C-SPAN Accused of ‘Mainstreaming Islamist Organizations While Willfully Marginalizing’ Reformists

Patrick Goodenough | December 23, 2015 | 4:19am EST
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American Islamic Forum for Democracy president M. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at the launch of the Muslim Reform Movement, at the National Press Club on Friday, December 4, 2015. (Screengrab: AIFD/YouTube)

(CNSNews.com) – The leader of an umbrella group of moderate Islamic organizations is troubled by C-SPAN's decision not to cover its launch event at the National Press Club earlier this month, when on Monday the public affairs network provided live coverage to another Muslim event – highlighting “Islamophobia” – at the same venue.

Attempts to get C-SPAN to cover the launch of the Muslim Reform Movement on December 4 were unsuccessful, said M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a key figure in the establishment of the MRM.

On Monday, C-SPAN covered a press conference by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its allies in the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) at which 2016 political candidates were warned that anti-Muslim sentiment would carry a cost at the ballot box.

Jasser, a Phoenix-Ariz.-based Muslim physician and anti-Islamist activist, called the incident “beyond bizarre if not flagrantly biased.”

“They are mainstreaming Islamist organizations while willfully marginalizing us,” he said. “At least show both!”

Jasser noted that the launch of the Muslim Reform Movement took place just two days after the San Bernardino terrorist attack and weeks after the one in Paris.

Jasser’s communications director Tiffany Hopkins said Tuesday she sent four emails to C-SPAN several days before the launch, then discussed the summit and its relevance in a phone conversation with the assignment desk. She was given the direct email address of C-SPAN’s D.C. editor to contact for a booking and did so, but received no response.

In Jasser’s view, C-SPAN simply “ignored” the request for coverage of the event, which he pointed out had also been listed on the National Press Club website.

He said if C-SPAN chose not to cover either Islamic event then one could allow “that they have their own priorities and Muslim counter-radicalization may not be one of them.”

But after not covering the MRM launch, he was surprised to see C-SPAN give coverage Monday to what he described as the “Islamist ultimatums” of USCMO.

For the public service network to have covered USCMO “while they flatly ignored our reform summit of 14 leaders and our organizations, exemplifies the central obstacle with regards to the ‘perceived silence of reformers,’” he said.

“We are screaming from the rooftops and unfortunately ignored.”

Queries sent to C-SPAN on Monday and again on Tuesday brought no response by press time.

‘The Muslims the world has been waiting for’

The newly-formed Muslim Reform Movement brings together “Muslim reformers” from the U.S., Canada and Europe, who said in a statement, “We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism.”

The launch included a visit to the Islamic Center of Washington, “a mosque largely run by the government of Saudi Arabia,” where the activists posted a “declaration of reform” on the mosque doors. The document rejects the notion of an Islamic state, the caliphate, apostasy and “institutionalized shari’a.”

MRM founding signatories include representatives of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a Canadian group called Muslims Facing Tomorrow, the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, the Quilliam Foundation in Britain, a Danish lawmaker, and several authors, journalists and thinkers.

“I love my faith of Islam, and I wish to reclaim it from the extremists,” said Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation.

“I’m a doting grandmother and I’m concerned about the future of my children and grandchildren as radical Islam is spreading across North America,” said Muslims Facing Tomorrow president Raheel Raza.

“I’m here to take back the narrative of my faith from the people who are destroying it,” said Sohail Raza of Muslims Facing Tomorrow.

AIFD community outreach director Courtney Lonergan said she was excited to “work with these amazing people, who are the Muslims the world has been waiting for.”

Despite the lack of C-SPAN coverage, Jasser said there was evidently “hunger for our message,” pointing to the fact that the launch video has been watched more than 15,000 times on YouTube.

Jasser is a sharp critic of CAIR, a controversial lobby group that describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.”

He is reviled by CAIR and its allies.

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