In an example of Western academia trying to stifle the voices of reform from the Islamic world, it seems that Aminah Beverly McCloud, the director of the Islamic World Studies program at DePaul University, helped sabotage the airing of a documentary on moderate Muslims.
The documentary, Islam vs. Islamists, was to air on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) next week as part of a taxpayer-funded series called America at a Crossroads, but was canceled by managers at the PBS station WETA in Washington, D.C. for what the film's producer, Martyn Burke, believes were political reasons. And one of these appears to have been linked to Aminah Beverly McCloud. According to an Arizona Republic article on the subject:
WETA appointed an advisory board that includes Aminah Beverly McCloud, director of World Islamic Studies at DePaul University. In an "unparalleled breach of ethics," Burke says, McCloud took rough-cut segments of the film and showed them to Nation of Islam officials, who are a subject of the documentary. They threatened to sue.
This is rather ironic, seeing as McCloud has expressed a desire on more than one occasion to remedy Americans' "ignorance" about the Islamic world. In fact, this was the ostensible reason for her involvement in helping DePaul University launch the Islamic World Studies program in the first place. But it seems that desire only extends to the aspects she deems palatable, which apparently doesn't include the threat moderate Muslims face from Islamists bent on silencing those opposed to their radical worldview.
Considering McCloud's background as, according to Frontpage Magazine, a follower of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a speaker for the Saudi-financed Muslim Students Assocation, a supporter of Tariq Ramadan, and the faculty member at DePaul who made the decision to hire the highly politicized Norman Finkelstein as "a full-time assistant professor in its political science department," this latest move is par for the course.
It is a sad day indeed when those entrusted with educating the next generation on the Islamic world are active players in restricting its progress.
Update: Another Arizona Republic article out today (April 10) expands on the particulars of McCloud's role:
Burke said the fight over "context" and the side issue of his co-producers' politics caused a seven-month delay in funding. Then, the PBS producers hired a five-member team of consultants to review all the segments of the Crossroads series - among them a university professor who teaches a course on Islam in the United States.
That academic, Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud of DePaul University, screened a cut of Islam vs. Islamists for a group of Nation of Islam leaders - a rather serious breach of journalism protocol, considering that the Nation of Islam was a major part of Burke's Islam vs. Islamists investigation. According to an e-mail from McCloud to Burke, "These representatives (of the Nation of Islam) were outraged at the implications here and assert that if this airs, they will promptly pursue litigation."
Update (April 11): In an interview with Hugh Hewitt (via Little Green Footballs), Frank Gaffney, who partnered with Martyn Burke in the making of Islam vs. Islamists, of the Center for Security Policy, had this to say about McCloud's role in sabotaging the film:
Well, I'm hoping that the larger story will come out here, Hugh, because if you are as minded as I know you are, and I'm sure most of your audience are, there will be much to find offense with here, not least of which was, if you can believe it, after those advisors who helped vet these films in a very high quality way from CPB's point of view, PBS became responsible, with WETA, their flagship station in Washington, for the film. And at that point, our problems grew enormously. And importantly, they hired as advisors five people, one of whom was a publicly acknowledged, in fact, avowed admirer of Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. And it happens that one of the features of our film is an insight into how the Wahabis started buying the Nation of Islam with $1 million dollars to build black Wahabi mosques in America. This woman not only was completely inappropriate for advising on a film, had an obvious conflict of interest, but much worse, she took our film in the rough cut form, and showed it to the Nation of Islam. And the WETA people, and the PBS people, found nothing wrong with that at all.
Update (April 12): Little Green Footballs (LGF) has further information about McCloud, including an excerpt from a 2000 article in the Nation of Islam's newspaper The Final Call, in which she stated that, "The Nation of Islam must define what Islam is within the American culture" and a 2004 New York Times article that details McCloud's involvement as a board member for the American Muslim Council and the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). It seems McCloud and CAIR have a longstanding relationship, which certainly sheds light on her role in getting PBS to drop Islam vs. Islamists.
And Riehl World View links to a two-part interview (Part I, Part II) with McCloud at BlackElectorate.com in which she essentially blames U.S. foreign policy for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or in other words, takes the "root causes" approach. As she put it:
The root cause of terrorism is a combination of injustice and greed. President Bush asserted that the people who flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon committed acts of terror because they hate our freedoms. I doubt that but I would say that our freedoms have not driven us to act justly in the world or at home. I have not ever read of a powerful society which acted justly being attacked for anything nor have I read of greed leading to anything other than injustice. Muslims who can escape the injustices in the Muslim world seem to thrive on western freedoms though they do not understand them. Much of what is happening today is in response to continued injustice along with some who take advantage of the atmosphere to create further injustice. We have a history of supporting those who will let us have our way with their countries' resources. It is important to note that without the assistance of Muslims who are corrupt and those Muslims who benefit from that corruption, we would not be able to do what we do.
That someone with McCloud's views would be director of DePaul's World Islamic Studies speaks volumes about the sad state of affairs in too many Middle East studies departments today.
Update (April 13): An article at FamilySecurityMatters.org written by Alex Alexiev, co-executive producer of Islam vs. Islamists, sheds more light on McCloud's role in sabotaging the film and the objections of the filmmakers to her involvement:
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.