Final Blog Post, Reflection of the Semester

During the semester, I think this class and set of blogs have really been on point in discussing current events happening in the Arab world. This is a great time to be studying the Middle East because of its transition into a new world order and breaking of traditional norms. What I mean is, Arabs are now breaking away and subscribing to public discourse about their governments, politics and culture. With the hopefully outcome of democracy, or quasi-democracy, in places like Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, etc. citizens will be more engaged in media without being censored or restrained. Arrests of socialites like Bassem Yousseff have been an example of the constant  war on Arab freedom and expression.  Regimes in the Arab world need to realize that the political landscape and mood is changing. Leaders like Morsi, Marzouki, and Al Khalifa have been resorting to previous tendencies to control the individuals who gain some influence using outlets in the media.

I think this class has also been interested more into the war in Syria than any other topic. Rightly so, the constant conflict in Syria has been covered by virtually every news network. President Assad is clearly committing crimes against humanity and has been the sloe reason why the internal conflict has been raging for over a year. What will be interesting to see is how the countries like the United States,  Israel, Russia, and other relevant states will collectively bring an end if they decided to do so. A lot of the blogs have hinted that there should be United States or international intervention in the region. I would agree, but with minimal troops and military assets as possible.

On a personal note, I have learned a great deal in the course. I had no an idea of the many different types of media, and cultural influences on the Arab population. Arab graffiti and rap has been rally interesting to learn about since it is unknown to people over in the United States. Prior to this class, I was more focused on the politics of the Middle East. But after, I realized there is a huge connection between politics and the media. Especially in the current environment in the Arab World, with social media, Al Jazeera, and other mediums, it is hard not see their interdependence on one another.   In hindsight , Arabs use there media as a form of social expression and movement to cause change in the region. In the United States,  we use it more so for entertainment, news, and other forms of freedom of speech. For Arabs, it is there identity and platform  to the rest of the world.

What I will definitively take away from these blogs is that there is still Arab and Muslim suffrage; post-9/11, regime changes, and the Arab Spring. Individuals still find themselves in the grip of  dictators and oppressed by government factions. However there is still some amazing stories of individuals fighting for equality and the right to oppose government ideologies. The class has a done a great job commenting on important stories and trends that are relevant to the  Arab struggle and form of expression. I hope this type of discourse can continue outside of the classroom, because not many students at Roger Williams University are aware of the current climate in the Middle East.

“Battle of the Camel”: A Counter to Protests Under the last days of Mubarak

As ridiculous and stereotypical as it sounds, during the last days of the Mubarak uprisings, his loyalists used Camel’s to charge protesters in in Egypt. This counteraction to scare and intimidate protesters was called the “Battle of the Camel.” 25 of Mubarak Loyalists who were charged with manslaughter, and other various crimes,  were acquitted in an Egyptian Court today. In 2011, the battle left 11 dead, over 600 injured and  affiliates of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP)  created chaos in Tahrir Square.  This tactic was a “last gasp” effort by Mubarak  to keep the regime in place, amid the tide of protesters. During the battle, these loyalists used Molotov, and in some cases dropping stones on protesters from buildings cocktails.

Here is a look of what happened during the ‘battle’

Also, the person responsible for planning the battle was Safwat al-Sharif, the Egyptian Speaker of Egypt’s upper house. Sharif is said to have “contacted MPs, members of the NDP and financiers of the party, inciting them to disperse the protests in Tahrir Square by force and violence” (Al Jazeera).

Although this may seem a bit far-fetched and ridiculous to some, it was a serious incident that cost may lives. The show of force Mubarak presented in his final days as President exemplified his desperation and true nature of his leadership. The ‘Battle of the Camel” was only one specific case to the decades of oppression and authoritarian prolonged through Mubarak’s military factions. The acquittal of loyalists who were on Camel-back, and horse-back,  really surprised me. You would think the Egyptian court, especially in the new Morsi regime, would severely punish any remaining influences  of Mubarak’s regime.    I think with this decision. many Egyptians will be infuriated since Morsi promised to seek justice for the individuals responsible of killing peaceful protesters.

