Undoubtedly, at least some of the films to be shown will make a contribution to that end. One that will not be allowed to is a film called Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center. Originally chosen by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as one of the first eight finalists scheduled to be aired already in the Fall of 2006, Islam vs. Islamists ran afoul of PBS for reasons that had nothing to do with its merits and has now been dropped out of the series. The story of the spiking of this film by PBS, replete as it is with hard to believe tales of blacklisting, pandering to radical Islamists, blatant conflicts of interest, political correctness and bureaucratic arrogance, has a lot to tell us not only about PBS, but it also answers the much more important question: why has radical Islam found such fertile soil in the very society it seeks to destroy? This is the story of the film that PBS does not want you to see.
The Making and Unmaking of "Islam vs. Islamists"
In the spring of 2005, my colleague Frank Gaffney told me that he had been invited by CPB officials to submit a documentary proposal for their new "America at the Crossroads" competition and asked me for ideas for the proposal. At the time, we had been involved in a project called Muslims Speak Out that sought to provide a forum for the views of moderate Muslims in Washington D.C. and I suggested that we focus our proposal on the struggle within Islam between mainstream moderate believers and the extremists. Understanding the struggle within Islam is, in fact, a key to understanding the Islamofascist threat America and the West are facing today and it has been a major emphasis of our research on Islamism for several years.
The two of us then drafted a proposal to that effect and it became one of 430 proposals CPB received in the competition for the twenty Crossroads films they expected to fund.
Our proposal was then selected as one of only 35 submissions picked for a research and development grant to produce a trailer for the full grant competition. At this point, our team was joined by the accomplished Hollywood filmmaker and novelist Martyn Burke, with whom I had collaborated years ago on an award-winning documentary he directed on the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, our partnership was incorporated as ABG Films Inc. and we began work on the documentary in earnest.
Martyn produced an outstanding 35 min. short film on the R&D grant and by late 2005 we became one of 20 competitors to be selected for a full production grant of some $600,000. Moreover, a CPB press release at the time officially announced Islam vs Islamists as one of the first eight films scheduled to be aired in prime-time in the fall of 2006.
It was a high point in our efforts and also the beginning of our troubles. They began in early 2006 as the key CPB officials who'd run the competition with exemplary fairness were fired and the entire program was turned over to PBS and its flagship Washington D.C. station WETA, as represented by series executive producers Leo Eaton and Jeff Bieber. It is of more than passing interest here that Mr.Eaton is the son of Charles Le Gai Eaton, a.k.a. Hassan Abdul Hakeem, a prominent British convert to Islam with known Islamist sympathies. Especially because, as Mr. Eaton told us himself, he regularly consulted with his father regarding Islam.
Almost immediately, PBS officials and Messrs. Leo Eaton and Jeff Bieber tried to persuade CPB not to disburse the production grant to ABG. The ostensible reason given was that two of the executive producers (Frank Gaffney and myself) were associated with an "advocacy" organization as President and Vice-President respectively of the Center for Security Policy. This is a laughable pretext on the part of an organization that does very little that is not advocacy, albeit for leftist causes.
Indeed, as we wrote to CPB in response to these accusations, information provided on PBS's website itself often gives detailed instructions and resources on how viewers can engage in advocacy as well as links to approved advocacy organizations, including, among others, the radical Islamist Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The new team's real agenda was in fact nothing short of blacklisting Gaffney and myself for the cardinal sin of being conservative and, as became clear later, for not being willing to pander to the extremists' views. Indeed, at the very first meeting between Martyn Burke and Messrs. Eaton and Bieber, he was told to fire us as executive producers and asked point blank, "Don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?"
CPB president Pat Harrison, to her credit, approved the considerably delayed grant disbursal, even as PBS continued to insist that it would not air our film if Gaffney and Alexiev were to stay on as executive producers.
Things proceeded to get worse. Unbeknownst to us until much later, PBS/WETA had hired prominent journalist Robin McNeil as the host and key decision maker on what Crossroads shows would be shown and, at the same time, commissioned him to do a documentary titled Muslims in America, on a subject nearly identical to ours. This was done well after the rigorous Crossroads competition had been completed. Surely a great deal if you can get it! Moreover, according to the PBS website, the film was to be produced by McNeil-Lehrer Productions, a commercial company in which Mr. McNeil has obvious financial interests. I don't know what the PBS charter and ethics rules say about such shenanigans, but the average American taxpayer, who has paid for all of this after all, would probably consider this a conflict of interest, to put it mildly.
