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April 23, 2007

PBS In Islamist Wonderland: It's 'The Muslim Americans' Little More Than A Puff Piece For Radical Islam

Over the weekend, one of my Muslim friends told me about last Wednesday's PBS aired "The Muslim Americans," a documentary film that had been heavily promoted as one of the highlights of "Crossroads," the station's new 11-part series about post-9/11 America. I was able to obtain a video that another friend had recorded, and watched the film last night.


As Alex Alexiev offers in his piece at FrontPage magazine today, "Given its subject of Islam in America and the fact that it is produced by two icons of American public television, series host and moderator Robin McNeil and the PBS NewsHour, interest in the documentary was understandably high." Alexiev is the co-executive producer (alongside director Martyn Burke and Frank Gaffney) of "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," a film that was dumped by PBS after Martyn Burke refused to fire two co-producers affiliated with a conservative think tank (in my opinion and others - because it doesn't follow the CAIR agenda - and especially because of certain family ties to a British Islamist group" of the CPB series producer - Leo Eaton, who is refusing to air the film). What Alexiev has to say about "The Muslim Americans" fits exactly my views and a couple of other friends of mine that have now seen "The Muslim Americans." I've assigned emphasis in the following excerpts to stress key points where I very strongly agree with Alexiev:

[...] In my view, "The Muslim Americans" was commissioned and funded outside of the rigorous "Crossroads" competition for the specific objective of replacing our film. Robin McNeil, as a key decision maker for "Crossroads," was apparently granted a sweetheart deal to produce his own film behind the scenes. Quite apart from this personal interest, I was keenly interested to see what American Islam would look like through PBS's lens. What I found was public broadcasting at its worst.

From some of the trailers I had seen, I was prepared for the show to be a puff piece for Islam. It was that and a lot worse. It was, in fact, a propaganda film for Islamism. For example, "The Muslim Americans" refused to acknowledge even the potential for home-grown Islamic extremism in the US. Nor did the documentary exhibit any interest in finding out about Islamic radicalism and its implications for America and its Muslim community.

The overall impression the viewer was left with was that life for American Muslims after 9/11 had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Hate crimes, discrimination, racial profiling and airport hassles, Muslim mosques firmly "in the crosshairs of law enforcement" -- this, apparently, was now typical of Muslim life in America. One of the interviewees even claims that she stopped attending mosque out of fear that doing so would get her labeled as a "terrorist." Interestingly, this message seems to have escaped many of her co-religionists, since the mosques shown in the documentary were invariably full.

Despite this supposed record of mistreatment by government and fellow citizens, the Muslims in the film hold no grudges and remain both highly patriotic Americans and more devoted to their faith. As for the rest of us, there is no reason to be concerned. The subject of Muslim radicalization, let alone terrorism, is never broached. To the extent that these things happen at all, we're told, they happen in Europe, not here.

Actually, there are a few things to be concerned about, we are informed both editorially and by various talking heads, but they have nothing to do with the Muslim community itself. These include "a small band of conservative and pro-Israeli groups" who besmirch upstanding Muslim organizations and "right-wing bloggers" who "exploit fear and ignorance" to try to "silence Muslims." And so, the viewer, as obviously intended by the producers, is left with the overwhelming impression of a Muslim community beleaguered yet, despite assorted injustices visited upon it by a heavy-handed government and a bigoted citizenry, determinedly at peace.

There is, of course, no doubt that the vast majority of American Muslims are peaceful and patriotic. But the idyllic picture that Robin McNeil and the NewsHour luminaries have put together is, at best, a misleading Potemkin village and, at worst, an example of the genre that was once called agitprop. How else do you explain the documentary's unwillingness to address the inconvenient fact that, since 9/11 alone, the Department of Justice has recorded 441 defendants, the vast majority of them Muslim, charged for terrorist-related crimes, resulting in 261 convictions with 150 cases still pending by June 2006?

