Monday, May 28, 2007

Breaking the PBS Log Jam

An unprecedented, but well-needed compromise has been reached to allow the film "Islam vs. Islamists" to be made available to the public.

There is no doubt that PBS is a much more popular outlet for documentary films than is Oregon Public Broadcasting, to whom the film "Islam vs Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center", has been released. Now, however, it will see the light of day, and one of the great fallacies of Islam will likely be shattered with the exposure of this film--that all Muslims hate America and think that liberty is antithetical to Islam.

The 52-minute film contends that moderate Muslims are being intimidated by radical Islamists in several Western democracies, including the United States.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting stepped in when PBS wrongly concluded that the film did not meet documentary standards. And my uncle is a monkey. Several individuals who have seen the film, including 8 Congressmen, felt that the film was superbly done, and that it filled an important void not filled by any of the segments that were ultimately chosen by PBS for its "America at a Crossroads" series.

Everyone has some bias. I suspect that the producers of Islam vs Islamists will present a biased perspective. But how can a perspective be otherwise. Our opinions and our reportage are affected by what we know and what we see.

Now at least, everyone will get a chance to see and assess for themselves the quality and the bias of the film. I imagine that both will be as least as good as the usual PBS fare. It can't possibly be worse than what passes for reporting on the nightly news.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How Many Muslims are there in the US?

For a while now, we've been under the impression that there were 6 or 7 million Muslims in the United States. A scientific survey can only identify 2.35 million. What implications does this have?

I recent study by the Pew Research Center found out that there are far fewer Muslims in America than the Council on American Islamic Relations has alleged. Does this mean less threat of terrorism? Why would CAIR inflate the numbers? Investor's Business Daily has an opinion:

But it's a wildly inflated guess manufactured by CAIR, something the media could have easily refuted all these years if they dared — simply by deconstructing CAIR's unscientific methodology.

Until now, finding reliable data for Muslims in America has been hard because the Census Bureau does not survey creed. So CAIR's fuzzy math went unchallenged, even though the "respected scholar" it hired to lead its "study" wasn't a trained demographer. In fact, as a CAIR board member, he wasn't even independent.

Worse, the Muslim professor admitted the number he arrived at for CAIR was a "guesstimation" that magically and conveniently matched the size — and potential political clout — of the Jewish population in the country, also estimated at 6 million.

Until now, the perception was that CAIR spoke for several million Muslims and could rally them to boycott a company or to vote as a bloc to swing an election if it didn't get its way. Officials feared the group because they thought it could marshal an Islamic juggernaut. The threat alone has caused many to back down from criticism or policies CAIR didn't like.

I don't understand CAIR's motives well enough. Looks like I have found a new focus of study. Their web site seems pretty friendly, but I guess we'll see.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Learning to Hate from an Interesting Source

It is interesting that hatred between various religious sects in Iraq has gotten worse since the US arrived in 2003. Interestingly enough, western influence seems to have caused similar problems in India.

I am in Chicago this week, attending a computer conference. On this trip, I have had the good fortune of meeting two Indian men--one who is a Muslim, and one who belongs to the Hindu religion. Their similarity of social perspective is very striking.

I met Zaqardi while flying from Salt Lake City to Chicago. I asked him if there is a great deal of animosity and bloodshed between Muslims and Hindu followers in India. he said that it was not as bad as people in the west think it is. Interestingly, though, he pointed out that animosity does flare up regularly around elections, when--rather than accentuate their own strengths--the various candidates begin speaking epithets against their opponents in order to gain votes. I wonder where they learned that from?

Today at lunch, I had a fascinating conversation with Devdatt. I asked him the same questions. He agreed that the problems between Islam and Hindu are very exaggerated in the western press, but that there was a time when little if any animosity existed between the two great faiths. From his perspective, it was when the Brits came to India to exercise their benevolence, that a hatred between Muslim and Hindu was struck. Hmmm. Didn't they do that in Iraq once, as well?

We pause now for this message: Ron Paul is right.

I suggested to Devdatt that America and the west would do better off if we would mind our own business. He agreed so readily that he could not contain his laughter, which had the effect of dislodging a portion of his partially-chewed sandwich from his mouth. He also agreed that if America would stop tilting at every windmill in the world, the world would actually be better off simply observing and learning from America's example.

P.S. -- Vote for Ron Paul!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Right Balance: Iraq Memories, Rocky/Hannity Debate, and "Free the Film"

I had the good fortune of appearing on The Right Balance again yesterday. We discussed what it's like to have been home from Iraq for nearly a year, who won the Rocky/Hannity Debate, and whether PBS will Free the Film. Click "Read More" to be able to hear the segments.

In the first segment, instead of giving a "blatant capitalist plug" (one of Greg's favorite Greg-isms), I gave his show one. Greg's show, despite its not being as big as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, is in my opinion the best talk show out there. Click below to find out why.