Saudi Arabian Ad Campaign Against Domestic Violence…The Use of Imagery

As I was perusing the Al Jazeera English  website researching for my PowerPoint presentation,  I came across this picture; an Arab women in a hjiab with a black eye. This image really struct me and because it signifies that women “hide behind a veil” when it comes to domestic violence. It also provides a type pf universal language and meaning.  The new campaign ad lunched by Saudi Arabia is to address a serious violent act not recognized as a crime under Saudi law.  Of course women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are not the same as the United States or even the UAE for that matter.  The oppression of women in Saudi Arabia is not a new phenomenon, so why are contributing efforts to domestic violence now?

The “No More Abuse” campaign is sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation, a non-profit organization whose main goal is to advance women’s social rights in Saudi Arabia. The campaign provides resources for citizens to report domestic abuse and  it’s outreaching goal to obtain  legal protection in the country.   Although moving in the right direction, Saudi Arabia has a great deal of catching up to do in terms of establishing equality of gender.

The Humans Right’s Watch notes, “The Saudi guardianship system continues to treat women as minors. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women of all ages are forbidden from traveling, studying, or working without permission from their male guardians.”Women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a “male guardian.” This is not an official legal requirement but is a social norm. The guardian is seen as the father type that may have full range of controlling every aspect of her life, including basic decisions such as choosing a path to higher education.  Women are so controlled by there male guardians that they are not even allowed to drive a car. Recently however, women are now able to ride a bicycles…but they can’t do it unaccompanied, they  must be completely covered and can’t use a bicycle for transportation purposes. Not even for transportation services!!?? I’m sorry what are bikes used for, an accessory in Saudi Arabia?

Anyways, the World Economic Forum ranks  Saudi Arabia extremely low,  131 out of 135 countries in terms of the Global Gender Gap.  So this campaign is headed into the right direction, but Saudi Arabia has a lot of catching-up to countries whose equality rights apply to both genders. Since this image is only a few days old, Twitter and other social mediums have been blowing up across the world. This picture reminds me of the “Afghan Girl” on the National Geographic Magazine in 1985:

File:Sharbat Gula on National Geographic cover.jpg

Although I don’t believe the Saudi Women photo will  not gain as much popularity, it is still a representation and expression of a certain situation. The campaign on domestic violence is moving in the right direction in causing discussion and discourse. The provocative  image will hopefully gain significant support for the right’s of Saudi women.

Al Jazeera Discussion:

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201304300104-0022715

“Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think” Sparked my interest of Arab Politics

Prior to coming here at Roger Williams University, I had no perception of what the Middle East looked like- other than what was shown to watching the news with my parents. Especially back in “the old days,” media coverage of Arabs and Muslims were sensationalized and misrepresented as a symbol of American hatred.  I grew up watching pictures of Osama Bin Ladin blared on the television screen  and then which him fade into the flames spouting out of the World Trade Centers on 9/11. Headlines read, “Muslim Terrorist’s Caught,” or even “Jihad in America.” It caused myself to not only be scared of an Arabic person, but internally felt prejudicial tendencies.  I had, what scholars prescribe as Islamophobia. In his book Islamophbia: Making Muslims the Enemy, Peter Gottschalk writes , “the significance of this phenomenon is the tenacity of its stereotypes…media outlets consistently overlook the voices of moderation from the majority of Muslims (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008).” I was once part of the millions of Americans who saw Islam or Arabs as person of anti-Americanism. Now looking back, I realized I was brainwashed into believing the  exaggeration of such perceptions.

