Tuesday, May 08, 2007

An American public broadcaster has refused to air a program featuring Social Liberal MP Naser Khader, claiming it demonized Islam

Copenhagen Post:

A programme pitting moderate Muslim voices against fundamentalists was cancelled from American public television network PBS's upcoming schedule because it saw the programme as being too 'one-sided' in its portrayal of Muslims.

The programme, 'Islam vs. Islamism: Voices from the Muslim Centre', was to be one of 12 documentaries for PBS's 'America at a Crossroads' series, which began last week, but another programme about Muslims the station believed to be less controversial was shown in its place.

Social Liberal MP Naser Khader is featured in the programme as an example of what non-fundamentalist Islam represents for millions of Muslims worldwide.

Khader - along with the documentary's director and producers - slammed PBS for what they saw as politically motivated censorship. The MP said the station's decision to pull the documentary from its schedule would only fuel public perception of Muslims as radicals.

'I don't understand it,' Khader told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. 'The problem with not making room for a programme like this is that it gives a minority of Muslims a monopoly on how Islam should be interpreted. PBS should have backed the moderate forces instead of failing them.'

PBS, which used over $720,000 on the programme, denied charges that it had been suppressed and indicated that being 'moderate' or 'extremist' depended on your point of view.

'It was rejected for the series because it was considered highly one-sided and alarmist in its approach,' PBS's Robin MacNiel said on a US talk radio programme.

Khader dismissed that claim and said the film was a 'credible and important' portrayal of the majority of Muslims living in Western countries.

'The US pretends that they don't have a problem there. That's why they let imams and religious organisations act as the spokesmen for all Muslims, even though they're not.'

Director Martyn Burke believes that influential conservative Muslims - including a prominent British TV producer and one of the series' advisors who is director of a leading US university's Islamic World Studies department - pressured PBS to pull the documentary.

Burke also claimed that PBS told him to fire his two partners on the project.

'I've never experienced anything like this,' Burke said. 'These people really believe that moderate Muslims like Naser Khader aren't real Muslims. PBS wanted us to show the extremists as being more soft and cuddly, but we had to draw the line on that. It would have been dishonest.'

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