As a result of having little to no background or understanding prior to this course on the International World or politics especially in the Arab World, I feel that throughout this course I have learned a great deal of information. Through both my own news posts on the blog as well as posts by other members of the class, I feel that I have learned a lot about the Arab World, who is part of the Arab World, current events as well as history of events occurring in the Arab World, and how these countries that make up to Arab World are similar or different from the United States. Through reading news articles and blog posts throughout the semester, I found many things that were both interesting as well as surprising. Through reading blog posts throughout the semester and searching Arab media websites, I found it amazing how much information and events occur in the Arab World that I had never heard about before. Specifically I was amazed at how much information is not publicized in the media that we watch in the United States that in my personal opinion should. Had it not been for me searching for the news in the region and reading the news events on the blog, I feel that in many cases I would not have even heard about the issue. Many of these news stories and article viewed throughout this semester are only about to be found or publicized as an issue on Arab media Website such as: Aljazeera.com, Al Arabia, Albawaba.com, AngryArab.com, etc. The one thing that really surprised me about this limited or non-publicizing of the story in the United States is that many of these stories either impacts/affects the United States in some way and in many cases directly involves the United States. Another aspect that really surprised me from becoming educated in Arab media and politics is how negatively viewed Arab countries as well as individuals from Arab countries are. From a personal standpoint of an individual who previously to this class strictly watched and read news from United States run and viewed media, the amount of incorrect messages, biased claims, and prejudice towards these individuals is absolutely amazing and disappointing.
In addition, another thing that I found shocking and interesting as a result of this course through the media blogs is the way that information is reported depending on the source or site the information is reported by. In more than one occasion, I found that the Arab media did not always provide a story with the correct message and in some cases each news source had a different story to tell with contradicting information. Primarily, I feel that the reason for this was based on the fact of where news sources gain their information from. For example, if a source gains their information from the state and a source of state run media, the news story is going to be biased favoring the state’s view as compared to a story cited from an outside or independent source.
One thing that I noticed from reading the blogs and news events through the semester for this course was the fact that a majority of the stories talked about the Arab World in negative light. In these blogs, I felt that a much greater number of stories about negative events within the media were posted compared to that of positive events happening in the region. However, I did find this to be understandable based on the fact that majority of the times the news and media report a majority of their stories on negative events that are occurring rather than the positive events in the region. News stories predominantly consisted of bombings, violence/ attacks, conflicts between two Arab countries, wars in the region, revolutions and uprisings in the region, and many similar types of events. Nevertheless, this shows that as learned through Politics and the Media and the way that the media functions, news sources and outlets operate on the theory of “if it bleeds, it leads”. This just goes to show that people are much more interesting in knowing the negative things that are going on in the world than the positive and good things that are occurring, because the positive news just does not bring viewers.
Lastly, another aspect that I found I had learned and become aware of a great deal from the blogs posted throughout the semester was how much government censorship, lack of freedom, and restrictions are currently present within the Arab World. Through blog entries and news articles, I was surprised at how much control the government had over certain people within the region and how much oppression goes on in some of these countries. While many of these Arab countries have gone through revolutions and uprisings which resulted in change of leadership and government power allowing more freedoms for the people, many other Arab countries are still restricted and under government tyranny /suppression.
Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri of the film “The Attack” recently turned to Facebook to announce that the film is being banned by the Lebanese government. The film, which stems from a novel, tells the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of an Israeli Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv who learns that his wife carried out a suicide bombing. As a result of initially being granted permission and a permit to film the movie in Israel, the film’s production it received numerous awards at the annual COLCOA French film festival in Hollywood. The film which was expected to be released worldwide and is still planning on being released in France and the United States later this spring won following awards: the audience award, the “Coming Soon” award, and special jury prize award. However, following the film festival, the Lebanese government pulled the plug on the film by both revoking its permit and banning the film from being shown. (http://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/lebanon-film-israel-ziad-doueiri-487776)
In a post on Facebook Doueiri tells friends and followers from all over the world the news regarding his soon to debut film stating “I regret to inform you that the Interior Minister of Lebanon, Minister (Marwan) Charbel, has decided to punish us and the film by banning it… claiming that the reason for the rejection is that I, Ziad Doueiri, had spent time in Israel filming”. Doueiri also stated “this ban is foolish and unfair… Several Palestinian films have been shot in Israel with Israeli actors and even with Israeli financing … were allowed to screen in Lebanon”. (http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/lebanon-bans-award-winning-lebanese-film-shot-in-israel/2013/04/28/) In addition, Doueiri feels that by banning this film the Lebanese government is only looked upon by the people and film makers in a negative light.( http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=58398) In a statement by the by Minister Charbel “We had no problem with the movie but when we received the protest letter[from the Israel Boycott Office of the Cairo based Arab League]… we could not oppose their demand”.( http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/lebanon-bans-award-winning-lebanese-film-shot-in-israel/2013/04/28/)
I also found this article and story to be very interesting in terms of how the film industry in Lebanon operates. In Lebanon, filmmakers must submit their scripts to the government for approval to ensure that films do not display attacks against morals, attacks against state authority / government, reflect Israeli propaganda, and allows the government to block films that incite dissent as well as opposition to these guidelines. (http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/lebanon-bans-award-winning-lebanese-film-shot-in-israel/2013/04/28/)One big question when reading this article is whether the film was really banned based on the grounds that it was primarily pro – Palestinian based and negatively portrayed the Israeli’s. In my personally opinion, I feel that filmmakers, films, and movies should have the right to expose things that contradict their guidelines based on the state/government, morality, etc in their works because otherwise these events are simply covered up and kept from the people of society at the governments wishes. In addition to this, I also wonder how effective the ban on this film will actually be in the country. In majority of the cases when films are ban in any part of the world one of two things happens, the film gets more media attention than it would have received had it been shown or individuals find a way to get their hands on the film and watch it illegally.
As reported by AngryArab.com, Aljazeera has recently secretly changes its headline following its news release regarding the kidnapping of bishops Syria. In this report, it is stated that Aljazeera initially headlined the post as “Syrian bishops Reported kidnapped by rebels”. However, later in the day, Aljazeera is said to have secretly and “sneakily” changed the headline to “Two kidnapped Syrian Bishops Freed”. (http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2013/04/aljazeera-sneakingly-changes-its.html) (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/20134235221315190.html)This change comes as a result that Aljazeera’s reporting on the issue was solely based off information supplied by Syrian State Media stating that the bishops had been kidnapped by individuals from the rebel group. In further looking at the story following the change as well as other news media outlets, it is still in question who is officially responsible for abducting the individuals. (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/20134235221315190.html) This begs to question on whether simply the headline of the article was changed in an effort to stay neutral and clarify the issue or whether the headline as well as the article was changed once finding out that they had publicized possible misinformation. In other reports publicized and specifically one by CNN, the opposition and the government have both blamed the other group claiming that the opposite side is responsible / behind the kidnapping. (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/24/world/meast/syria-civil-war/) In my personal opinion, I feel that Aljazeera in an effort to publish the issue quickly and be the first to report on the issue, based their information off misguided and biased government news sourced information and later found that they correct their mistake. While I believe that this is wrong in the way that they handled the cover-up, I feel that in their opinion by making the change in a covert manner they felt that they could correct their article in the hopes that it would both be done without anyone noticing and before others saw the story.