A documentary that really opened my eyes and  started to change my former views of Muslims was “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”  I saw this movie in my CORE 103 class Perspectives in Human Behavior With Dr. Macphee. The documentary explores the expertly gathered opinions of Muslims around the globe as revealed in the world’s first major opinion poll, conducted by Gallup, a preeminent polling organization. Research  lasted over six years and spanned to over 35 countries giving the findings an astounding accuracy  Focused on the issues of terrorism, gender justice, and democracy, the film presents remarkable data that challenges the notion that Muslims and the West collide.

Coming from the background of misconceived notions, I was truely shocked about the findings. For example, when Americans were asked  how much they generally knew about Muslims, only 52 % said they did in 2002. In 2007, with six years of Muslims being in the media after 9/11, that figure grew to only 57%. This just shows how in the past, the media has been reluctant to provide actual information and not just Islam as the “terrorist religion.”  Another poll that caught my attention was the amount of Arab men actually thought women should have equal rights. The lowest percent was in Egypt, and that was only at 67%. I had, along with many other Americans, perceived that all Muslim men were against women’s rights and their statuses as equals. The final poll that surprised me was how many Muslims thought that 9/11 was completely unjustified. Choosing between 1 thru 5, 57% of Muslims that took the poll chose 1 and that 9/11 was unjustified and only 7% (5) thought it was.

This documentary really got me interested into studying Arab Politics and the Untied States relationship within the Middle East. If you have any friends that have “Islamophobia”  or want to take a look for yourselves here it is.

UAE establishes National Film Library…making waves in the Gulf Cinema Industry?

dubai film

(Tom Cruise’s Dubai Scene in Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol, featured the Burj Kahlifa building….a symbol of architecture in the UAE and the tallest tower in the world)

At Zayed University, one of three government institutions in the UAE, recently launched a national film library and archive. Annually the country holds seven film festivals: Abu Dahbi Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival, Emirates Korean Film Festival, Gulf film Festival, Heritage Film Festival, Tropfest Arabia, and the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival.  Over the past two decades, the UAE has put a reasonable amount of financial and social resources into implementing cinema institutions.  Professor Alia Yunis at the College of Communication and Media Studies at Zayed University writes,  “a huge unprecedented investment is being made into the film industry by a rapidly expanding number of government and private film production companies, such as the $1 billion-funded Imagenation…a phenomenon completely alien to Western film educators and students, the opportunities for UAE students far surpasses the number of them willing to search for them” (Yunis 2012). One film that has created a buzz in the UAE film industry is “City of Life” (2009),  the first full-length feature film directed by an Emirati… Ali F. Mostafa. During an interview in 2009 Mostafa said, “I was tired of people comparing Dubai to a Disneyland. Most of them take one look at the glitzy buildings and assume it’s an artificial place. My film has none of that. It has real people with real problems. Like any other city in the world, my film shows both the positives and the negatives.”  Below is Mostafa’s trailer of the film…it resembles styles found in drama films released in the United States.

City of Life Trailer, 2005 (Song: “Humdulillah” by The Narcicyst featuring Shadia Mansour…also seen in Taylor and Nick’s Presentation)

Traditionally films in the UAE featured Emirati actors, however the producers, directors, and other essential productions staffs came from other Arab countries. Citizens of the country would predominately watch films at home…until the early 2000’s when movie theaters became a social Emirati trend. With the UAE’s support of the nations transition into the film industry, it is expected to be a booming enterprise.

Citizens of Egypt,Tunisia, and other Arab Coutries are distrustful of news media

Recently a survey conducted  by the Northwestern University at Qatar was  published in which 10,000 adults from Egypt, Qatar, Tunisia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE participated.  The results of the survey varied from each Arab country, however there was a clear distinction in which respondents thought their news was ‘credible’ or ‘untrustworthy.’ This distinction was seen between the rich Gulf States and the less opulent Arab States. Al-Jazerra reported this contradiction stating; “Overwhelming majorities in the Gulf have internet access, including about 9 in 10 people in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. But just 46 percent are connected in Jordan and 22 percent in Egypt (AlJazeera, 2013). ”  Of course Qatar and the UAE have less obtrusive laws when it comes to news media and the role it has in the region.  The right to the freedom of the press and speech is more affluent in the Gulf States.

Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain are more authoritative when it comes to censoring media outlets in their respective States. With the States control in daily news and the spread of information, the respondents that took the survey in Egypt and Tunisia had a very low percentage of citizens trusting what they hear from local sources. In fact only one quarter, 25%,  of respondents from Egypt and Tunisia found their news sources to be credible (AlJazeera, 2013).  Other countries, such as the Gulf States had an impressive 75% response of news sources being credible and trustworthy.

One more piece of information this survey sought out was the types of media predominately found in each Arab country. Here is the run-down from each state:

Top News Sources:

Baharain: Google

Tunisia: Facebook

Lebanon: Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC)

Egypt: Al Hayat

Saudi Arabia: Al Arabiya…(Keep in mind AlJazerra is illegal under Saudi law)

Qatar, UAE, Jordan: AlJazeera

By looking at such data, you can’t blame the people of Egypt, Tunisa, and Bahrain to have a disconnect from where they seek the news. With the arrest of Bassem Youssef in Egypt, and the detention of political activists on Twitter in Bahrain (Zainab Al-Khawaja), the expectation of trusting State controlled news is an absurd notion. The study confirms that oppressive practices when it comes to the freedom of expression/speech in the “democratic regimes (joke)”  show a disconnect with the Arab people.

AlJazeera Article: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/2013424125618802556.html

The Muslim Brotherhood Tweets video to Attack Jon Stewart…protecting Morsi?

muslim brotherhoodJon Stewart

Over the past several decades, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been a significant political Islamic movement throughout parts of West Asia, the Middle East, Indonesia, and North Africa. Considered a “moderate” Islamic movement, the Brotherhood was originally created to reform economic, social, and political systems in the Middle East. Founded by Hassan al-Banana in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood grew from small organization in Cairo to a multi-national organization.

The first contested Egyptain Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in May 2012, in which the outcome was a decisive victory for the Muslim Brotherhood.  Under the newly established Freedom and Justice Party, the Egyptian people named Mohammed Morsi (member of MB) Egypt’s new President. It was apparent that the Brotherhood became more influential within the region after the Hosni Mubarak regime crumbled.

Now however it seems that President Morsi is returning back to the old ways of Egyptiain totalitarianism. Opposition of Morsi claim, “the elected president has continuously defied legal norms to force through his agenda and trampled on the judiciary’s independence in a bid to consolidate his power…he has failed to live up to his promises to have an inclusive political process where liberals are represented (Aljazeera).”
Members and groups of the Muslim Brotherhood continue to support Morsi, even though there is still mass demonstrations being held almost every day. On Monday March 25th, Egypt’s prosecutor general issued arrest warrants for five of Egypt’s most prominent democracy advocates and activists over allegations that they instigated violence last week near the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo. Nearly 200 people were injured in those violent clashes, which were among the worst in three months between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Brotherhood.
With the arrest of Bassem Youssef over the weekend, the Egyptian people are outraged and feel the restraint of the Morsi regime. He has since been released on bail but is still facing charges. Youssef is frequently compared to Stewart and the two are friends. So, on Monday Stewart ran two segments on Youssef’s arrest, portraying Morsi as “petty” and comparing him to former president Hosni Mubarak (Washington Post).
In response the Muslim Brotherhood posted this Anti-Semitic video:
The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly trying to deflect attention from President Morsi and refocusing it on the American media culture. By claiming United States Television is owned by the Jews is absurd, and is attempt to taunt Jon Stewart. This incident is escalating at a very rapid pace, but it will not be the end. Egyptian authorities are threatening to revoke the broadcasting licence from Capital Broadcast Centre, the network that airs  El Bernameg (“The Program”). Time can only tell how this issue will be resolved.