Anti-Muslim Film Puts Christian TV in Global Spotlight
Off the 210 Freeway in suburban Duarte, between an International House of Pancakes and a Wal-Mart, sits a nondescript one-story industrial park that has been an unlikely flash point for weeks of global unrest.
It’s here that The Way satellite TV channel creates evangelical Christian programming that beams across the Arabic-speaking world. Until recently, the business was so anonymous that even city officials didn’t know the television studio was operating there.
But that all changed a few weeks ago, when The Way was revealed as a key filming location for “Innocence of Muslims,” whose YouTube trailer has sparked ongoing violent anti-American protests in dozens of cities throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The anti-Islam film has shed light on The Way and other U.S.-based, Arabic-language satellite TV stations whose programming is aimed at converting Muslims to Christianity. Though little noticed in the English-speaking world, the stations’ programming had been controversial among Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims — both in the U.S. and abroad — long before the low-budget movie popularized their message.
“All kinds of Christians have gotten in on the action, and some of them are quite horrific in the way they do attack the Islamic faith,” said Terence Ascott, the chief executive and founder of SAT-7, a moderate, nondenominational Christian satellite network that began broadcasting in the Middle East in 1996. “It doesn’t help the relationship between Christians and Muslims.”
The stations’ programming ranges from relatively tame Christian cartoons and broadcasts of religious celebrations to fiery sermons that attack the prophet Muhammad. The production values vary, and broadcasts include Arabic-language programs as well as English-language talks shows dubbed into Arabic.