“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.”
“Producer: PBS dropped ‘Islam vs. Islamists’ on political grounds,” by Dennis Wagner in The Arizona Republic, with thanks to all who sent this in:
The producer of a tax-financed documentary on Islamic extremism claims his film has been dropped for political reasons from a television series that airs next week on more than 300 PBS stations nationwide.
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.
“I was ordered to fire my two partners (who brought me into this project) on political grounds,” Burke said in a complaint letter to PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supplied funds for the films.
Burke wrote that his documentary depicts the plight of moderate Muslims who are silenced by Islamic extremists, adding, “Now it appears to be PBS and CPB who are silencing them.”
“Silencing Muslim moderates: Controversial program meets cutting-room floor,” by Doug MacEachern in The Arizona Republic (thanks to all who sent this in):
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.”