If past practice is any guide, those recruited to provide such “balance” will likely be representatives of organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Despite the fact that these groups are well-known Saudi-funded, pro-Islamist fronts, their views were exclusively and highly sympathetically featured in a documentary called “The Muslim Americans.” PBS seemed to have no reservations about airing this wholly one-sided film during the “Crossroads” series roll-out in April.
In short, now that widespread criticism has made it impossible to sustain PBS’ suppression of “Islam vs. Islamists,” the anti-Islamist Muslims who are its subjects are to be remanded to decidedly second-class coverage. Call it CPB’s version of the “Rosa Parks treatment.”
Recall that Rosa Parks could have gotten to her job via public transportation – as long as she “knew her place” and agreed to ride in the back of the bus. So, too, moderate Muslims can have their stories, as recorded in a film produced with some $675,000 in public monies, shown on the public airwaves – in at least a few locations at some point in time.
But these heroic figures must know their place, too. And their place is not in prime time, nor national distribution. Only Islamists and their apologists are entitled to front-of-the-bus treatment from those like Robert MacNeil (the host of the “Crossroads” series and producer – thanks to a sweetheart deal – of “The Muslim Americans” show), Sharon Percy Rockefeller (wife of one Senator and daughter of another, Jay Rockefeller and Charles Percy, respectively, and president of WETA) and the handful of others responsible for PBS’ rejection of “Islam vs. Islamists.”
If ever there were a time when the American people are entitled to the most comprehensive presentation possible of information concerning the struggle for the soul and future of Islam, this should be it. After all, last week a Pew Research poll found that roughly a quarter of the Muslim-American population thinks suicide bombing is legitimate in at least some circumstances. An even larger percentage claimed not to believe that Arabs perpetrated the attacks of 9/11.
The particular irony is that the whole idea behind “America at a Crossroads” was that it was intended to offer the American people twenty programs featuring differing viewpoints and a variety of stories that would, taken together, help inform the public about the post-9/11 world. This creative vision demands that the experiences and warnings of authentically moderate, pro-democratic and tolerant Muslims be treated at least as favorably as the portrayal of those in the Muslim community determined to stifle their voices. Certainly, public broadcasting should not be party to such suppression.
A bipartisan group of legislators have called for prompt, national distribution of “Islam vs. Islamists.” They have been as impressed by the quality of the film PBS doesn’t want you to see as they are outraged by the way people entrusted with responsibility for the public airwaves have handled it and those involved in its production. The “Rosa Parks” treatment is not what they have in mind, what the courageous anti-Islamist Muslims deserve, nor what will be acceptable to the national audience that expects to be able to view this documentary without further delay.
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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