Greg asked me to talk about my memories of Iraq, which, after being home for nearly a year, are much more poignant than I thought they would be. I still have a great concern for the successful transition to liberty of the Iraqi people.

Following a false start, I explained to Greg Allen my perspective of the Rocky Anderson/Sean Hannity debate of a couple weeks ago, including that I think Rocky won the debate, and that although Sean made some good points, I think he makes a living being a buffoon.

Below is a portion of the last segment, where I talked about the importance of PBS making available the documentary segment entitled "Islam vs. Islamists", which I have written about here , here, and to some extent here.

Below are links to my previous interviews on The Right Balance.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ron Paul is Right About Iraq

Rudolph Giuliani claimed after the GOP presidential debate on Fox News that Ron Paul sounded like a Democrat in his response with regard to American foreign policy and the war in Iraq. It doesn't matter which party you come from if your ideas make sense.

Rudolph Giuliani is harboring a deep-seated Republican blind spot when it comes to Jihad and the Middle East. It is that Jihadists would never use the rationale of attacking the United States because of our meddling in Middle Eastern affairs. Of course they would. Ron Paul stated as much in the GOP debate May 15th, and he's right.

I claimed her previously that the main reason we were attacked on our soil is because of the way Jihadists perceive and resent our debauchery. Clearly, however, our foreign policy for the last 50-odd years plays a distinct role in their animosity toward us, as I have written here as well.

Barry Lando's book, Web of Deceit lays the problems of foreign intervention out well. Another excellent book on the subject is After Jihad by Noah Feldman.

I agree with what Ron Paul said in the GOP debate earlier this week. But I'm not sure what to make of it yet, particularly when he said elsewhere that he would "bring our troops home as soon as possible". I wish I knew what "as soon as possible" means to him.

See what I wrote about it on Simple Utah Mormon Politics.

Here's a CNN interview where he talks about it just a bit more:

Iranian Complicity in the Iraqi Insurgency

The evidence continues to mount that Iran is very involved in fostering the Iraqi insurgency. All sorts of weapons are being recovered by coalition forces that have the signatures of Iran and beyond.

Richard Miniter recently spent several days in Iraq. He traveled to various remote areas of the country and interviewed several Iraqi civilians, Iraqi government leaders, insurgents being detained, and US soldiers. He reported on his stay on The Right Balance with Greg Allen this morning.

The sense that he got, because of visiting with the people and from his own observation was that outside of Baghdad, electricity and running water are in much more plentiful supply than they were during the Saddam era.

His study of terrorism and insurgencies indicates that insurgencies to do not succeed unless they have outside help. Interestingly then, several of the Iraqi people he communicated with are increasingly blaming Iran with fostering the insurgency.

Below is a video segment with a US Army Major who explains what they have been finding with increasing regularly in the Anbar province. Many rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and explosively formed penetrators bear distinct evidence of having been manufactured in Iran. Others of these same and other weapons appear to be Chinese-made, having been repainted and renumbered, likely by Iranians.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When Truth Becomes Totalitarian

Nearly every religion that has ever existed believes that it has the ultimate truth. Jihadism, however, is another in a long line of religions that indicate how that claim can go very wrong when it forgets that people have a right to choose what they believe the truth to be.

You probably didn't know that there exists a dramatic controversy as to whether the truth of Islam should be a requirement for everyone. Since perhaps the 1970's, when Middle Eastern Studies departments of various universities became co-opted by easy money from those who didn't want the truth to get out, it's been very difficult to see the juxtaposition of moderate Muslims with radical Muslims.

Why do you never (at least seldom) hear moderate Muslims speak out against Jihadist Islam? Because the radical Muslims cannot afford to have you know that there is a controversy. They cannot have you know two realities:

1. That radical Islam seeks the subjugation of all peoples, and that it will not be content simply for the United States military to leave Middle Eastern soil. Claims to the contrary are simply convenient smoke screens.

2. That moderate Islam seeks liberty, freedom of choice, and democratic representation for people of all religions.

This is why it is so important, as I have written recently, to "Free the Film".

Jihadists claim to be under attack everywhere--not just by the United States. Radical Muslims attack nearly everywhere as well--not just against the United States. But more importantly, radical Muslims claim to be under attack from Muslims who disagree with them. Their most concentrated and methodical attack, therefore, must be against moderate Muslims who do not agree with them. They claim, therefore, that not all those who claim to be Muslims really are islamic. Like Nazis and Communists, they can brook neither dissent nor even discussion from the moderates of their faith, because if the moderates are proven right, Jihadism as an ideology will have been proven to be an utter failure and a fraud.

