Will OETA tell the full story of Islam in Oklahoma?
Next Friday night at 9, OETA, Oklahoma's public television network, will air "Islam in Oklahoma":
Oklahoma is home to more than 30,000 Muslim Americans. Join leaders from Oklahoma's Muslim community as they address the questions and issues raised by America at a Crossroads, Friday May 4 at 9 p.m.
(Is it just me, or does the background of that title image look more like Hebrew than Arabic?)
OETA says more panelists will be announced, but for now they only list Sheryl Siddiqui, a leader in the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Imam Imad Enchassi, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and Dr. David Vishanoff, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Oklahoma.
The facilities of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and of the Islamic Society of Tulsa are owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which is part of a network of Saudi-funded organizations working to extend the influence of Wahhabism in the US. (There's more detail about NAIT and its related organizations -- the Wahhabi lobby -- in this post I wrote some months ago.)
There's a name that ought to be on that list of panelists discussing Islam in Oklahoma -- Jamal Miftah. His name belongs on the list for his eloquent condemnation of terror in the name of Islam. But it also belongs there because of the response that he received from the leaders of the Tulsa mosque, who confronted him angrily in the prayer hall and in the corridor of the mosque, saying that because of his column he was anti-Islamic, a label that could be heard by others as a thinly veiled incitement to violence against him.
Just this week, two more threatening comments targeting Miftah were posted from a Pakistan IP address at JunkYardBlog, simply because he condemned those who use their religion to justify their acts of violence.
If OETA spends an hour talking to two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques, without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. If you agree, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. OETA says they want input on the show's content, so let 'em (politely) have it.
UPDATE: A reader sent the following note to OETA:
I have always thought of OETA as an educational channel that was fair. However; regarding the upcoming program on “Islam in Oklahoma”, Oklahomans deserve an unbiased discussion. If OETA has two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques on the discussion panel without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. Please do the right thing in providing a fair and balanced program by inviting other Muslims such as Jamal Miftah.
Oklahomans are not stupid, please don’t portray us as such.
Here's the reply from OETA public information manager Ashley Barcum:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.
We do have a non-Muslim academic on the panel, Dr. David Vishanoff, who is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He will be on hand to provide an objective viewpoint. Due to the short time of the program, the producers would like to keep the panel limited to the three panelists, which includes Dr. Vishanoff.
Please note the panel discussion will primarily involve a discussion of the experience of Muslims in Oklahoma. What the program intends to do is provide a look at the local experiences of those practicing one of the state’s minority religions. It is an ongoing conversation sparked by the recent PBS series America at a Crossroads.
In addition, the program will be moderated by Gerry Bonds, a veteran broadcast journalist.
Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.
Why, that makes it all better, doesn't it? The governor says these two Muslims are representative of the diversity of Oklahoma Muslims so it must be so. Never mind the ethnic diversity within Islam -- Arab, Pakistani, Indonesian, Turkish, North African. Never mind that there are other views than the Wahhabi view, even if those other views aren't as well funded.
And how can you have a panel discussion about local experiences of practicing Muslims while ignoring a very local, very recent experience of an Oklahoma Muslim that made national news?
Notice that the website statement that there would be additional panelists has been contradicted by Barcum, who now says that those three are it.
MORE about "America at a Crossroads," the PBS series to which "Islam in Oklahoma" is a follow-up: Okie on the Lam had this entry on April 9 about PBS's decision to suppress one of the films in the series. The film was called “Islam vs. Islamism: Voices From The Muslim Center.” It was one of 34 proposed films for this series selected for a research and development grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here's the description in the list of grant awards:
Islam vs. Islamism (Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, ABG Films Inc., Los Angeles) will explore how Islamic extremists are at war with their own faith, and how the consequences of their ambitions and policies devastate the socio-economic potential and well-being of the Muslim world. The filmmakers will follow the stories of several Muslims who have been victimized by the radicals and who are fighting back.
Sounds like a story that needs to be told, right? The CPB thought so, because it then selected the film for one of 20 production grants -- the money needed to get the film made.
But now PBS is refusing to broadcast the film. One of the film's executive producers, Frank Gaffney, explained why in an April 12 Washington Times op-ed:
As it happens, I was involved in making a film for the "America at a Crossroads" series that also focused on, among others, several American Muslims. Unlike Mr. MacNeil's, however, this 52-minute documentary titled "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was selected through the competitive process and was originally designated by CPB to be aired in the first Crossroads increment.
Also unlike Mr. MacNeil's film, "Islam vs. Islamists" focuses on the courageous Muslims in the United States, Canada and Western Europe who are challenging the power structure established in virtually every democracy largely with Saudi money to advance worldwide the insidious ideology known as Islamofascism. In fact, thanks to the MacNeil-Lehrer film, the PBS audience soon will be treated to an apparently fawning portrait of one of the most worrisome manifestations of that Saudi-backed organizational infrastructure in America: the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The MSA's efforts to recruit and radicalize students and suppress dissenting views on American campuses is a matter of record and extremely alarming.
In an exchange with me aired on National Public Radio last week, however, Robert MacNeil explained why he and his team had refused to air "Islam vs. Islamists," describing it as "alarmist" and "extremely one-sided." In other words, a documentary that compellingly portrays what happens to moderate Muslims when they dare to speak up for and participate in democracy, thus defying the Islamists and their champions, is not fit for public airwaves -- even in a series specifically created to bring alternative perspectives to their audience.
The MacNeil criticism was merely the latest of myriad efforts over the last year made by WETA and PBS to suppress the message of "Islam vs. Islamists." These included: insisting yours truly be removed as one of the film's executive producers; allowing a series producer with family ties to a British Islamist to insist on sweeping changes to its "structure and context" that would have assured more favorable treatment of those portrayed vilifying and, in some cases, threatening our anti-Islamist protagonists; and hiring as an adviser to help select the final films an avowed admirer of the Nation of Islam -- an organization whose receipt of a million dollars from the Saudis to open black Wahhabi mosques is a feature of our documentary. The gravity of this conflict of interest was underscored when the latter showed an early version of our film to Nation of Islam representatives, an action that seemed scarcely to trouble those responsible for the "Crossroads" series at WETA and PBS.
You can read an independent perspective on the dispute here. The film may yet air, but there are no guarantees.
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Next Friday night at 9, OETA, Oklahoma's public television network, will air "Islam in Oklahoma": Oklahoma is home to more than 30,000 Muslim Americans. Join leaders from Oklahoma's Muslim community as they address the questions and issues raised by Am... Read More
A few days ago I wrote about OETA's scheduled program "Islam in Oklahoma," which aired Friday night, and about whether the people invited to participate in the discussion would provide a balanced and complete view of the topic. (Because of unexpected f... Read More