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‘Generation Islam:’ Amanpour’s Latest First-Rate Spec

Christiane Amanpour certainly classes up a room — and in the case of her latest endeavor, an entire network.

After her three-part CNN undertaking “God’s Warriors,” she’s back with “Generation Islam,” a rock-solid two-hour documentary that premieres Aug. 13. There are no easy answers in this project, which explores “the Amanpour battle for young Muslim hearts and minds,” and what can be done to prevent the poor, vulnerable and “ripe for recruitment” from turning hostility toward the west into jihad, martyrdom and terrorism.

The juxtaposition of beaming young faces with the prospect of whether these kids will “grow up to hate, or to fight” is one of potential tragedy in the making. Yet it’s clear that there are no simple solutions — and that many of the youths have been scarred by the war surrounding them, with some already saying that they want to grow up to be “martyrs.”

Amanpour has been given relatively free rein to explore international issues and the Muslim world — theoretically fertile terrain for CNN as other news organizations dial back their ambitions by focusing on studio-bound talking heads. Indeed, a documentary such as this feels like an especially bracing tonic after the Michael Jackson mania that consumed the news business during July.

The correspondent is getting a regular weekday program on CNN International, “Amanpour,” starting Sept. 21, but underscoring the domestic queasiness about overseas coverage, that will be boiled down to a weekly hour on CNN.

With Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria (who also hosts a Sunday show devoted to foreign affairs and has an interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his next hour), CNN does have international credentials that the other cable news outlets can’t match. It’s only too bad that the channel doesn’t do more — or trust its audience enough — to capitalize upon them fully in the U.S.

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