68. Memorandum From the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • VOA Broadcasting

With reference to your memorandum of November 16,2 we have undertaken on a priority basis the identification and use of appropriate additional materials on the treatment of Muslims in the Soviet Union. The initial focus of our effort, beyond our ongoing news reporting, will be a special VOA series examining the status of Islam beyond the Islamic heartland.

This series, to be produced for broadcast in December3 will focus on the quality of life within minority Islamic communities around the world. It will be organized around topics such as:

—the size and growth of Islamic communities;

—the degree of Islamic integration into the surrounding cultural, political and economic environment;

—their sense of freedom and security;

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—their right to practice their religion and official and unofficial restrictions thereon;

—participation in the worldwide Islamic resurgence;

—how they are influenced by urbanism and modernization in technologically advanced environments;

—the perceptions of these minority Islamic communities held by their non-Islamic neighbors and similar issues.

Such an approach will be most effective, in our judgment, because: (a) it will be credible; (b) it will be more than a solitary program; (c) it will permit us to compare and contrast the treatment of Muslims in the Soviet Union with their more favorable conditions elsewhere; and (d) it will provide a format for discussing some aspect of Soviet treatment of the Muslims in each of the programs.

The series will initially consist of eight or more ten-minute programs. It will be broadcast primarily in languages that reach the Islamic heartland—e.g., Arabic, Indonesian, Turkish, Persian, Urdu as well as French and English—but in Uzbek, Serbo-Croatian, Georgian, Chinese, Swahili, Hausa, Hindi and Tamil as well. We are consulting with a wide range of authorities to develop material for the instant series; that research will lead to other VOA program possibilities as well. Among those to be consulted:

Sheikh Ahmad Zaki, Imam of the Islamic Center of Chicago; Dr. Muhammed Abdul-Rauf, Director of the Islamic Center Mosque in Washington, D.C.; Fazl Al-Rahmam, Professor of Islamic Thought, University of Chicago; Professor John Esposito, Professor of Religion, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.; Professor Jaroslav Stetkevych, University of Chicago; Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, Muslim World League; Imam Khalil Al-Min, World Community of Islam; Imam Muhammed Hirri, Shiite Imam, Detroit, Michigan; Mr. Leo Orleans, The Library of Congress; Ms. Kirkland of the University of Chicago; Professor Alexandre Bennigsen, University of Chicago and Paris, France; Dr. Murray Feshbach, Foreign Demographic Division, Department of Commerce; Professor Gail Lapidus, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley; Professor Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone, Carlton University, Canada; Professor Edward Allworth, Columbia University; Professor Michael Rywkin, City University of New York (CUNY); Professor Steven Burg, Oberlin College; Professor Mobin Shorish, University of Illinois; Ms. Ann Sheehy, Radio Liberty analyst.

VOA correspondents abroad will also develop material in the major regions to be covered.

The material developed for the VOA series will also be utilized as appropriate in other USICA media:

—The VOA programs will inform coverage on the Agency’s Wireless File for use by our posts abroad.

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—We will identify certain programs/interviews which might be recast as video programs. Such video tapes would be made available to selected posts for local use with specific audiences.

—On a longer range basis, the material will also be adapted for use in the Agency’s publication Al Majal, a monthly Arabic-language magazine published for Near East and North Africa countries.

Problems of Communism, in addition to an early 1980 article by University of Chicago Professor Alexandre Benningsen on how Soviet Muslims see the Muslim world outside the Soviet Union, will incorporate continued coverage of the Islamic peoples of the Soviet Union and China.

As we develop these concepts, we will continue to look for additional ways to communicate effectively to our audiences the state of the Muslim minority in the Soviet Union.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 112, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Voice of America: 10–12/79. Confidential. Brzezinski forwarded the memorandum to Carter under a handwritten note that reads: “I have been pressing VOA for this since early fall.” Carter initialed the memorandum, indicating he saw it.
  2. On November 8, less than a week after the U.S. diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran, Brzezinski asked the ICA to include in the VOA broadcasts to the Middle East information about the treatment of Muslims in the Soviet Union including “references to the Soviet policy actively discouraging religious belief and practice.” Brzezinski also requested a report to Carter on what VOA was doing along those lines and what augmentations to VOA programming were being implemented. (Ibid.) In a November 15 memorandum to Brzezinski, Reinhardt reported that ICA was “studying various approaches to augment present programming and broadcasting.” (Ibid.) On November 16, Brzezinski signed a memorandum to ICA requesting a concrete report for the President, which should be submitted by November 26. (National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I–023, SCC Meeting Folders, 79–80, SCC (i) Meeting on Broadcasting and Related Issues, 11 December 1979) On November 28, Brzezinski wrote Reinhardt that the November 26 ICA proposals appeared to have potential and reemphasized the need to urgently implement VOA programming to Muslims. In a handwritten note, Brzezinski added that he “needs periodic updates for the President.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 112, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Voice of America: 10–12/79)
  3. Brzezinski underlined “in December” and wrote an exclamation point in the margin.