The documentary on Islam that has been billed as “The film PBS doesn’t want you to see” is going to be running on public television and so you may see it.
The film is called “Islam vs. Islamists” and it will be made available to more than 350 PBS stations across the country.
This because of an arrangement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Oregon Public Television which had been seeking a resolution to the problem of spending a lot of money on a TV show and then not using it. The documentary was part of the CPB series “America at a Crossroads” and $675,000 in public funds was spent on it.
The catch, such as it may be, is in the phrase “going to be made available”. Public TV stations can run it or not, as they choose.
The film is an hour long, and quite good. I screened it myself about a month ago.
It explores the struggle between moderate Muslims and the smaller but powerful number of radical Islamists.
I watched it because one of the producers, Frank Gaffney, is a friend of mine and many others at FDD, the counter-terrorism think tank where I work. Frank Gaffney is a former Defense Department official in the Reagan administration who founded and runs the Center for Security Policy in Washington. I also watched his film because WETA, the Washington D.C PBS station had some involvement in it and I am on their board of directors, and of course, I watched it because of my interest in the vitally important subject matter. (I’m also the former president and ceo of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent company to pubic television and public radio.)
I thought the film was fair and balanced and thoroughly interesting.
PBS didn’t want to run it. Frank Gaffney and his producing partners, film maker Martyn Burke and Alex Alexiev, a Mid East scholar, believed it was killed for “political” reasons. They described the thumbs down from PBS as “an ideological vendetta” and really raised hell about it. They staged private screenings of the show for members of congress and journalists and pushed back hard against the rejection by PBS.
“This is a textbook case of abuse by the public broadcasting system by people who are pushing a political agenda and don’t want differing views on the air,” Gaffney told me.
PBS denied it but they did admit they had hired a serious leftist professor of religion from DePaul University, a Nation of Islam activist, to review the film. (The description of the “Islamic scholar” Aminah McCloud as a serious leftist is mine not that of PBS, but it is accurate.)
I wrote about the woman myself about three years ago after The New York Times published a front page puff piece about her. I thought she was a confirmed head-case, an apologist for Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. I was annoyed by the Times love letter, consistent I thought with its “no enemies on the left” attitude, but PBS seemed to think her opinion was valuable. She reportedly hated the film and leaked its content to someone in the Black Muslim leadership. Not surprising considering her social and political views. She once said about Louis Farrakhan, who she claims is a distinguished cultural and religious leader whose image has been distorted by the press and his enemies,” to distill his views down to one sentence to what he utters about Jews is an utter negation of what he has done, in the same way that no one has written off Thomas Jefferson because he raped a slave woman.” Raped a slave woman?
Again, I thought the film was good, certainly as good as many other PBS docs I’ve seen, and less polemical or political than many others.
If you want to see the Islam vs. Islamists film write or call your local PBS station.
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