The church that I belong to--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints--believes that, although other churches have some truth, it contains the entire truth, or at least the ability to understand that truth through ongoing revelation from God. We also believe, though, that every person is free to choose whether or not to believe the Church's teachings. Coincidentally, I have reason to believe that this is a similar concept of truth to what Muhammad taught with regard to Islam.

Nearly every religion teaches that it has the market cornered on truth. Islam teaches this. Catholicism teaches this. So do all the Protestant offshoots of Catholicism. I'm reasonably sure that most of the Oriental religions teach the same concept.

I once had a discussion with a friend about wars and history. He commented that all wars and oppression are religion-based. I suggested that Communism was responsible for more deaths than all wars combined. His reply was that Communism is a religion in and of itself. Semantically, he has a point, but his point obfuscates the reality that true religion believes that men are free to choose what they will be and believe.

In a way similar to Communism, Nazism, and the other political -isms, the Catholic Church developed a totalitarian nature in what we now know as the Dark Ages. Interestingly, Islam went through a phase of similar totalitarianism at about the same time. But whereas Christianity was able to correct its course, Islam has since been dominated by those who believe that because Islam is true, all people must be forced to believe it. Not even Muhammad taught that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Free the Film!

If a fact had been carefully hidden from the American public, and you were a public broadcasting service, wouldn't you want to make the public aware of it? Apparently not if you're PBS. Why? Because of the entertainment value that accrues from an America-vs-Islam perspective that you want to maintain? I wish I knew.

I recently sent an e-mail to the Ombudsman of PBS, asking him why PBS would not air the film "Islam vs. Islamists". Several people have viewed the finished product, and think it is not only very pertinent but also very professionally done. My correspondence said:

I recently found out that PBS will not be showing the film "Islam vs. Islamists" as part of the "America at a Crossroads" series. Islam vs. Islamists would make a unique contribution to our understanding of Islam--something that no other episodes that have been included in the series would tell--by showing that there are many Muslims who support democracy and liberty. With whom do I correspond to express my displeasure at the fact that "Islam vs. Islamists" has been spiked?

I heard guest Martin Burke on The Right Balance this morning explaining the motivations behind PBS' spiking of the film. The producers and advocates of "Islam vs Islamists" has started a website called Instead of providing a balanced view of moderate vs. radical Islam, PBS included in its "America at the Crossroads" lineup a film produced by PBS own Robert MacNeil. Instead of illustrating the divide between moderates and radicals, MacNeil's is essentially a hit piece that praises the radical facets of Islam and denigrates America in the process. Several members of Congress have requested that, because it is so balanced, PBS air the documentary. The likelihood of that is very slim. And more problematically, PBS owns the broadcasting rights. For now, you can download the movie trailer, and request a copy of the DVD (should it ever become available, PBS?) on

By the way, the PBS Ombudsman's response to my e-mail was the following:

Dear Mr. Staheli:

Thank you for writing to PBS regarding your concerns about "Islam vs.
the Islamists." We welcome the opportunity to clarify that this film,
along with others, is still in the production and editing process.

"Islam vs. the Islamists" was developed as part of the AMERICA AT A
CROSSROADS initiative, a competitive grant project created to explore
our post-9/11 world. The film was chosen to move forward in the
production process because it offers an important examination of a
complex topic. The programming teams at WETA, the series' presenting
station, and PBS have asked the film's producers to meet our
editorial standards, which is a requirement for all the content that
is presented on our schedule. These standards are posted on our Web site at:

The PBS programming staff, in collaboration with the independent
producers who partner with us, works very hard to ensure that all the
programs it distributes to public television stations meet high
standards of quality and journalistic excellence. This commitment
accounts for PBS' extraordinary track record in Emmy, DuPont
Columbia, and Peabody awards as well as PBS' long-standing position
as the most trusted public institution in America.

We look forward to continuing to work with the producers on the
development of this documentary. Other films that were not completed
in time for the April 15 premier are currently being scheduled to air
later this year. It is our hope that we will be able to add "Islam
vs. the Islamists" to this list.

Again, thank you for writing to PBS. We appreciate your concern for
our programming.


PBS Viewer Services
From, the definition of Ombudsman is:

A person who regurgitates the party line when receiving complaints from outside entities.

No...actually, I was sort of kidding. The real definition is this:

A person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.

Maybe PBS needs to get a new ombudsman.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jihad Among Us: How Many Other Plots Are There?

It's a good thing a New Jersey store clerk was suspicious. The FBI caught six Muslim men before they could do any damage, which it's clear they were capable of committing. It's clear that they were planning on it. How many more are there that we don't know about--plots that is?

There have been jihadists in our midst for years. They've infiltrated university Middle Eastern Studies departments, governments, and Islamist front organizatons, such as CAIR. It was only a matter of time before another murder plot erupted. It did last night when six Muslim men tried to purchase a plethora weapons from an FBI undercover agent.

