When Al Gore sold his foundering Current TV news network to Al Jazeera, the controversy focused on the alleged hypocrisy of the anti-carbon prophet of global-warming doom selling out to Arab oil sheiks along with concerns about the influence of an entity widely regarded as a mouthpiece for radical jihadists.
Now, the future of a Current TV host who has spoken openly of being “born a Muslim” and later rejecting the faith – known as “apostasy” – has added another storyline.
Cenk Ugyur, 42, host of “The Young Turks,” was born into a Muslim family in Turkey but now describes himself as a “fervent agnostic” who has “argued vehemently against religion.”
He told Politico in January, however, that unlike some of his Current TV colleagues, he’s open to staying with Al Jazeera, which is owned by the emir of Qatar.
Uygur, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen after moving to the U.S. at the age of 8, had a weeknight commentary show on MNSBC for nearly six months until he was replaced by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Current TV spokesman Tony Scott told WND that Al Jazeera has not determined whether it will retain Uygur and advised checking back in a few weeks.
The transition from Current TV programming to Al Jazeera, which made the purchase to gain access to as many as 50 million U.S. homes, is expected to be completed this summer, according to Scott.
Ugyur and Qatar-based Al Jazeera did not respond to WND requests for comment.
Islam analyst Walid Shoebat wondered what it might mean if “a fundamentalist Arab Muslim network” prominently features an “apostate.”
He noted that according to traditional Islamic scholarship and the practice of many Muslim communities and nations, apostasy is a serious offense, punishable by death.
“In theory, this should pose a problem for Uygur, because Al Jazeera is essentially a media arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is extremely fundamentalist,” Shoebat said. “Uygur, on the other hand, is a Muslim apostate by his own admission.”
But Shoebat believes that Al Jazeera could use Uygur to its advantage, justifying the move with a doctrine taught by one of its presenters, Muslim Brotherhood scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Qaradawi teaches “Maruna,” the doctrine of “flexibility” or “balance.” He says that if in a particular instance “good and evil conflict with each other,” it’s permissible to allow evil “for the sake of an interest.”
That interest, ultimately, is the advance of Islam.
Shoebat explained that “if Uygur is let go, it will mean that Al Jazeera is being true to Islam instead of to Muruna.”
“Then again,” he added, “according to Qaradawi, Muruna is true to Islam.”
Islam analyst Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org, told WND he simply doubted it will be any problem for Uygur to work for Al Jazeera.
“Uygur is a hardcore leftist and anti-American, and so Al Jazeera will almost certainly find him useful,” Spencer said. “They may even use his rejection of Islam as evidence of their lack of bias and journalistic integrity.”
Uygur’s history of attacking Christianity in the defense of Islam certainly could be seen as useful.
When evangelist Pat Robertson critiqued Islam in 2009 after the deadly attack on Fort Hood by Muslim Army officer Nidal Malik Hasan, Uygur launched into a diatribe against Christians.
“The cult of Christianity, historically has been the single most violent religion on the face of the earth – indisputable,” he said. “The Crusades, where they killed thousands upon thousands; the Inquisition, where they stretched people on a rack; they did torture for an endless number of years; the witch hunts, where you boiled witches alive and drowned them and hung them and … let alone Christians that started things like … World War I and World War II and the holocaust,” he said.
“And I could go on and on … the wholesale genocide of the native Americans, the slavery of Africans in this country,” he said.
Al Jazeera, known as a conduit for messages from Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, has been criticized for a having a fundamentalist bent.
In 2001, an Al Jazeera journalist suspected of being an agent of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was arrested in Israel.
Former “Nightline” reporter Dave Marash, who worked for the English Al Jazeera in Washington, said his departure from the network in 2008 was partly based on what he described as an anti-American bias.
Making it palatable
With his 20 percent stake in Current TV, Gore came away with $100 million when the network was sold Jan. 3 for a reported $500 million.
Challenged by many from the left for compromising his purported values for financial gain, Gore found himself on the defensive in many media interviews after the sale.
In a Q&A at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, one week ago, he was asked how he could justify the move.
“I knew when I made that decision that my principal obligation was to make the world a better place,” he told the audience.
Gore explained he thought Al Jazeera would stir up American journalism and improve it in a “creative and positive way.”
At the time of the sale, he argued that both networks were founded “to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.”
Meanwhile, a man who says he was hired to smooth over the fallout from the sale has sued Gore and Current TV, claiming they owe him money.
John Terenzio’s lawsuit provides details of a presentation he gave to Current TV board member Richard Blum, the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reported Fox News.
Terenzio alleges his job was to make the sale to Al Jazeera palatable to U.S. lawmakers, pro-Israel factions, cable operators and the American public.