In retrospect, the PBS commissioning of a film outside of the Crossroads competition on a topic close to ours (and one guaranteed to be aired) should have been a dead giveaway to us that PBS, true to their word, never had an intention of giving our film a fair hearing. And that what it really bargained for and is very likely to get is yet another PBS puff piece on Islamism.
Useful Idiots and More
PBS/WETA then proceeded to hire as an outside "advisor" Prof. Aminah McCloud, a person known for her radical Islamist views and affiliations and support for the Nation of Islam's leader and well-known anti-Semite Louis Farakhan. Barely two months after 9/11, Prof. McCloud opined to the Minnesota Pioneer Press newspaper that "we're now becoming a police state like those nations we claim to abhor."
Aware of the likely consequences of having our film judged by such a highly biased individual, we protested in writing to PBS and CPB to no avail. What we warned against did, in fact, happen when Ms. McCloud made a rough cut of our documentary available to the Nation of Islam, the subject of one our stories, in a complete breach of journalistic ethics and her confidentiality agreement with PBS. The Nation of Islam promptly threatened to sue us. Remarkably, even such a blatant abuse of journalistic integrity to the detriment of our film didn't seem to register with either the series producers or the president of WETA, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, to whom we repeatedly appealed in this matter.
It may well be that hiring Ms. Aminah McCloud was not entirely coincidental. But it is a rank hypocrisy for an institution like PBS, which found Frank Gaffney and myself unqualified to be executive producers of a film on Islam on account of being conservative, to turn around and hire a known Islamist as an arbiter of a film on anti-Islamist Muslims.
Hypocrisy aside, a palpable PBS bias in favor of the Islamist worldview began showing in spades as we neared completion of the film in late 2006. Two detailed critiques of the film from Leo Eaton amounted, as we wrote to PBS/WETA boards of directors, "to a hatchet-job based on serious, perhaps willful, misinterpretation of both the message and the method of this film."
It is worth noting here that our unhappiness with the way our film was being treated was expressed in writing on numerous occasions long before PBS officially rejected it. This is important, because now that this conflict has come out in the open, the predictable spin by PBS/WETA is that our unhappiness is just a case of sour grapes for not being selected for Crossroads airing.
Nothing could be further from the truth as the articles below will verify.
PBS/WETA bias against the moderate Muslims daring to speak out against the Islamists in our film are too numerous to list here, but a few representative cases should suffice to demonstrate it. For instance, Mr. Eaton dismisses the basic premise of our film that moderate Muslims around the world find themselves under attack by the Islamists, by claiming that "moderation and extremism clearly depend on where you're standing."
This is tantamount to saying that there is no difference between perpetrators and victims, it is all a matter of opinion, and exactly the argument apologists for terrorism against innocent people and the terrorists themselves have been using for years.
In another instance, an episode in the storyline documenting the efforts of a radical imam to introduce sharia rules in the Muslim community in Denmark by imposing a "blood money" settlement is judged by Eaton a positive development since "it's a way of stopping bloodshed, not encouraging it." It is difficult to believe that a PBS producer could be completely unaware of the devastating effect on Muslim communities in the West the replacement of Western judicial systems by reactionary sharia rules would have. Yet, Mr. Eaton clearly is or pretends to be that, as, for example, when he demanded of us to provide "objective clarity" on why sharia cannot co-exist side by side with the democratic judicial system within Western societies. This would be truly a preposterous supposition, unless one realizes that it is a key objective on the agenda of radical Islamists throughout the West. And one that, wittingly or not, is echoed in the PBS criticism of our film.
Whatever the real motivation of PBS and its producers for spiking Islam vs. Islamists, its real victims for now are the moderate Muslims who are under withering assault from the Islamists for no other reason than the fact that they share our western democratic values. It is their voices, documented by us with $700,000 of taxpayer's money, that have been denied a hearing by a publicly-funded institution that has willingly played the role of dupes and useful idiots to their Islamist oppressors. This, more than anything else, shows how serious the challenge of radical Islamofascist ideology has become within our own society.
For us, the story is far from ended. As makers of this film, Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and myself and our many supporters in the Muslim community and outside of it, will do everything possible for it to be seen by the American viewing public. And you can rest assured that, one way or another, it will be.
FSM Contributing Editor Alex Alexiev is co-executive producer of Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center and a partner with Martyn Burke and Frank Gaffney in ABG Films Inc.