Attorney General chided over screening of film

02/15/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Attorney General Bill McCollum met behind closed doors earlier this week with Muslim leaders angry over his having shown a film to employees during office hours that the officials called "anti-Muslim propaganda."

The film, called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West and it features prominent spokesmen derided by American muslims, such as Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes and John Loftus.

One of those who attended the meeting was Ahmed Bedier, from the Tampa office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, and a WMNF programmer. He said they told McCollum that his job as attorney general is to stop hate crimes, not promote hate.

Both sides emerged saying the meeting was "positive." McCollum also has agreed to form a new Muslim-American advisory group in the attorney general's office.

Also attending the meeting were those representing Christian and Jewish faiths. Rabbi Steven Jacobs of Los Angeles was there; he told WMNF’s True Talk program today that he hopes that McCollum got something out of the meeting.

“Obsession” was made Honest Reporting, a New York and Jerusalem media watchdog that says its purpose is to "defend Israel from prejudice.

Attorney General Bill McCollum was known for his conservative ideology while serving in Congress for two decades representing suburban Orlando. He was one of House Managers that successfully impeached President Clinton in 1998. And he boasted about his anti-terrorism credentials while running for Senate in 2004, including the fact that he founded the U.S. House Task force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.

Given that background, WMNF asked the Council on American Islamic Relations Ahmed Bedier if anything surprised him while meeting with McCollum this week.

Bedier said McCollum spoke about the fact that he was mentioned in both the book and screen adaptation of Charlie Wilson’s War, which depicted the story of a member of Congress working secretly to finance the Mujahadin to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But Bedier said that was all the more why he should be more sensitive to how Muslims are depicted.

Rabbi Steven Jacobs said he sees a parallel to Muslims being scapegoated as Jews have throughout history.

WMNF called Attorney General Bill McCollum’s office for comment today. Press spokeswoman Sandi Copes responded by e-mail, writing that “I'm very sorry, but I don't have anyone available today who can facilitate this request.” This despite the fact that Copes was quoted herself in print stories about the McCollum Muslim leaders meeting earlier this week.

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