‘Third Jihad’ discussion continues in ethnic and community press

The fallout continued this week from the news that a film depicting American Muslims as extremists was shown to nearly 1,500 city police officers. Here’s a sampling of the coverage we came across in the city’s ethnic and community press.

The Jewish Daily Forward ran a column examining the connection between the movie at the center of the controversy, “The Third Jihad,” and a Jerusalem-based Orthodox outreach organization:

In a sense, it’s just the latest case — several cases, actually — of minority rights versus over-zealous law enforcement, post-9/11. This case is more complicated than most, however.

For one thing, the embattled police spokesman, Paul Browne, is an old and trusted aide of the NYPD’s popular commissioner, Raymond Kelly. That raises the political stakes.

For another thing, one of the flashpoints, the screening of a shockingly anti-Muslim film at an NYPD counter-terrorism training facility, brings the Jewish community into the dispute. The 72-minute film, “The Third Jihad,” is produced and distributed by a small non-profit organization, the Clarion Fund, that shares staff and an address with a well-known, Jerusalem-based Orthodox outreach organization, Aish HaTorah. This adds a layer of volatility to discussions of the film’s anti-Muslim bias.

The Amsterdam News reported on Muslim groups who see the incident as just the latest in a pattern of NYPD misbehavior:

According to one Muslim organization, it’s another strike against the NYPD and New York City when it comes to profiling Muslim Americans. They’re now asking for Kelly to step down.

“We call on Mayor Bloomberg to either fire Commissioner Kelly or ask for his resignation,” said Zahid H. Bukhari of the Islamic Circle of North America in an emailed statement. “The NYPD under Kelly’s leadership has allowed a blatantly racist, Islamophobic film to be used to train over 1,489 police officers. This film was also produced by individuals and groups with ties to anti-Muslim hate groups.

“This type of clandestine behavior by the NYPD not only violates the civil liberties and civil rights of Muslim Americans, but calls into question the integrity of a police force that is sworn to protect thousands of law-abiding Muslim Americans and other ethnic communities who live in New York City.”

The Gotham Gazette made the connection between this incident and a program that spied on Muslim communities:

The NYPD is still dealing with fallout from August’s Associated Press report that the NYPD had an extensive spying program set up in Muslim communities in New York City after 9/11. The architect of this program was Larry Sanchez, a former CIA agent, who worked for the agency until 2004 and was on NYPD payroll from 2007 to 2010. The CIA’s inspector general found that Sanchez operated without sufficient supervision. The agency’s top lawyer never approved sending an agent to New York. Commissioner Kelly defended the partnership.

Kelly’s opponents say that the commissioner never made time to address their concerns and only deals with handpicked Muslim leaders to make himself look better. They called for a stronger oversight body to be able to audit the NYPD, saying that the Civilian Complaint Review board is designed to focus on individual complaints instead of investigating systemic flaws in the department.

They also called for the full retraining of 1500 police officers, from rookies to lieutenants, out of concerns for the safety of Muslim New Yorkers.

The Jewish Daily Forward column, by J.J. Goldberg, also offered a comparison between Islamic extremism and Jewish extremism:

There is such a thing as Islamic terrorism. Muslim discontent and terrorist violence are linked in too many world trouble spots to ignore. Public probing of the issue is often derailed, alas, by automatic accusations of Islamophobia against the probers. On the other hand, there is such a thing as Islamophobia. It is real, widespread and insidious.

But public probing of Islamophobia equally risks being hobbled by accusations of anti-Semitism against the probers. In the end, both communities harbor their own extremists and allow them to demonize the other side, while resisting honest examination of their own.

Finally, Goldberg concludes:

Tensions are likely to mount as more becomes known about how the film found its way into the Police Academy. If the messianic, millennialist wings of Islam and Judaism are allowed to turn New York’s public policy debate into their battleground, everyone will suffer.

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