Bridges TV, an American-Islamic TV channel "seeking to improve the image of Muslims in the United States" and to "offer a unique perspective on the Middle East and the war on terrorism," has extended its availability into six states, creating a potential audience of nearly 2 million.
The network's programming includes a mix of entertainment, sports, news, documentaries, and advertisements from companies like Ford, with an emphasis on religious programs.
The channel says it has been endorsed by "top American [Islamic] scholars and community leaders," whose representatives appear on many of its programs, including one called "Prominent Scholars."
Some speakers openly criticize Islamic extremists. An imam from Los Angeles, Sheik Tajuddin Bin Shuaib, appeared on the channel on October 8 and denounced Osama bin Laden and the September 11, 2001, hijackers.
Some guests, however, are extremists. One religious figure who appeared October 3 said Muslims have a duty to change America and to increase their numbers to 50% of the population from 2%. He recommended that Shariah, or Islamic law, be implemented in American courts.
During a roundtable discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict on October 5, one participant offered a solution: "For the Jews to leave and return to Europe."
Bridges TV aired a speech by the influential Muslim scholar Jamal Badawi on October 4. Mr. Badawi, who teaches Islam throughout North America, gave an interview to the Saudi Gazette on June 24, 2005, in which he raised questions about who was behind the September 11 attacks and suggested that Americans could be behind the car bombings of Iraqi markets.
Every night, Bridges TV shows a news program, "Talking Points." Its guest on October 4 was Imam Mohammad Alo Elahi, whom it described as a leading "interfaith figure." According to his Web site, Imam Elahi was a spiritual leader in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian navy and also is the leader of "one of the largest mosques in the U.S.," in Dearborn, Mich.
The Web site describes his meetings with world leaders and shows photographs of him with the spiritual adviser of Hezbollah, Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah; Ayatollah Khomeini; Presidents Khatemi and Rafsanjani of Iran; Secretary-General Annan of the United Nations; and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Throughout the day, Bridges TV airs segments of Koranic verses, quite a few of which denounce "unbelievers." One notable verse that aired October 9 praised martyrdom.
Since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began, the channel has been showing official, Saudi government-controlled Wahhabi sermons from Mecca's holiest mosque, Al-Haram. The sermons stream live via Saudi TV Channel one every day at 4 p.m., and Bridges TV adds its own English subtitles.
An anti-Jewish, anti-Christian sermon from October 5 included the call, "May God destroy them!"
Bridges TV's Web site, bridgestv.com, features a weekly poll. Notable questions and results include 59% calling for Hezbollah to continue as a military force in Lebanon, 73% in agreement with the American policy of withholding funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian Arab government, and 63% believing that the Iranian government's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
One of the stars of Bridges TV is a cofounder and vice chairman of the international health care company CBay Inc., Donald "Skip" Conover, who hosts and produces a show called "Words Matter." He was the subject of a gushing article in the Saudi daily Arab News on September 27.
In the article, Mr. Conover expressed "his disgust" at what he called inflammatory statements about Arabs and Muslims in the press.
He also discussed the power of the "Jewish lobby" and called on all Muslims to vote for the Democratic Party. "Every American politician is in lockstep with Israel. … If they vote against, then the Jewish lobby will put a lot of money behind the candidate against them in their districts in the future. I have news for the Muslim community. All American politicians are in the pocket of the Jewish lobby today because they control a lot of money, and they spend a lot of money in politics."
"If the Muslims of America believe that they don't want Bush to have a free hand for the next two years, then the Muslims of America need to get organized and make sure they get out to vote for Democrats for both the House and the Senate," Mr. Conover added. "Every Muslim in the Middle East who has a relative in the U.S. should get the message across to their relatives. They need to make sure that all their friends vote against Bush."
Bridges TV claims that its "major purpose" is "to build bridges between American Muslims and other Americans." After viewing the channel, I find this highly unlikely.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.