NYPD Cops' Training Included an Anti-Muslim Horror Flick

Experiments in Terror

By Tom Robbins

published: January 19, 2011

This month, when a group of New York City police officers showed up for their required counter-terrorism training, they got to watch a movie.

And not just some diddly 20-minute educational film, either. It was a full-length color feature, with more explosions than a Transformers sequel and more blood-splattered victims than an HBO World War II series.

The bad news was that it was a spectacularly offensive smear of American Muslims. The film is called The Third Jihad. It is 72 minutes of gruesome footage of bombing carnage, frenzied crowds, burning American flags, flaming churches, and seething mullahs. All of this is sandwiched between a collection of somber talking heads informing us that, while we were sleeping, the international Islamist Jihad that wrought these horrors has set up shop here and is quietly going about its deadly business. This is the final drive in a 1,400-year-old bid for Muslim world domination, we're informed. And while we may think there are some perfectly reasonable Muslim leaders and organizations here in the U.S., that is just more sucker bait sent our way.

"Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate," says the narrator, "when in fact if you look a little closer you'll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception."

The message here is that lurking behind those veils and prayer caps is a secret plan to impose a religious order out of the Dark Ages here in the U.S. The favorite image in The Third Jihad—shown over and over—is an enormous black-and-white Islamic flag flying over the White House.

This is pretty toxic stuff, the kind of film likely to spark a picket line at a local theater. In this case, however, the impact is somewhat more sinister, since the audience was law enforcement officers attending a mandatory prep session on what to know about the terrorist threat.

"After it was over, I was thinking, 'What was that?' " said a cop who saw the movie at a training facility used by the department in Coney Island. "It was so ridiculously one-sided. It just made Muslims look like the enemy. It was straight propaganda."

As it happens, police officials agree that this is a "wacky movie," as deputy commissioner Paul Browne said, that never should have been shown to officers. Browne initially insisted that cops had never seen the flick. "It was reviewed and found to be inappropriate," he said. Further checking revealed that the movie had been aired for officers. It was a mistake, Browne said. "It was not approved for the curriculum. It's not shown for any purpose now."

Browne said his information is that The Third Jihad was shown only "a couple of times when officers were filling out paperwork before the actual coursework began." The cop who spoke to the Voice said it was a bit more formal than that: "The instructor introduced it with a warning that some people found it offensive," he said.

As for how many police officers saw it, leaders at the New York office of CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations and one of the movie's primary targets—say they got their own complaint last summer from a police cadet who was also shown the movie.

Zead Ramadan, president of CAIR's New York board, said he raised the matter with police commissioner Ray Kelly when he saw him at a Gracie Mansion celebration of Eid, the Muslim holy day. "I told him we'd had this report about a disturbing movie being shown to police officers. The commissioner seemed concerned, but said he knew nothing about it, that a consultant company handled that part of the training. I said, 'You should review who your consultants are because this is potentially damaging to the city.' He said he would take care of it."

As it happens, Kelly is one of those seen interviewed in The Third Jihad, although he appears to be there just so movie makers can invoke his name and authority. "Our nightmare scenario is nuclear detonation," Kelly says in the film, "and second rung down from that, you might say, is a dirty bomb." Browne thinks this footage was scraped from another source, though producers claim in their promo material that they interviewed him. Also appearing alongside clips of Glenn Beck are former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and ex–Clinton CIA director James Woolsey. They merely state that there are indeed bad people out there intending us harm. On the other hand, the movie's DVD version gets a full-throated endorsement from another of its stars, Rudy Giuliani, who calls it "a wake-up call for America."

The movie is the product of a nonprofit company called the Clarion Fund, whose chief business appears to be stoking the flames of religious war. Just before the 2008 presidential election, the fund sent copies of Obsession, an earlier film also depicting murderous Muslim conspiracies afoot in the U.S., to some 28 million swing-state voters. No one has ever confirmed who footed the bill for this mass mailing, but Clarion's tax filings show that sugar-daddies unknown anted up $18 million to do so.

The producer of both films is a man named Raphael Shore, who has also worked with an Orthodox Jewish Israeli group called Aish HaTorah that regularly cites the threat of radical Muslims. Calls to Clarion didn't bring a response last week, but the film's narrator, a Muslim-American doctor named Zuhdi Jasser, was reached at his office in Phoenix. "It's a hard-hitting film," he said, although he voiced a couple regrets with the final product. "I would have given more time to the solutions," said the doctor. "That the solutions can come from within."

trobbins@villagevoice.com