The skewed message the film conveys is likely to be persuasive only to those who have remained blissfully unaware of the complex reality of Islam in America -- perhaps because they get most of their news from PBS and NPR. That reality includes the fact that while most Muslims are indeed decent, law-abiding citizens, much of what passes as the Muslim establishment in America is in the hands of zealous Islamists. More than a few of its leaders are extremists that not only preach radical Islamist ideologies and hatred, but aid and abet terrorism. (This has actually been expressed to me by numerous Muslim friends - who have said that moderate Muslims are afraid to speak out)

It is the extremism of these organizations and individuals that "The Muslim Americans," wittingly or not, whitewashes to the point of making the whole film look like a propaganda exercise. Examples are too numerous to list, but suffice it to say that most of the organizations and many of the individuals featured in the documentary easily fall into this category. Among them are organizations like the Council of Islamic American Relations, the Muslim Students Association, the Bridgeview mosque in Chicago, Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland and people like Hamza Yusuf, Abdul Malik Ali, Omid Safi and Dr. Aminah McCloud among many others. Since the producers of the film never even allude to the extremist inclinations of any of these key protagonists of their narrative, it is worth giving the reader a sampling of what they chose to ignore.

Start with Dr. Aminah McCloud, a professor at DePaul University and a well-known acolyte of the strident anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. Shortly after 9/11, McCloud opined that America was becoming a "terrorist state like those nations we pretend to abhor." McCloud, who serves as an "advisor" to the "Crossroads" series, committed an egregious breach of journalistic ethics and confidentiality agreements by showing a rough cut of our film to her fellow activists in the Nation of Islam, one of the subjects of our film "Islam vs. Islamists." Despite such grievous misconduct, she is featured prominently in McNeil's film, raising the question of whether her appointment as an arbiter of moderate Islam was entirely coincidental.

Much in the same vein, prominent space is given by the producers to CAIR and its spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, with the narrator positively gushing over this "advocacy and civil rights" organization. Unmentioned are some uncomfortable details about CAIR's history, such as the fact that it is the direct progeny with identical leadership (including Hooper) of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a now-defunct financier of Hamas terrorism, and that several of CAIR's executives were sentenced to jail for terrorist activities while still in its employ.

The film's producers are similarly effusive with respect to yet another extremist organization, the Muslim Students Association. MSA's University of Michigan branch is portrayed in glowing terms as the paragon of religious tolerance and multi-cultural bonhomie. Yet, MSA is not only extremist, but the forerunner of Islamic extremism in America, having come into being as the first radical Muslim organization in America with the help of a group of Muslim Brothers and Saudi money as far back as 1963. (There is overwhelming evidence that the MSA, far from being a benign student society, is an overtly political organization seeking to create a single Muslim voice on U.S. campuses--a voice espousing Wahhabism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism, agitating aggressively against U.S. Middle East policy, and expressing solidarity with militant Islamist ideologies, sometimes with criminal results. - MEQ)

Virtually all well-known members of the radical Islamist networks in the United States, such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and a dozen others are direct spin-offs from the MSA, by its own admission. And despite the accolades it receives in the film, the MSA and its 150 chapters through out U.S. academia remain as radical today as when the MSA-UCLA organ Al Talib had this to say about a "prominent Muslim activist":

When we hear someone refer to the great mujahideen Osama bin Laden as a terrorist, we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah's cause and speak out against oppressors.

Two other Muslim institutions given puff treatment in the film, while remaining bastions of radical Islam in reality, are the Bridgeview Mosque in Chicago and the Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland, California. The first of these was taken over by radical Wahhabi preachers and Hamas supporters in a dramatic conflict with moderate Muslims which was well-documented in a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune. None of this, predictably, merits a mention in McNeil's narrative.

The second is the Oakland mosque run by Imam Abdul Malik Ali, an African-American convert to Islam who is presented in the movie as the epitome of moderation and reason. In real life, Ali is a regular on the lecture circuit of Islamist radicals, where he is known for his vitriolic anti-Semitism and authoritative pronouncements such as "the Israelis knew about and were in control of 9/11" which "was staged to give an excuse to wage war against Muslims around the world."

Then there is the hope of American Islam, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, a convert running an Islamic seminary called Zaytouna in the Bay Area. Yusuf is described in fawning terms as the star of a new generation of American Muslims and a foremost modern interpreter of an "Islam rooted in the culture of America." The film's producers would have you believe he accomplishes this while still teaching a traditionalist form of the faith. How you can be rooted in American culture and, at the same time, believe that a rape victim must have four male witnesses to prove the crime, lest she be stoned to death for adultery, as the "traditionalist" shari'a norms require, remains unexplained.