However, this secret cover up of the article and news story as a whole is not the only issue that has proved some inconstancy and misguided information. When changing the article and headline, Aljazeera stated that the two bishops were released by the kidnappers and had arrived safely in the city of Aleppo. This article which was posted on April 23rd at 23:25 again significantly contradicts other reports which state that the bishops are still missing or being held hostage. (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/20134235221315190.html) In today’s (April 25) reports by CNN, ForeignPolicy.com, the Jerusalem Post at 8:30, all had stated that they were still missing and possibly still in custody of the kidnappers. (http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Kidnapped-Syrian-bishops-still-missing-310905) (http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/04/24/syrian_bishops_remain_missing_despite_contradicting_reports) (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/24/world/meast/syria-civil-war/) It wasn’t until this point that Aljazeera became the last source to report on the issue to ensure that they had their information correct before publicizing it. At 12:08 pm today, Aljazeera finally reported that the two bishops were still captured and in custody despite claims that they were released. (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/201342581317622664.html)
In looking at this story and how the media specifically Aljazeera has developed / reported the story over the past few days, readers are being provided inaccurate and false information prior to sources being confirmed as well as being provided with contradictory stories when comparing them to other outlets of the media. The way that this issue is being covered in the media seems to be very similar to the recent coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing which was filled with numerous amounts of inconsistent coverage and falsely publicized information. As a result that we as a society largely depend on the news and media as our source of information, we should expect that these reports by media outlets are both accurate where confirmation and investigations into developments are being down prior to the publication of the story. It amazes me that other outside news sources can have the correct information / developments on the issue, while a single source is covering something completely contradictory. In looking at this, I question what is really important for these news outlets, being the first to report an event or taking the time to confirm and publicize the correct information.
While some news sources have claimed that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarneaev, the two Boston Marathon Bombing suspects, are linked and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Arab or Muslim terrorist groups, and Islamic Fundamentalists, others state that the two individuals were simply American citizens who turned terrorists. In an ABC news report claiming to have revealed the details involving the bombing and behind the scene information of the two suspects, it is reported that these two individuals were “homegrown American terrorists who learned how to make a bomb through the internet and had no physical influence from overseas”. In addition, it is claimed that the brother’s only connection to the Arab world was through viewing internet teachings of deceased Al-Queda and Jihadist member Anwar Al-Awlaki. (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/boston-bomb-suspect-dzhokhar-charged-weapon-mass-destruction/story?id=19013068#.UXbMFMW8ySo)
On Monday (April 22nd), the Fox News series “The Five” aired featuring co-host and political commentator Robert Beckel. Beckel who has been a member of Fox News and “The Five” for a number of years, has in numerous times been the center of controversial statements when it comes to debatable and touchy issues in the media. In this segment of “The Five”, the Boston Marathon Bombing surfaced as one of the topics. When asked by his co-host about the Arab World and Muslim supremacy regarding the attack as well as other acts of terror, Beckel voiced a very biased and controversial opinion on the issue. In voicing his opinion, Beckel states “In Muslim communities around the world, they don’t like us” and further quotes “They [Muslim / Arab countries] recruit people from poor areas and they try to turn them into terrorists”. In addition to these statements, Beckel also states that this information and knowledge that both Muslim countries hate the United States as well as how these countries recruit terrorists, stems from significant research done on the issue. Furthermore, he added that “we should keep any more Muslims from studying… We’re going to have to cut off Muslim students from coming into this country for some period of time, so we can at least absorb what we’ve got, look at what we’ve got, and decide whether some of the people here should be gone, sent back home or sent to prison.” (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2013/04/23/No-more-Muslim-students-in-America-says-Fox-News-pundit.html)
I find this to be very interesting because through this comment, Beckel is essentially saying two main things: that all Muslim and Arab individuals are terrorists with the sole goal to kill Americans and also promoting the fact that Arab and Muslim individuals should be excluded from studying in a free and divers America. These comments and this mentality by a person of the media is extremely biased and prejudice further creating a tension between American citizens and people of Arab and Muslim decent. Many may ask and wonder why we as a society act in the way that we do. The reason stems from the fact that we as a society are constantly racially profiling and discriminating against minority or foreign groups. Another aspect that must be looked at is why individuals from other countries such as Arab and Muslim countries “hate” us so much. This deep hatred towards Americans is initiated because individuals of society and the media influence the rest of society into believing that this is the way that everyone should think. Through people such as Beckel, other political and high ranking American figures, and movies/media that portray these individuals in the negative way such as terrorists, do we as Americans become conditioned to become prejudice and biased. This can further be proven based on the fact that majority of the events that involve acts of terror the initial individuals to be blamed or seen as “persons of intrest” for the act are majority of the times Arab or Muslim. The best example of this can be seen in the Oklahoma City Bombing where an individual of Arab or Muslim decent, Ibrahim Ahmad, was innitially blamed for the act of terror when in reality an investigation proved it was an American terrorist, Timothy McVeigh.