A video store clerk, who was asked to duplicate a video that contained bragging about their intent to kill, notified authorities.

Apparently the video was rather explicit about what they intended to do.

"It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away," another defendant, Serdar Tatar, was alleged to have said. "Or I die, it doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah."

Hopefully the reality is hitting both PBS, who refuses to air a documentary that distinguishes the majority of peaceable Muslims from the bloodthirsty ones such as the New Jersey 6, and liberals and others who think that it can't happen here.

Interestingly, no ties have been found between the 6 men and al Qaeda. In an era of internet technology, says Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, this is exactly as al Qaeda would have it. Fomenting of rage among Muslim men everywhere, who then easily find their ideas and instructions on various web sites and then attempt to unilaterally commit mayhem in the name of Allah.

We need to be vigilant. We should also let and encourage the majority of Muslims, who abhor jihad, to be vigilant as well.

It Continues to Work in Ramadi

Despite occasional setbacks, parts of Iraq's Anbar Province are trending toward peace. This occurs as Sunnis in the Anbar heartland realize that al Qaeda does not have Anbar's best interest at heart.

While I was in Ramadi, a change in sentiment began to occur. That sentiment is coming substantially to fruition 18 months later.

More and more Iraqis in the Anbar province have had enough of al Qaeda's crap. Police and military forces are beefing up in Ramadi and other cities and towns, and they're working closely with American forces to "clear, hold and build". It seems, over the past two or three months, to be working.

Here's the story of Saif Sahed

As recently as two months ago, U.S. forces didn't dare stake out the Al Tash neighborhood of this insurgent stronghold in Al Anbar province. Enter 22-year-old Saif Sahed, a go-getter recruit for the Provincial Security Force, a new auxiliary police unit that offers hope for at least a bit of stability in the mean streets of Ramadi.

Sahed lives in Al Tash, the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and newcomers are immediately noticed — and in recent years often have been insurgents.

"If I find strangers or strange cars, I go to tell my officer. Last week we found some who were insurgents and they were detained," Sahed said matter-of-factly. "The important thing is to make my neighborhood safe."

Because Sahed is young and illiterate, he ordinarily would not qualify for the Iraqi army or police. But for the last several weeks, he and his ragtag cohorts, wearing castoff army fatigues and numbering about 2,200, have filled crucial intelligence-gathering, patrol and checkpoint functions in the new provincial force.

Local residents find people that don't belong there, and get rid of them. In the case of an American soldier who was injured in a bomb blast recently, it didn't take the Ramadians long to ferret out the insurgent who had caused the blast.

"We could have never developed that kind of actionable intelligence that fast," said Lt. Jimm Spannagel with the Army 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade. "The PSF [Provincial Security Force] speaks the same language, establishes rapport with the locals and inspires trust. It's allowing us to extend our reach."

Enlistments have grown, and the number of uniformed Iraqi police officers and provincial troops on Ramadi's streets has multiplied to 6,700 from only 200 in July. Security has improved correspondingly.

From an average of 30 insurgent attacks per day in December, such assaults had fallen to an average of fewer than four by last month,

Politics aside, I dream of the day when I can return to al Anbar in a time of peace. I pray each day that peace and liberty will succeed in Iraq. People like Saif Sahed and his friends are the ones that will make it happen.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Irony of Turkish Protest

Hundreds of thousands of Turks protested Sunday against an Islamist candidate for president. Why? Out of fear that the Islamists will destroy representative democracy.

It's the second mass demonstration in two weeks. The first protest brought out 300,000 people. This one had as many as 700,000. One protester said
"They want to drag Turkey to the dark ages," said 63-year-old Ahmet Yurdakul, a retired government employee who attended the protest.

Turkey has for several decades been democratic. It is worried by many that the ruling party is attempting to change that:

Some 700,000 Turks waving the red national flag flooded central Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government, saying the Islamic roots of Turkey's leaders threatened to destroy the country's modern foundations.

The ruling party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, failed to win a first-round victory Friday in a parliamentary presidential vote marked by tensions between secularists and the pro-Islamic government. Most opposition legislators boycotted the vote and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court.

The military said Friday night that it was gravely concerned and indicated it was willing to become more openly involved in the process — a statement some interpreted as an ultimatum to the government to rein in officials who promote Islamic initiatives.

Is it okay to ban a candidate because that candidate's election would almost surely result in the banning of all other political parties? While many Americans felt this way about Communism, it was not banned in America, but what might have happened if it had become a prominent American political party?

At the very least, America should butt out of this controversy and let the Turks decide.

Hopefully, as well, the protests will incite enough people to come to the polls so that dictatorial Islamic intentions will never see the light of day.

Interestingly, other sources are claiming only that "more than 10,000" protesters participated on Sunday. Well, yes...I guess 700,000 is "more than 10,000".