The proof of Sheikh Hamza's democratic bona fides, to the producers, seems to be the fact that he met with President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. Just how authoritative such an endorsement is could perhaps be judged by the fact that two other top Muslim leaders, Abdurachman Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian, who also met with the president, are currently serving prison terms for terrorist activities. Also left unmentioned in the touching cinematographic paeans to this star of Islamist modernity are some rather sordid details of his past and his violent tirades against America, as "a country that has little to be proud of in its past and less to be proud of in its present" with its "false gods" of "Jesus, or democracy or the Bill of Rights or any other element of this society that is held sacrosanct by the ill-informed peoples that make up this charade of a society..." So much for his sympathies for the "culture of America."

Last but far from least is Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who is given star billing and allowed to make authoritative editorial commentary throughout the documentary. This is the same gentleman who is on record with his belief that "American foreign policy is centered on dehumanizing Muslims." More disturbingly, Safi is also one of the five WETA/PBS advisors to "Crossroads," making him, like Dr. Aminah McCloud, both a referee and a player in the dubious games played by PBS with this series. This goes beyond a mere conflict of interest. It verges on outright corruption of the integrity of public broadcasting.

Asked once what socialist historiography should be about, the Bolshevik historian Mikhail Pokrovsky is said to have replied that it is "the projection of our glorious socialist present into the past." To adopt Pokrovsky's line in "The Muslim Americans," Robin McNeil and his colleagues have managed to produce a remarkably disingenuous spectacle, projecting politically correct make-believe onto the reality of radical Islam.

Readers will find more on the film PBS axed to replace with the puff piece "The Muslim Americans" here...

That readers may see that my non-Muslim view of "The Muslim Americans" is not isolated or in conflict with Muslims whose actions and deeds have well established that they are indeed moderate, take a look at what M. Zuhdi Jasser, a prominent anti-Islamist Muslim, founder and Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix Arizona, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a physician in private practice, and a community activist, has to say about the PBS series (he begin by talking about the film axed by PBS to replace the pro-Islamist film, "The Muslim Americans"}:

As one of the subjects of the documentary, I was able to experience first-hand the professionalism and in-depth journalistic standards of veteran filmmaker, Martyn Burke, and his first-class team of consummate professionals. It was refreshing to have a documentary set out objectively to look into the deep-seated internal struggles of anti-Islamist Muslims like myself. Our work at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) here in Phoenix has been riddled with continual blowback and resistance in many forms from the power structure of the activist Muslim community in the Phoenix Valley. The Valley Council of Imams, the local Muslim Voice newspaper, and organizations like CAIR-AZ have provided a laboratory of typical Islamist responses to an American organization of Muslims, like AIFD, who are trying to rescue spiritual Islam from the death grip of Islamists--Islam vs. Islamists. I do this out of love for my faith and its spiritual path to the God of Abraham in order to free it from the corruption of the political imam which has become so ubiquitous.

I have previously discussed the harm of our government's enabling of Islamists (like CAIR, MPAC, MAS, MSA, or ISNA) in the United States and how the governmental endorsement of Islamists publicly empowers them and allows them to dodge their responsibility of countering Islamism as an ideology. This order of magnitude is greater in impact when it concerns the media's inability to wage the debate of the "struggle for the soul of Islam". Stories about Islam and Muslims have been more and more ubiquitous since 9-11 and now are actually commonplace. Yet, the actual debate within the Muslim community has barely begun. Where's the disconnect? Look no further than the Islamist enablers in the media.

When so many ask across the nation, "where are the moderate voices of Islam?", one cannot help lately but exclaim that they are being suffocated by misguided political correctness and by Islamist influence within mainstream media and government. The PBS censorship of the documentary, Islam vs. Islamists, highlights one of the best examples to date of the symbiosis of both government complicity and media complicity with the Islamist ideology.

The recent RAND corporation research project highlighting the dire need to Build Moderate Muslim Networks in this new global "long war" against militant Islamism and its ideological siblings will never come to fruition with the current blinded pro-Islamist mainstream media approach. The mainstream media (MSM) is apparently blind to the real ideology of Islamism and they allow Islamists to hide their theocracy behind minority politics. The MSM not only avoids the free flow of ideas within the Muslim community, it effectively allows the Islamists completely to stifle any and all debate which would have allowed Muslims to question those in positions of authority within the Islamic community.

