I guess what you don't know CAN kill you...

The controversy in New York over the 2008 anti-Muslim propaganda film The Third Jihad has reached positively silly heights. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared in the film as one of many interview subjects commenting on (or around) the movie’s thesis: that a large extremist element of the world’s Muslim community is out to “infiltrate and dominate” America and the West, whether through violence, high fertility rates, or a combination thereof. But it makes no sense to assume that Kelly, or anyone else who was interviewed, knew the ultimate nature of the film.

The NYPD has incorporated anti-terror capacities deep into its fiber since 9/11, so it only makes sense that the filmmakers would have sought out Kelly. All he is quoted as having told them, though, is that “our nightmare scenario is a nuclear detonation, and the second rung from that…is a dirty bomb.” In the context of the battle against terrorism, who could argue?

Well, members of the New York City Muslim community sure could. They’re demanding Kelly and his spokesman resign. (The spokesman, Paul Browne, has in fact been caught in a lie, having initially denied the film had been shown to police.) But backed by Mayor Bloomberg, Kelly is refusing to step down. He admitted the film was “inflammatory” and “a little much” but asserted that the police sergeant who showed it during the anti-terror training was well-meaning.

I sat down and watched this film, and if you take it at face value it is some mighty scary stuff. An unidentified document is described as “the true agenda of much of the Muslim leadership here in America,” namely “to infiltrate and dominate America”; another item is “believed to be” the manifesto of radical Islam in America. Though the film notes right up front that most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims aren’t radicals, its 70 minutes of narration and footage take no account of that whatsoever.

The scholar Bernard Lewis tell the camera that the Muslims believe in “a global cosmic struggle between two religiously defined civilizations which will end only when they triumph universally.” Taking the long historical view, the film asserts that “we’re in the third and final phase (hence “The Third Jihad”) of the extremists’ 1,400-year mission to impose “their version of Islam,” elsewhere identified with Saudi Wahhabism, on the Western world.

To back up its thesis, the film describes oppression in Muslim countries of women, gays, and Christians; discusses compounds in the U.S. such as Islamberg, in upstate New York, where young Muslims are supposedly indoctrinated in violent jihad; shows mothers expressing pride in their sons becoming suicide bombers; attacks U.S. dependence on Middle East oil as a financial enabler of terror networks; and, oh yes, evokes the threat of nuclear annihilation. One thing you can certainly say about The Third Jihad: it doesn’t pull any punches.

The film doesn’t even nod in the direction of reportorial objectivity; it is propaganda through and through, and proud of it. But no one’s shown any evidence that Kelly knew its nature ahead of time. A variety of respected scholars (and Rudolph Giuliani) appear as well, many of them for much longer than the NYPD commish.

The filmmakers marshaled all this material to make some awfully frightful accusations. In the face of this terrifying picture, local Muslims calling for Ray Kelly to resign aren’t doing their community’s cooler heads any favors.