The first nationwide American Muslim TV network has begun operations: on Tuesday, Bridges TV began broadcasting on the GlobeCast World TV satellite system. The network’s launch is the fruit of over three years of work that began not long after 9/11, when the wife of Bridges TV founder and Chief Executive Muzzammil Hassan heard a radio discussion of Islamic radicalism. “Some derogatory comments were being made about Muslims that offended her,” said Hassan. “She was seven months pregnant, and she thought she didn’t want her kids growing up in this environment.”
Hassan decided to present a more positive view of Islam: Bridges TV declares that its intention is to “fuse American culture with the values of Islam in a healthy, family-oriented way.” According to the network’s media kit, Hassan “wants Bridges TV to tell the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence to a nationwide audience.” Boxing legend Muhammad Ali exults: “Bridges TV gives American Muslims a voice of their own on the airways for Americans of all races and religions to hear.”
But what kind of voice? Will this channel do something truly positive, such as tell the truth about the elements of Islam that give rise to violence, and discuss the hard choices Muslims must face in order to prevent the continued growth of jihad radicalism and terrorism among them? It’s impossible to tell so early in the network’s life, but in the meantime, the Bridges TV website asks inquirers to “check the legitimacy of Bridges TV” with, among others, Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Aleem Rahman, President & CEO of IslamiCity.com, which it identifies as “the largest Muslim Web site in North America”; and Alex Kronemer, who created and produced the PBS documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.
Questions about CAIR’s true commitment to moderation have swirled for years, unanswered by Awad and other CAIR officials. Awad himself helped found CAIR after working at the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), where he was public relations director. A former FBI counterterrorism official, Oliver “Buck” Revell, has called the IAP “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants.” Terrorism expert Steve Emerson testified before a Senate committee on terrorism in 1998 that “the IAP has issued Hamas communiques calling for the killing of Jews, produced training videos for Hamas operatives, and actually recruited for Hamas in the United States.” In 1994 Awad declared: “I am in support of the Hamas movement.” This was well after numerous murderous Hamas attacks on civilians, which were duly celebrated on Hamas’s website until some more PR-minded person took it all down some time ago.
Aleem Rahman’s IslamiCity.com, meanwhile, sells auto pioneer Henry Ford’s notorious hate screed The International Jew, which draws abundantly from other classics of hatred and incitement such as the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The edition IslamiCity.com carries contains the Protocols as well. Nor is this farrago of lies and forgery presented as a historical artifact; the IslamiCity ad copy asserts that “in the so called ‘democratic, pluralist’ America this book has been systematically suppressed. The International Jew is a magnifying glass applied to the hidden sources of immorality, vile degeneracy, and subversion. … By reopening this debate this book exposes the inherent danger of unchecked Zionism.”
Also readily available at IslamiCity.com is Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones and other incitements to violent jihad. Milestones, we are told, “outlines various stages in the establishment of a true Islamic life.” In it, Qutb (the leading theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terrorist group) tells Muslims that they must not only preach Islam, but also “strike hard at all those political powers which force people to bow before them and which rule over them, unmindful of the commandments of God.” In other words, wage violent jihad to establish Islamic law over the earth.
Will Bridges TV serialize The International Jew or Milestones? Much more likely is that it will produce disingenuous propaganda pieces like Kronemer’s Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, which studiously avoided any mention of the more unsavory elements of the Prophet of Islam’s enduring example. The net effect will only be to befuddle the ignorant and protect the guilty. For a network that is trying to project a positive image of moderate Islam, the associations with Awad, Rahman and Kronemer are troubling — and make it unlikely that the network will really contribute anything positive or useful to current public debates about jihad terrorism.