Last week, we sent an alert regarding PBS's suppression of an important documentary entitled "Islam vs. Islamists," that was supposed to be included in PBS's series "America at a Crossroads." "Islam vs Islamists" is an inspirational look at moderate Muslims in the West who speak out against Muslim supremacists, despite death threats and harassment. We further noted that PBS commissioned a film to replace "Islam vs Islamists," "The Muslim Americans," produced by series host Robin MacNeil's company, which was quite flawed.
PBS did include in the Crossroads series an excellent film, "Faith Without Fear," about Irshad Manji, a moderate Muslim woman who speaks out against fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, but that film focused mainly on women's issues. "Islam vs Islamists" involves a broader range of issues.
CAMERA members who wrote or called PBS have been getting either a phonecall or letter from PBS, insisting that PBS intends to broadcast "Islam vs Islamists" once the editing process is complete. Of course, this is nonsense. The filmmakers, who have editorial control over the content of the documentary, have firmly stated that the film is finished and to make the edits that PBS is insisting on would change the very message of the film and turn it into yet another apologia for Islamism.
For more details, see our original alert below.
CAMERA ASKS THAT WE:
Please continue to contact PBS and CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a government agency which provides funding to public networks).
* Call PBS President Paula Kerger: 703-739-5000
And/or submit your comment by going to the following PBS comment link.
Urge PBS to broadcast "Islam vs Islamists" as is, without editorial changes, during a prime time slot.
* Call/write CPB President Pat Harrison: 202-879-9600 email@example.com
Ask CPB to give the filmmakers the right to broadcast the film elsewhere.
* Please let CAMERA know if you made calls or wrote letters: firstname.lastname@example.org
The original alert is below.
Director, National Letter-Writing Group
CAMERA.ORG, FROM APRIL 16, 2007
Is PBS now in the business of preventing Americans from learning about issues vital to our national well-being? The Public Broadcasting Service is airing an 11-part documentary series entitled "America at a Crossroads" from April 15--20, focused on themes and events related to 9/11, al-Qaeda, the war in Iraq and radical Islam.
But one of the films commissioned for the PBS series by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and given $675,000 in funding, "Islam vs. Islamists:Voices from the Muslim Center," is being withheld from the public for highly questionable reasons (see letters from the filmmakers below).
Please protest PBS's refusal to air this powerful documentary about the threat moderate Muslims (and non-Muslims) face from Muslim supremacists. Many terrorism experts believe a vital key to winning the war against Muslim radicals lies within Islam itself, that moderate Muslims must be supported and encouraged in challenging extremism in their own faith. "Islam vs. Islamists" shines a spotlight on the grave difficulties faced by moderate Muslims.
PBS - and PBS affiliate WETA - executives now refuse to broadcast the film, claiming its thesis is "incendiary", "alarmist", and "inflammatory," even though the film's thesis had gone through numerous reviews throughout the competition to win CPB funding.
A CAMERA Board Member who viewed the film termed it "inspirational" in its presentation of courageous Muslims speaking out despite threats to themselves.
PBS claims that it will air the film in the future - if substantial changes are made. The filmmakers (ABG), Alex Alexiev, Martyn Burke and Frank Gaffney, say that the changes PBS demands would alter the entire thesis of the film and are unacceptable. Furthermore, according to Alex Alexiev, their contract with CPB gives the filmmakers complete editorial control and they consider the film to be completed.
ABG charges PBS executives with suppressing the film on political grounds.
They cite numerous irregularities in the review process, including PBS enlisting Prof. Amina McCloud as an outside "advisor" to assess their film. McCloud, an admirer of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Jewish former head of the Nation of Islam, about which part of the film was critical, then gave a rough cut of the film to Nation of Islam members to view. The NOI, needless to say, objected to the depictions and members have since threatened to sue the filmmakers.
In addition, as related by the filmmakers (see letter below), the PBS "Crossroads" producers went behind their backs and "commissioned another program, covering almost exactly the same ground as we were investigating on one of our major stories. Suddenly, our interview subjects became the subject of an embarrassing and unprofessional intra-PBS tug-of-war. We lost several key interviews because of this. It was about as destructive an act as can done to a team in the field."
This competing film, "The Muslim Americans," was not part of the rigorous competition that everyone else went through to get funding and to be on the short list for inclusion in the "America at a Crossroads" series. And, according to Alex Alexiev, the gist of "Muslims in America" is much less critical of the Islamists, amounting to an apologia for the extremists.
Another very disturbing aspect of "The Muslim Americans" being chosen over "Islam vs Islamists" is that "Muslim Americans" was produced in conjunction with MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, a company co-led by Robin (Robert) MacNeil, the host of the PBS "Crossroads in America" series. The film produced by MacNeil's company was commissioned by Crossroad's producers and chosen OUTSIDE the long and rigorous competiton process set up by CPB. How is this not a conflict of interest?
Please read the troubling letters (see below) written by ABG (filmmakers for "Islam vs Islamists") to the Board of Directors of PBS, in which they detail the unprofessional, biased conduct of the PBS (and affiliate WETA) executives who are apparently attempting to suppress or radically change "Islam vs Islamists."
Please protest PBS's rejection of "Islam vs Islamists" as part of the "America at a Crossroads" series and object to PBS's attempts to force the filmmakers to radically change the film.
* Call and write PBS to deplore suppression of this very important documentary. Be polite but firm. Urge the network to broadcast the film as is (without changes) during a primetime slot on PBS.
Voice your objections to the extremely biased and unprofessional conduct of Leo Eaton, Crossroads series producer and Jeff Bieber, executive producer at PBS affiliate WETA. According to the filmmakers, the edits that Eaton and Bieber are insisting upon seem to have more to do with their personal politics than with the quality and accuracy of the film. And since ABG has editorial control over the film, they shouldn't be forced to change their film. Question the role of host Robin MacNeil, who has a vested interest in one of the films in the series.
Call PBS President Paula Kerger: 703-739-5000
Share your thoughts with PBS's ombudsman Michael Getler. 703-739-5000
* Protest WETA's role in suppressing the film.
Contact Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President and CEO of WETA: 703.998.2600
*Contact your local PBS station. You can find their contact info by clicking here and putting in your zipcode. Urge them to broadcast "Islam vs. Islamists." Ask them to lodge a complaint to PBS executives regarding the censorship of this important film. To find your local station, go to www.pbs.org
* Call the President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Pat Harrison.
CPB dispenses tax dollars to public networks, such as PBS and NPR. CPB had been originally supportive of the project and was not involved in removing "Islam vs Islamists" from the list of documentaries to be aired. Express your concerns about PBS suppressing the film.
Ask Ms. Harrison to:
1) urge PBS to air the film without forcing the film-makers to change the documentary.
2) If that is not possible, ask Ms. Harrison to give the filmmakers the legal right to broadcast the documentary elsewhere.
Call CPB President Pat Harrison: 202-879-9600
(Be sure to distinguish between CPB and PBS. CPB funded the film. PBS prevented the film from being shown on the "America at a Crossroads" series. )
* Urge your elected representatives to get involved, since taxpayer's money is involved. To find your senators' or congressional rep's address, go to:
*Thank Congressman Jim Walsh of Syracuse for his efforts to urge PBS to air the film as is, with no further changes. Ask him to keep up the pressure.
* Please send CAMERA a copy of your comments: email@example.com
Director, National Letter-Writing Group