Islam vs. Islamism: A PBS documentary that almost got killed


The documentary titled “Islam vs. Islamists,” was produced by ABG Films with $675,000 in public funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was originally slated to run as part of PBS’ “America at a Crossroads” series. However, after viewing the film PBS executives told the filmmakers that it was “alarmist” and “overreaching” and that PBS would not run it.

The film follows moderate Muslims who have challenged the “Islamists” who espouse a more radical view of their religion. The film shows the Islamists advocating, among other things, the imposition of Sharia law on Muslims in the West, the stoning of women who commit adultery, and even violence and terrorism.

The film, also produced by filmamker Martyn Burke,. Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official and Islamism expert Alex Alexiev, follows the stories of moderates at the flashpoints of jihadism: politician Naser Khader in Denmark, filmmaker Mohammed Sifaoui in France, talk-show host Tarek Fatah in Canada, former Nation of Islam member Edmond Abdul Hafeez in Chicago and Sheikh Kabbani, a Flint, Mich., imam who warned State Department officials of Usama bin Laden’s terrorism influence three years before the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The cancer that is within our community is I don’t believe the majority,” said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Wisconsin-born Muslim who lives in Arizona, in the film. “I think it’s a minority, it’s a minor, minor, minor, minority that are radicalized or violent but the majority I believe look at the lens of politics through an Islamist lens.

“If we give them and let them handle the mantle of religion that they seek to exploit for their own geo-political issues all over the globe, then we are really going to lose this war.”

Burke and Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official, said that they made a series of changes to accommodate PBS. Ultimately, however, they concluded the problem wasn’t their film, but liberal bias at PBS.

In an interview with FOX News, Burke makes explosives charges about the PBS executives he dealt with, Jeff Bieber and Leo Eaton.

“In the first meeting, they said to me, ‘Fire your partners.'” Burke said. “And I said ‘Why?’ They said, ‘Because they are conservatives.'”

Burke said the PBS executives most forcefully objected to Gaffney’s involvement, asking, “‘Don’t you check into the politics of the people you work with?’ I said ‘No. I never have and I never will.’

“I had done a film on the Hollywood 10 on blacklisting in Hollywood where the leftwing was blacklisted and now it was the left trying to blacklist the right,” he added. “I thought I was living in an Alice in Wonderland mirror image.”

Gaffney believes the main thrust of PBS’s objections was that the Islamists portrayed in the film were not really radicals, but part of the Islamic mainstream. He said PBS tried “to change the story, to bring more of an Islamist flavor to it.”

The dispute between ABG Films and PBS initially became public last winter, was amplified by talk radio, debated in blogs and on newspaper editorial pages, and sparked calls for a congressional investigation.

ABG Films demanded that PBS either run “Islam vs. Islamists” as part of its “America at a Crossroads” series, or allow it to be broadcast on another network.

Last spring ABG Films and PBS reached a compromise. The PBS network would not run “Islam vs. Islamists” in the “America at a Crossroads” series, but Oregon Public Television would make the film available to individual public TV stations to run when those stations wished.

According to figures provided FOX News by ABG Films, “Islam v. Islamist” has run on more than 70 public TV stations, but not in at least 15 of the top 40 markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Washington, D.C.

Islam vs. Islamists from Tarek Fatah on Vimeo.

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