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Cablegate: "Islam in America" Documentary On Moroccan Tv

R 241544Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9274
INFO AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
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UNCLAS RABAT 001024


STATE FOR R, NEA/PPD, NEA/MAG, IIP/G/NEA/SA, ECA/PE/V, ECA/PE/C AND
PA/OBS/BS&P (SANTULLI)
LONDON FOR MOC
DUBAI FOR MEDIA HUB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL KISL KPAO OIIP KIRC PHUM KMPI PGOV MO
SUBJECT: "ISLAM IN AMERICA" DOCUMENTARY ON MOROCCAN TV

-------------------
Summary and Comment
-------------------

1. Morocco's semi-private television network "2m" produced a
28-minute documentary on Islam in the U.S., which aired in early
October on the popular monthly news magazine "Grand Angle" ("Wide
Angle"). It also aired on Al Maghribiya satellite channel, which is
widely watched by the Moroccan community abroad, particularly in
Europe. An estimated 3.5 million viewers saw the first airing; an
unknown - but probably larger - number saw the satellite network
broadcast. The feature, entitled "Islam in the United States:
Another War?" presented a hard-hitting but balanced look at American
attitudes towards Islam, as well as Muslim-American views on life in
the U.S. Through interviews and footage of a wide range of
Americans - Muslim rights activists, a radical anti-Islamic
reverend, Muslim politicians and comedians, and ordinary citizens -
"2m" presented a complex portrait of Islam in America, while
underscoring that the values of religious freedom and tolerance
predominate. "2m"'s decision to present a few extremist voices
increased the program's credibility and thus strengthened the
reporter's ultimate conclusion that Muslim-Americans are free to
practice their faith peacefully. This project was funded out of
post's FY08 PD supplemental allotment in cooperation with the State
Department's TV cooperative program. End summary and comment.

---------------------------------
Media and Public Opinion on Islam
---------------------------------

2. "Seven years after the attacks of 9/11, America is still the
land of opportunity, [with] the freedom to practice one's personal
faith," opined reporter Salma Mhaoud in her opening voice-over. She
also noted, however, that Islam represented a special case worthy of
attention, as it divides Americans, be they men (or women) on the
street, politicians or journalists.

3. Mhaoud opened by citing the results of recent polls conducted by
the Pew Research Institute indicating that 35% of Americans had a
negative view of Islam in 2007, as opposed to 22% in 2002. 45% of
Americans thought that Islam encouraged violence more than other
religions. Providing context for these figures, Mhaoud interviewed
students of communications at American University, who told her that
the media played a critical role in fostering the image that
Americans have of Islam. Many Americans, the students argued,
understood that this image did not necessarily reflect reality.

4. Mhaoud observed that some radical voices in the media, such as
radio talk-show host Bill Handle, had been accused of encouraging
Islamophobia by the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
His sarcastic comments following a deadly stampede during a Hajj
pilgrimage several years ago triggered an uproar among
Muslim-Americans. In an interview with "2m," Handle justified his
comments by saying that he did not make any distinction between
Jews, Christians and Muslims, that all were objects of his sarcasm
and humor.

---------------------------
Islam and American Politics
---------------------------

5. The reporter discussed the case of Reverend Rod Parsley, using
stock footage of him making anti-Islamic comments, and how his
friendship with Republican presidential candidate John McCain could
have stained the latter's reputation had McCain not publicly
disavowed relations with Parsley's church. She observed in this
regard that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has long
been suspected of being a secret Muslim. She noted that he had been
described as the favorite candidate of Hamas by his opponent, and
reported on the controversy surrounding The New Yorker magazine
cover portraying Obama as a radical Muslim. She noted that many
Americans viewed this cartoon as exaggerated and po
litically
motivated, and not a representation of reality.

6. Mhaoud interviewed Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (a
Muslim), who explained that ignorance was among the reasons
Americans associated Islam with violence. According to him, the
media's influence is all the more dangerous when it operates in an
environment of ignorance, adding, "it is not true that America hates
Islam." Imam Abdul Alim Moussa preaches an opposing point of view;
in a speech "2m" picked up from YouTube, the controversial imam
claimed that the U.S. is in war against Islam. Leonard Steinhorn,
an expert in communications, expressed the view to "2m" that Muslims
themselves had to take responsibility for managing Islam's image
problem in the U.S.

--------------------------------------------- -
Integration and Muslim-American Public Opinion
--------------------------------------------- -

7. Mhaoud turned to questions about Muslim-American attitudes,
citing polls indicating that 15% are in favor of terrorist attacks,
while 72% are happy with their life in the United States. She
interviewed a Muslim restaurant owner and a businessman, who told
her that Muslims did not experience discrimination in the U.S,
except occasionally at airports.

8. Since 9/11, and especially after an imam was convicted for
having being in contact with the hijackers of the airplane that hit
the Pentagon, mosques have faced greater monitoring than previously,
"2m" reported. Mhaoud interviewed Muslim-Americans who reported
that preachers are more moderate in tone since 9/11, but the
substance of their messages had not changed dramatically.

--------------
Everyday Islam
--------------

9. "2m" concluded its documentary by interviewing Bryant Moss, a
Muslim-American who founded the comedy group "Allah made me funny."
He asserted that American Islam was no different from Islam in other
parts of the world. Taking the reporter on a tour of his
neighborhood, he asked the audience to see his home and his
community as representative of every day Islam in America: "This is
the real Islam, it is natural, it is not what you see on
television." Mhaoud concluded her feature by observing that,
despite all the controversy surrounding Islam in the Unites States,
Moss practiced his religion peacefully, which - she said - is what
was great about "this country of the free, home of the brave."

---------------------
Background on Project

---------------------

10. This project was funded by the State Department through the
FY08 PD supplemental and managed by the Foreign Press Center's TV
Coop program. The Moroccan crew - a journalist, cameraman and sound
engineer - conducted filming in July 2008, working with a producer
contracted by the State Department. They visited Washington, DC,
New York and Los Angeles over the course of two weeks. 2m broadcast
the feature story during prime-time on September 25 as part of its
award-winning monthly news magazine program "Grand Angle" ("Wide
Angle"). "Grand Angle" has a 14.2% market share, which translates
into about 3.5 million viewers. The same program was aired on Al
Maghribiya satellite channel, which is widely watched by the
Moroccan community abroad, particularly in Europe. 2m has no
mechanism for measuring overseas viewership, but believes it is
larger than the domestic audience.

JACKSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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