Wednesday, April 11

PBS Documentary on Moderate Islam Suppressed

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.
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.
"This is a well-documented, textbook case of the abuse of taxpayer funding by elements in the public broadcasting system to advocate their agenda and ensure that people who have different agenda don't get on the air," Mr. Gaffney said yesterday. "The public ought to be allowed to see a film which PBS doesn't want them to see."
His partner Martyn Burke also accused CPB and PBS of stifling the film "on political grounds."

CPB says the film simply needs work but stands a chance to be aired eventually as a "stand-alone" program in the future. " 'Islam vs. Islamists' has not been canceled. It is a work in progress," said CPB spokesman Michael Levy.
"I am incredulous that PBS would invest so much of our tax money into contracting professionals for a documentary on a subject -- the struggle for the soul of Islam -- which is one of the most vital debates of the 21st century and then censor its release," said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, chairman of the Arizona-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy who is featured in the documentary.
"Until mainstream media and mainstream America understands the need to help this debate and expose the plight of moderates who push back against the Islamists within the Muslim community, we will continue to lose ground against militant Islamism," Dr. Jasser said. "The censorship of this documentary tells us a great deal about the level to which our government is facilitating the ideology of Islamism which runs directly counter to our foundations of Americanism."
Originally, the film was intended to be shown on "America at a Crossroads," a six-night series which begins Sunday. The series comprises 11 independently produced films depicting the political and cultural complexities of a post-September 11 nation. Mr. Gaffney and partners Mr. Burke and Alex Alexiev received $675,000 in funding last year, ultimately producing an unvarnished look at Islamic fundamentalist threats and intimidation of some Muslims.
Their work did not go over well with Leo Eaton, the series producer, or Jeff Bieber, executive producer at WETA, where the series originated. Mr. Gaffney received a series of critical "notes" between November and February which said, among other things, that the film would "demonize Islam" and promote public fear of Islamic organizations.
The critique, Mr. Gaffney said in a March 6 rebuttal, "is itself 'a point of view' ... an apologia for Islamist extremism."
Mr. Gaffney continued, "This documentary has been the subject of an ideological vendetta." He later accused CPB and PBS of suppressing the content and message of the film and ignoring the public interest.
Officials counter that there simply wasn't room.

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