One of the most daunting challenges facing America today is to realise that choosing those Muslims that look most Western and thus least threatening, and reviling others as Islamofascist, is a prejudiced and misguided stance

In recent days, the Public Broadcasting Channel (PBS) in the United States has been airing a series of documentaries on the challenges facing America in the post-9/11 world. Perhaps predictably, many if not all such documentaries focus on themes such as Islam in America, ‘Reform in Islam and the like.

One of these documentaries, entitled “Islam vs. Islamists”, has recently become the subject of controversy. PBS producers decided to withdraw it from the line-up, owing to concerns that the documentary “demonises Islam”. The 52-minute film, which cost US$675,000 to make, focuses on the conflicts between ‘moderate’ Muslims and Islamists that have erupted since 9/11. The producers of the documentary have decried the move by PBS executives as unwarranted censorship and have appeared in news and media outlets defending their work.

The controversy is illustrative of several things. First, it demonstrates the near-frenzied desire among Western media, in their attempt to overcome their ignorance of Islam, to come up with neat definitions of terms such as “moderate” Muslim, “conservative” Muslim and of course “Islamist”. Now relegated to the floor of a cutting room at PBS, this film takes a particular stance on the issue. It paints some “moderate” Muslims, in this case a chosen few as the ‘good’ Muslims. These ‘good’ Muslims are reviled and castigated by the ‘bad’ or Islamist Muslims who subject them to threats of violence and persecution.

On its face, the stated aim of the film’s producers, both of whom belong to neo-conservative think tanks, is to illustrate how moderate Muslims are often persecuted in their attempt to defend their faith from extremists. Taken by itself this is a venerable goal – recent events in Pakistan have illustrated only too well the struggles of moderate Muslims in taking on the incipient extremism spreading within their faith and the challenging obstacles they face in doing so. (MORE)

[Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at]


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