Sectarianism Beaming From Cali, a Response Required

The recent BBC documentary “Freedom to Broadcast Hate” gives an in depth look at the proliferation of sectarian based tv stations being broadcasted to the Middle East after the Arab Spring. It clearly shows that both Sunnis and Shi’is are currently pronouncing takfeer and calling each other despicable names to arouse sectarian animosity.  What surprised me about the documentary was its uncovering of one of these television stations  promoting such hatred is being beamed from the United States.

Ahl-E-Bait (ABTV) which is based in San Diego, California has 24 hour programming in the languages of Arabic and Persian that can be viewed via satellite as well as streaming online.  Its director, Sheikh Hassan Allahyari, was one of the figures exposed in the BBC documentary for promoting hate in the Muslim world from America.

Though I’m a believer in freedom of speech and exchange of ideas, I’m not in favor of those who are being deliberately provocative and inciting enmity between Muslims.  This especially holds true when sectarian enmity continues to be translated into bloodshed.

We may not be able to have much influence on what is broadcast abroad, but we can influence what’s being said in the name of Islam in our own backyard. Less than one year ago, North American Muslim leaders, both Sunni and Shi’i, signed an agreement stating that they would cooperate with each other and eschew voices of division.  It’s now time to see the worth of this agreement.

Given that this station has a foreign agenda and is receiving funds from abroad, simply talking to them may not help.  At the least, there needs to be a robust denunciation of this station and its leader by North American Muslim leaders.  It should be clearly stated that these people hold extremist positions and that such views are not endorsed by the majority of American Muslims.  It’s time to put up or shut up about unity.

Not only do we not want America to be the platform for propagating vile sectarianism, but we also don’t want this speech to grow more within the American Muslim community.  Perhaps, we also need to put some positive pressure on those who signed this agreement regarding the consequences of ignoring this sectarianism


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