It is time for the MSM to stop protecting Muslims from one another and to stop stifling the debate many anti-Islamist Muslims would like to wage against leading Islamists. If Muslims are going to form a public expression of Islam which is reconciled with western democracies which separate religion and government, this debate against Islamism needs yet to begin, let alone blossom into cultural change for Muslims.

Islamists fear nothing more than credible and genuine debate against the core political ideology of Islamism from pious anti-Islamist Muslims. With an ideological counter from anti-Islamist Muslims- the Islamist emperor "has no clothes". At every level, they are using America's naivite' about Islam in order to continue their theft of Islam for the political agenda of Islamism. The Islamists know that anti-Islamist Muslims rob them of their minority trump card of Islamophobia and force them to come to terms with the anti-freedom, and anti-liberty and anti-pluralistic ideology of Islamism. Anti-Islamist, pro-Islamic Muslims expose the real motives of Islamists--which is the exploitation of the spiritual path of Islam for political and governmental power and coercion.

The MSM would prefer to facilitate the current Islamist organizations and Islamist imams. Why? It could be a fear of litigation, minority victim politics, or simple ignorance regarding the goals of Islamism. As in the case with PBS, it could also be the internal influence and infiltration of Islamists within the media and government who will go to great lengths to suffocate the opinions of anti-Islamists, especially anti-Islamist Muslims.

The PBS/CPB censorship of Islam vs. Islamists exemplifies the dire need to begin to educate many in the MSM of the ideological realities of the Islamists. They may protect Islamists blindly out of ignorance, fear, infiltration, or minority politics. But, at the end of the day, if the MSM editors understood the type of society the protected Islamists would create if they became a majority, their support would vanish. Feminists, social liberals, and those that would separate religion from government would be entirely ignored under Islamist control. Just ask the feminists what type of equality they have in many Islamist controlled mosques around the country.

It is interesting that even in the recent April 18 New York Times, Virginia Heffernan appropriately critiques the vacuous nature of Robert McNeil's documentary, "The Muslim Americans". McNeil's documentary which did conveniently make the cut of the Crossroads series, turned out to be a puff-piece for political correctness with no insight into Islamist ideologies and its danger to America. The question remains whether epiphanies like Heffernan's in the Times about McNeil's piece will translate into systemic changes in the approach of the MSM toward Islamists.

When will there be a change from coddling and enabling Islamists toward critical engagement of their deep ideological inconsistencies with Americanism? Thus far, investigative journalism, hard-hitting analysis, and identification of the clear and present danger of the Islamist ideological threat remains at best, a large blind spot and at worst an intentional omission.

Islamists sneak in their political agenda free of criticism from the MSM because they do it in the name of a religion. When moderate Muslims call them on their false representation of all Muslims and the disservice they do to the spiritual faith of Islam, the MSM so far chooses to shelve and ignore our efforts to be heard.

So the next time anyone asks, "where are the moderate voices of Islam?", tell them that the main reason they are voices in the wilderness is that the mainstream media chooses to leave them in the wilderness and prevent them from seeing the light of day. In the PBS documentary it is only Muslims interviewed throughout the film--how could that be anti-Muslim? Simply put, PBS claims that the veteran filmmaker Martyn Burke was one-sided, but it appears that PBS and often the MSM is one-sided protecting Islamist leadership from their most effective detractors--anti-Islamist Muslim moderates.

From a previous post, here's more Islam vs. Islamism as told by an M. Zuhdi Jasser Interview On Muslim Extremism.
Consider this an addendum to our previous post on the dropping of the documentary 'Islam vs. Islamists' on political grounds by PBS. In the following videos, Fox-10 news commentator John Hook interviews M. Zuhdi Jasser, AIFD Chairman, on Muslim extremism, and refers to Zuhdi Jasser as a "moderate and reasonable voice in a world of chaos (referring to the Muslim world). Be sure to watch it all.

Muslim Extremism-FOX10-Newsmaker Sunday with John Hook Pt I:

Parts II - III here...

The Mainstream Media: Islamist Facilitators
The PBS Controversy and Charles Le Gai Eaton

Cross posted from Hyscience

Posted by Richard at April 23, 2007 9:08 AM

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