There is no more important front in the global conflict best described as the “War for the Free World” than the struggle to determine the nature and future course of Islam.
If Islamists seeking to impose their intolerant, repressive strain of the faith — more a totalitarian political ideology (Islamofascism) than a religion — on the rest of us (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) are able to prevail, we are condemned to the clash of civilizations forecast by Osama bin Laden.
If, on the other hand, Muslims who reject that ideology — the anti-Islamists — succeed in offering their co-religionists an alternative that is peaceable and allows full assimilation into freedom-loving societies like that of the United States, the prospects are very different. We then have allies who can help us defeat our mutual foes, the Islamofascists — allies who may succeed in enlisting to our common cause the hundreds of millions of Muslims who want no more than the rest of us to live under a Taliban-style religious code the Islamists call Shariah.
Readers of this column may recall that the epochal contest between the Islamofascists and the anti-Islamists is the subject of a documentary movie, “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center,” of which I was one of three co-executive producers. It describes the challenges facing courageous opponents of totalitarianism perpetrated in the name of the Muslim faith in Western Europe, Canada and the United States. The saga of this film illustrates how the West is generally failing to understand the stakes, let alone the vital role it must play, in this momentous struggle.
To recap: “Islam vs. Islamists” was one of two hourlong films my partners at ABG Films, director/producer Martyn Burke and renowned expert on Islamism Alex Alexiev, and I produced with some $645,000 in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the Public Broadcasting Service’s “America at a Crossroads” series. Regrettably, PBS executives and their associates at Washington’s WETA engaged in various shenanigans that resulted in neither film airing as part of that big-budget, highly promoted, nationally broadcast series.
Even more troubling than the effort to blacklist Mr. Alexiev and me for being “conservatives” were the repeated attempts made by PBS/WETA effectively to suppress the voices of the anti-Islamist Muslims who were the heroes of the film. When ABG Films refused to engage in a form of moral equivalence between those resisting Islamofascism and those who adhere to or apologize for it, we were told our film “failed to meet PBS standards,” was “one-sided,” “too long” and otherwise ineligible for broadcast on the public airwaves.
Interestingly, these defamatory and unfounded claims are among nine aspects of the skullduggery to which “Islam vs. Islamists” was subjected that are being investigated at congressional request by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Inspector General.
Thanks to an arrangement brokered by CPB with Oregon Public Broadcasting, however, the film has begun airing on roughly half of the PBS affiliates nationwide — including such major markets as Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco. So much for the claim it did not meet PBS standards.
Meanwhile, most of the second hour, “Muslims Against Jihad,” was broadcast by Fox News several times this summer as part of a special about PBS’ suppression of the voices of these films’ moderate Muslim protagonists. Millions of Americans have thus been exposed to the reality that all Muslims are not Islamists — and that those who are not urgently need our help in challenging those who are.
How much that help is required was on display in a half-hour panel discussion aired on Aug. 23 following a broadcast of “Islam vs. Islamists” by WEDU, which styles itself as “West Central Florida’s PBS Station.” If the composition of this panel and the content of its views is any guide, WEDU might be more accurately described as CAIR-TV.
In contrast to a separate discussion produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and distributed along with “Islam vs. Islamists” — which featured one of the film’s anti-Islamist stars, Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix, the WEDU panel was populated entirely by those hostile to Dr. Jasser and Muslims like him. Among the talking-heads was Ahmed Bedier, the executive director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
When Mr. Bedier is not savaging anti-Islamist Muslims and the film-makers who, despite considerable adversity, brought their story to a national audience, he is denouncing the listing by federal prosecutors of CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism case involving an Islamist fund-raising arm called the Holy Land Foundation.
Or Mr. Bedier is mounting a vehement public defense of two Egyptian students at the University of South Florida, Ahmed Abda Sherf Mohamed and Yousef Samir Megahed, caught in South Carolina last month transporting pipe bombs across state lines. Mr. Bedier’s response was vintage CAIR, portraying the arrested men as victims of racial profiling, bias and discrimination. “We believe that there’s an overreaction that [is] happening here just because of their Middle Eastern and Muslim backgrounds.”
In the past, Mr. Bedier insistently made similar claims about Sami al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who ultimately pleaded guilty to providing services for the terrorist Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization. It is unlikely to be purely coincidental that Mr. Mohamed reportedly rented a room in a house used by Mr. al-Arian to run his front organization, the World Islamic Studies Enterprise.
What is going on in Tampa, enabled in part by uncritical media outlets like WEDU, is going on all over America. It is time we stop promoting the Islamists and their friends — and start helping those Muslims who are ours.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a partner in ABG Films. He is a columnist for The Washington Times.