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Canadian filmmaker demands PBS air censored film, "or give it back"

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Mon Apr 30, 5:52 PM ET Canadian filmmaker demands U.S. public broadcaster air film or give it back TOBI COHEN
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2007
      Mon Apr 30, 5:52 PM ET
      Canadian filmmaker demands
      U.S. public broadcaster air film or give it back
      TORONTO (CP) - The Canadian producer behind a controversial documentary about the rift between moderate and conservative Muslims said he wants American public broadcasters to air the film as is or give him back the rights to the project. Martin Burke said he's had requests from networks in Canada, France, Denmark and the United States for permission to air his film "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Centre," but that it remains on the cutting-room floor of Washington's WETA - an affiliate of PBS.
      "Either show it, or give it back. It's quite simple," he said in a telephone interview from New York City where he was preparing to screen the film for U.S. journalists on Tuesday.
      The public broadcaster commissioned the film as part of its "America at a Crossroads" series but dropped it last month from its inaugural weeklong line-up.
      The decision set off a wave of controversy after the film's producers, which include Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy - a conservative advocacy group - cited censorship as the real reason why the show was spiked.
      While WETA contends the film is alarmist, one-sided and lacking in context and flow, spokesman Joe DePlasco said it's far from a complete write-off.
      There was only room to air 11 documentaries during the series introduction, said DePlasco. Efforts are underway to bring the other 11 films that were initially approved for television as stand-alone features under the "Crossroads" banner, DePlasco added.
      "As we've said all along, we're hoping that 'Islam vs. Islamists' can go out as a stand alone as well," he said.
      "It's an extraordinarily important topic. There's some riveting stories and personalities in the film and once these guys agree to sit down and work with the larger team to complete the film, it will hopefully go out as a stand alone like the others."
      Burke suggests the film was left out due to Gaffney and Alexiev's neo-conservative political views and because the PBS officials behind the series are biased towards conservative Muslims.
      "It became apparent that what they wanted was one long apology for the Islamists," Burke said, noting great efforts were taken to edit the film more to their liking.
      He said PBS officials argued that moderate Muslims featured in the documentary, like Tarek   Fatah who hosts the Toronto-based current affairs program Muslim Chronicle, are not true Muslims.
      "This is about Muslims fighting for the very soul of their community and their faith, said Fatah. "It's really unfortunate the only attempt made to show the huge problem that ordinary, moderate Muslims face at the hands of Islamists was censored."
      The film was screened last week to a group of both Democrat and Republican politicians to positive reviews, said Burke.

      "Morality is doing what is right, regardless what we are told. 
      Religious dogma is doing what we are told, no matter what is right."
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