with real results,” Mayor Bloomberg has offered only strong condemnation and little disciplinary action. Bloomberg went on to say that he doubted the movie swayed any police officials and felt no reason for a retraining effort (this from a vocal supporter of building the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) .
The real issue lies beyond the screening of an inflammatory movie. By consciously perpetuating a discriminatory narrative, the city and the police department have normalized the language of that narrative and, as a result, ostracized whole communities. These issues are not merely semantic. As Reza Aslan notes in his work, How to Win A Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, it is exactly this Islamphobic rhetoric that continues to lump together the greater Muslim community with terrorism that can actually enable the spread of the global jihadism, through the organization’s recruitment of disenfranchised and ostracized Muslim youth.
These facts further exemplify a need for better dialogues between New York Muslim communities and the city’s civil servants in order to actively move past a mistrust that has dominated New York for the past decade.