PBS Shelves film on Moderate Muslims, The Washington Times.
A 52-minute documentary film exploring the struggles of moderate American Muslims at the hands of their radical brethren has also become a showcase for the struggles between right and left in the news media.Producer: PBS dropped "Islam vs. Islamists" on political grounds, AzCentral.com.
The producers of "Islam vs. Islamists" say their taxpayer-funded film has been shelved by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in "an ideological vendetta," and because the production team includes conservative columnist Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of the Center for Security Policy.
Key portions of the documentary focus on Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix and his American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a non-profit organization of Muslim Americans who advocate patriotism, constitutional democracy and a separation of church and state.
Martyn Burke says that the Public Broadcasting Service and project managers at station WETA in Washington, D.C., excluded his documentary, Islam vs. Islamists, from the series America at a Crossroads after he refused to fire two co-producers affiliated with a conservative think tank.
Silencing Muslim Moderates, Arizona Republic.
Doug MacEachernTwo old NPR lefties, Diane Rehm and Robert McNeill discuss the moderates Muslims and the $20 million NPR series, "America at a Crossroads" which looks at:
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 10, 2007 12:00 AM If Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix were a Christian - and he emphatically is not - we might deem him a saint.
But Jasser is a Muslim. He believes in his religion as fervently as any Catholic bishop believes in his. Or any Muslim imam, for that matter. He is faithful to the Quran, which Jasser believes conveys a message of peace.
Because of his faith, and because of what he has done to act on his faith, Jasser has evolved into an extraordinary symbol of what true heroism means in the post-Sept. 11 world. He is a Muslim and an American. And he is a man of peace - a rare, bold iconoclast who is willing to speak out against people who, he believes, have stolen his faith for evil ends.
So, is Zuhdi Jasser what you might call a "moderate" Muslim? If you do, then the Public Broadcasting Service has a problem with you.
On April 15, PBS, along with its Washington, D.C., affiliate, WETA, will begin airing an 11-part series of documentaries titled America at a Crossroads. It is described by PBS as "a major public television event . . . that explores the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world," and much of what it explores is the clash of Western values and those of fundamentalist Muslims.
Until earlier this year, a part of that exploration was to include a segment on Muslims living in the West - in places like Copenhagen, Paris, Toronto and Phoenix - and their clashes with Muslim fundamentalists who often explicitly align themselves with violence and, sometimes, with terrorists.
The segment was titled, Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center. By and large, the clashes it depicted involved people like Jasser condemning violence perpetrated in the name of Islam, and fundamentalist imams condemning the Jassers of the world as false Muslims.
In some cases, the documentary showed fundamentalists talking candidly about shutting up the moderates in their midst. And, in one case involving a moderate Muslim politician in Denmark, it caught them talking about shutting him up permanently.
In many respects it is an inspiring story, the sort of story that public television often likes to tell. But it isn't going to tell the story depicted in Islam vs. Islamists. At least not as a part of the heavily promoted Crossroads series, and quite possibly not at all.
The problems that the PBS-WETA producers had with Islam vs. Islamists are complex. On The Arizona Republic's news pages today, reporter Dennis Wagner details many of those issues.
But much of their hostility seems to boil down to this: They could not bring themselves to declare people like Jasser "moderate" because that would mean criticizing the fundamentalists whom the Jassers of the world oppose.
As the PBS producers affirmed time and again in their letters and e-mails, who is an Islamic "extremist" and who is a "moderate" depends entirely on which side of the street you're standing. In large part, it is about "context."
"We felt the program was flawed by incomplete storytelling and problems with fairness," said Jeff Bieber, executive producer of the Crossroads series. "We felt the writing was alarmist and without adequate context.
"We just felt there was incomplete context, (that) could lead viewers to the wrong conclusions."
"These are the 'root-cause' people," responded Jasser, who said the PBS-WETA producers could not bring themselves to identify the issue facing the United States since Sept. 11, 2001: "It is a radical Islam problem."
On Feb. 12, Bieber wrote to the Islam vs. Islamists production team, informing them they were scrapping the project.
Bieber's bottom line: "The latest cut of Islam vs. Islamists falls significantly short of meeting the standards necessary for inclusion in America at a Crossroads and for PBS national distribution." Effectively, over 12 months of production work and an estimated $700,000-plus of public television's dollars went down the drain.
As The Republic's Wagner writes elsewhere in today's pages, the production of Islam vs. Islamists was stormy from the beginning. Series producers Bieber and Leo Eaton and the Islam vs. Islamists producers fought raging battles for months over matters of structure and presentation.
The paper trails of letters and e-mails among the series producers and those of the Islam vs. Islamists segment, as well as interviews with Islam vs. Islamists producer Martyn Burke of California, tell a story that goes well beyond typical editor -journalist haggling.
"I've worked for networks all over the world, and I've never seen anything like this," Burke said.
It is an odd trail. Early last year, conservative foreign-policy expert Frank Gaffney won approval from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent organization of PBS, to pursue his project as part of the Crossroads series.
But by mid-summer of 2006, the Crossroads producers were badgering Burke to fire Gaffney and his partner, Alex Alexiev, according to Burke, who argued it was because of Gaffney's conservative politics.
"Never before have I been asked, 'Don't you check into the politics of the people you're working with?' " wrote Burke in a long letter to Bieber and Eaton in January. "Years ago I did a two-hour documentary on the Hollywood Ten. I felt as if I was living in that same era of blacklisting."
Things got stranger still as production of Islam vs. Islamists continued.
Burke said the fight over "context" and the side issue of his co-producers' politics caused a seven-month delay in funding. Then, the PBS producers hired a five-member team of consultants to review all the segments of the Crossroads series - among them a university professor who teaches a course on Islam in the United States.
That academic, Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud of DePaul University, screened a cut of Islam vs. Islamists for a group of Nation of Islam leaders - a rather serious breach of journalism protocol, considering that the Nation of Islam was a major part of Burke's Islam vs. Islamists investigation. According to an e-mail from McCloud to Burke, "These representatives (of the Nation of Islam) were outraged at the implications here and assert that if this airs, they will promptly pursue litigation."
The correspondence between Burke and the series producers suggests the two sides simply could not reach common ground on what constitutes a "moderate" Muslim in the West, and what constitutes an extremist.
It seems a bizarrely fine point to fight over.
The moderates, it seems, are the ones struggling to project a peaceful co-existence between the West and Islam. People like Jasser, for example.
And the extremists? Perhaps those who despise Jasser. Or those who threaten with death those who disagree with them.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like viewers of the Crossroads series will have much chance to sort them out for themselves.
Journalist Robert MacNeil talks about the series of documentaries developed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to explore the challenges confronting the post- 9/11 world, including the war on terrorism, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops, the struggle for balance within the Islamic world, Muslim life in America, and perspectives on American's role globally.
Of note on the Diane Rehm audio: Ms Rehm read an emailer's concern that Neo-Cons and the Zionist supporting, conservative Christians got us into Iraq. McNeill talks about how 9/11 provided the justification for Bush to use "Fear". This falls in line with Jeff Bieber's (executive producer of the Crossroads series) statement, "We felt the writing was alarmist and without adequate context. "
PBS would not want to do what it accuses George Bush of doing; exploiting fear. But the real issue is that PBS, like moderate Muslims, is afraid. Afraid of the Islamists, afraid of the threatened litigation by the Nation of Islam, afraid of confirming George Bush's policies. If the criticisms are correct, PBS, like the BBC in the Behanna story, has taken a politically correct left turn at the tranzi national "cross roads" and is on the path to dhimmitude.