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press reaction

Seattle Post-Intelligencer John Levesque

"Followers of Islam make up 20 percent of the world's population. A billion people, give or take. Most of them aren't Arabs....

Surprised? This is one of the lingering messages in "Muslims ... whose noble aim is to put a more accurate face on Islam.

...It's not the best "Frontline" ever. It moves like a homework assignment and falls into the trap of playing the sort of background music that feeds all of our negative stereotypes. But it is an honest attempt to show Americans that Muslims, like Christians and Jews, come in all shapes, sizes and political persuasions.

...Programs like "Muslims"... open eyes so that hearts and minds may follow."

The Wall Street Journal Tunku Varadarajan

"Not all stereotypes are inaccurate, and the ingrained view of the Muslim world to which the West subscribes is, in fact, more true to life than not. We regard Muslim societies, on the whole, as places where women are oppressed and other religions anathematized, where laws and punishments can be primitive and cruel, and where the ability to reason in a modern manner ... is impaired by the irreducible Word of the Quran.

Nothing I saw in "Muslims"... gives me reason to depart from the Western script. That does not mean that watching it was a waste of time. On the contrary: I found that the batteries of my Muslim stereotype were fully recharged by the two-hour program.... Much of the good that one can detect in the religion appears to lie in precisely those parts of Islamic doctrine that are ignored by its practitioners...."

The Baltimore Sun David Zurawik

"'Muslims' opens slow and for a while seems unsure of where it wants to go. But those who stay with this two-hour Frontline report on PBS tonight will be rewarded with an understanding of modern-day Islam unlike anything television has ever been able to deliver before.

And that is no small matter of public service in a nation where many of us are still wondering how terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center could be carried out in the name of this religion, and how someone like Osama bin Laden could call it a "holy" war. ...

'Muslims' goes a long way in challenging stereotypes taught by commercial television with its easy answers. And, if we learned nothing else from bin Laden, it is that we can no longer afford the ignorance of easy answers when it comes to Muslims. ..."

Los Angeles Times Mark Sachs

"It's taken decades upon decades for the global forces in play to create a world-changing event on the scale of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. Yet in one two-hour block tonight, 'Muslims' manages to bring a crystalline focus to issues of kaleidoscopic complexity, resulting in an all-too-rare 'special' that is worthy of that tag.

The Frontline production takes viewers on an international tour of the religion's strongholds in places such as Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Turkey, showing the myriad gradations and interpretations that exist, helping to shatter the monolithic mask that Islam wears for many here in the West. ..."

New York Newsday Noel Holston

"... 'Muslims' answers many questions about Islam and provides plenty of food for thought. It may go hurting for viewers because we wanted those answers eight months ago. But it takes time to assemble a documentary as wide-ranging and thoughtful as this one, and it's not as though the conflict these questions underlie is going to go away any time soon."

The New York Times Julie Salamon

"... This fascinating, frustrating and sometimes unwieldy program has taken on the mammoth task of explaining the complexities of Islamic culture and politics, covering five countries in two hours. ...

...[H]alfway through production the World Trade Center was attacked. The attack and subsequent events in Israel give 'Muslims' a greater sense of immediacy, and therein lies the frustration.

In its determination to be fair, to present an open-minded view of Muslims and how they've dealt with expanding Western influence, the producers seem to have shied away from the most inflammatory and powerful imams and mullahs and their destructive exhortations against the United States and Israel. This is a glaring gap in a program described as an investigation of 'the different faces of Islam's worldwide resurgence.' ..."

The San Francisco Chronicle Tim Goodman

"Since Sept. 11, news organizations and documentarians have scrambled to accurately explain the religion of Islam and, in the process, the Muslim people who practice it all over the globe.

That is not something easily done in two weeks of lectures, let alone two hours on Frontline, but the PBS news series airs 'Muslims' tonight in a bold and honorable effort to educate those who need or want to be educated. ...

This is just a warning. If you want to scratch the surface of Islam and do a little globe-trotting to find out how Muslims from Egypt to Malaysia interpret the religion, come along for the ride. It's quite interesting in spots, and manages to make a few connections to Sept. 11 along the way, but mostly it requires you to stay rapt and rub your eyes occasionally. In the end, it'll be good for you. ..."

The Newark Star-Ledger Matt Zoller Seitz

"... 'Muslims' is the latest in a sterling series of Mideast-themed documentaries from Frontline, television's smartest and most ambitious regular nonfiction series. Since Sept. 11, this Boston-based program has cranked out one crucial hour after another, on everything from the roots of Islamic radicalism and the recent history of Iran to the United States' muddled and inconsistent response to terrorism.

'Muslims' does what Frontline has always done better than any other TV series: It looks at familiar topics in a very broad, comprehensive way, putting current events in the context of history and politics.

Directed by Graham Judd this special covers a lot of ground, with a thoroughness you might not have thought possible. In two breezy hours, it examines the history of Islam and the basic tenets of the Muslim faith and charts the intersection of politics and religion -- an unstable mix of influences that has been percolating for thousands of years, periodically erupting into bloodshed. ..."

The Christian Science Monitior M.S. Mason

"Frontline continues its best efforts with this riveting documentary about Islam, which has as many varieties of practice as there are Protestant sects. The film is well-made and even-handed. But it does leave a few questions unasked, and it fails to point out obvious ironies, trusting us to connect the dots."

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