Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Silencing Muslim moderates

Arizona Republic reported On April 15, PBS, along with its Washington, D.C., affiliate, WETA, will begin airing an 11-part series of documentaries titled America at a Crossroads. It is described by PBS as "a major public television event . . . that explores the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world," and much of what it explores is the clash of Western values and those of fundamentalist Muslims.

The news covers that every day.
Until earlier this year, a part of that exploration was to include a segment on Muslims living in the West - in places like Copenhagen, Paris, Toronto and Phoenix - and their clashes with Muslim fundamentalists who often explicitly align themselves with violence and, sometimes, with terrorists.
That is something I would like to see.
The segment was titled, Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center. By and large, the clashes it depicted involved people like Jasser condemning violence perpetrated in the name of Islam, and fundamentalist imams condemning the Jassers of the world as false Muslims.
In other words they don't agree with the fundamentalists.
In some cases, the documentary showed fundamentalists talking candidly about shutting up the moderates in their midst. And, in one case involving a moderate Muslim politician in Denmark, it caught them talking about shutting him up permanently.
That is something we should see.
In many respects it is an inspiring story, the sort of story that public television often likes to tell. But it isn't going to tell the story depicted in Islam vs. Islamists. At least not as a part of the heavily promoted Crossroads series, and quite possibly not at all. The problems that the PBS-WETA producers had with Islam vs. Islamists are complex. On The Arizona Republic's news pages today, reporter Dennis Wagner details many of those issues.
Mainly a desire to keep their heads attatched to their live bodies.
But much of their hostility seems to boil down to this: They could not bring themselves to declare people like Jasser "moderate" because that would mean criticizing the fundamentalists whom the Jassers of the world oppose.
Then come up with a different word. Like reasonable.
As the PBS producers affirmed time and again in their letters and e-mails, who is an Islamic "extremist" and who is a "moderate" depends entirely on which side of the street you're standing. In large part, it is about "context."
No it is about whether the person is willing to debate those that disagree with him, or whether they just want to kill him.
"We felt the program was flawed by incomplete storytelling and problems with fairness," said Jeff Bieber, executive producer of the Crossroads series. "We felt the writing was alarmist and without adequate context.
What context justifies spreading a faith with violence.
"We just felt there was incomplete context, (that) could lead viewers to the wrong conclusions."
I.E. they might have killed us.
"These are the 'root-cause' people," responded Jasser, who said the PBS-WETA producers could not bring themselves to identify the issue facing the United States since Sept. 11, 2001: "It is a radical Islam problem." On Feb. 12, Bieber wrote to the Islam vs. Islamists production team, informing them they were scrapping the project. Bieber's bottom line: "The latest cut of Islam vs. Islamists falls significantly short of meeting the standards necessary for inclusion in America at a Crossroads and for PBS national distribution.
Apparently it does not bash the Bush administration enough for PBS tastes.
.... The correspondence between Burke and the series producers suggests the two sides simply could not reach common ground on what constitutes a "moderate" Muslim in the West, and what constitutes an extremist.
Here is a clue: do they threaten violence and even death to someone that disagrees with them?
It seems a bizarrely fine point to fight over. The moderates, it seems, are the ones struggling to project a peaceful co-existence between the West and Islam. People like Jasser, for example. And the extremists? Perhaps those who despise Jasser. Or those who threaten with death those who disagree with them. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like viewers of the Crossroads series will have much chance to sort them out for themselves.

No comments: