In recent weeks in this space, I have chronicled the saga of an effort to answer that question. It took the form of a 52-minute documentary I helped produce for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s “America at a Crossroads” series. The film, entitled “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center,” features compelling stories of anti-Islamist Muslims who have had the courage to stand up to co-religionists who are using faith to accomplish political ends.The documentary makes clear why the moderates are not more in evidence. Observant Muslims who dare to challenge the Islamists over ideological agendas pursued in the name of religion are shown being subjected to ostracism, intense coercion to conform and, in some cases, death threats. As long as these anti-Islamist Muslims are rightly seen as isolated, vulnerable and powerless, it would be foolish to believe that many of their co-religionists will want to emulate them.
Such a conclusion is especially likely to the extent that fence-sitting moderate Muslims perceive those repressing the anti-Islamists to be what Osama bin Laden calls “the strong horse.” The success of organizations supportive of the Islamists and of their efforts to exploit real or perceived Muslim grievances and civil liberties to create “parallel societies” in Western democracies will, inevitably, attract more adherents to the former’s ranks.
Unfortunately, what has happened to “Islam vs. Islamists” can only compound this perception. The Public Broadcasting Service and its Washington flagship station, WETA, refused to air this film. While a number of explanations have been given for that decision – including demonstrably false claims that the documentary was not submitted on time, was too long, was unfinished, the officially stated reason is that it was: “flawed by incomplete storytelling, a limited focus that does not adequately corroborate the film’s conclusions, and a general lack of attention to the obligation of fairness, which requires that viewers have access to additional context and relevant information about a complex subject.”
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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