Following the bombings at the Boston Marathon which claimed the life of 3 people and injured 176, law enforcement officials as well as the country as a whole has attempted to catch the individuals responsible. Almost immediately, the FBI, State Police, and Boston Police began investigating the scene of the crime.(http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/04/2013418213153686717.html) Two hours following the bombing, officials began to release information that they had one of the possible suspects “person of interest” involved in the act of terror. As reported by the New York Post and Fox News, both reported that the suspect was identified as a 20 year old Saudi Arabian individual.(http://www.inquisitr.com/620192/boston-marathon-explosion-suspect-reportedly-a-saudi-national-in-guarded-condition-at-hospital/) The twenty two year old who is currently unidentified and unnamed was only stated to be a student here in the United States on a VISA and was under guarded security at the hospital while being treated for his injuries. In addition to this, officers began a search of his apartment, questioned the “person of interest” and his roommate, as well as remove evidence from the location.( http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-student-boston-marathon-bomb-hunt-20130416,0,5904809.story)
Now this is where we must begin to question on whether this was a prejudice or just a foreign individual at the wrong place at the wrong time. As reported by CBS News “a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then “tackled” him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.” When looking at what claimed to make him look suspicious and what made him a suspect by law enforcement personnel, he was running, he was Saudi Arabian, the police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives, and he made claims about thinking there would be a second bomb. To all of these claims, there are many cases of evidence that prove that this was solely a case of citizen bias towards foreign / Arab individuals as well as bias by law enforcement based from 9/11. In looking at the opposing views to all of these claims, everyone was running to avoid being killed, everyone injured or close to the bomb would smell like explosives, and any logical person would think there was a second bomb based on the fact that there usually is one both to further increase causalities as well as target first responders. Once looking at this, it becomes quite clear that the fact that the individual was Saudi Arabian and looked foreign / Arab played a key role in the suspicion. (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/04/the-saudi-marathon-man.html)
Following Mondays claims that he was a suspect and “person of interest”, on Tuesday claims had coincidently changed to the individual being simply a witness. However, what makes this ironic is the fact that in normal circumstances, a witness would not have their house searched and evidence removed, a witness would not have their roommates questioned, and a witness would not be under guarded security in the hospital where he was not allowed to leave. The big question here is have we got to the point where we automatically assume that Americans are innocent of these acts only done by foreign individuals? Unfortunately, everybody would like to think that this individual was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, however, it seems more and more clear that the police as well as Americans have become biased and prejudice towards specifically Arab individuals instantly claiming all to be suspects of terrorism. This is further proved from yesterdays (Thursday April 18th) reports that two suspects of which both are American citizens, where identified by the FBI in photos and video surveillance as the two suspects. Lastly, we must also look at how social media such as Facebook, instagram, news reports and other forms of media made it possible for the public to provide the FBI with video, picture, and use of social media to assist law enforcement with information and evidence. This additional information not only helped find the two individuals officially named as the suspects, but also helped the Saudi Arabian man be cleared as a “person of interest”. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/04/2013418213153686717.html
On Monday (April 15th), a judge ordered that Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak be released from prison on bail after spending the maximum legal time of two years in detention pending trial. Under Egyptian law, Mubarak can still be held for a short additional amount of time while charges and proceedings are pending. Mubarak’s imprisonment and legal problems come following his involvement with Habib al-Adli in the killing of protesters in the uprisings that occurred in 2011. However, it is stated that he will not be released from custody based on additional newly discovered corruption charges that were added to older allegations. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/15/world/meast/egypt-mubarak-petition/index.html ). Mubarak ruled Egypt for nearly 30 year and has been faced with constant backlash and corruption following the uprisings that occurred in the country. Not only has Mubarak faced charges involving political corruption and involvement in killing of protestors, he has also being investigated on the grounds of financial corruption and conspiracy. (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/2013415134713761409.html)
The additional charges and newly discovered evidence comes following leaked information that was provided to the media and current President. Previous to this point, the police in Egypt were claimed to be the sole entity responsible for the deaths in the uprisings; however, it has now been shown that the government and army of Egypt were at blame of killing, torturing, and violating individual’s human rights. In addition, it was found that under President Mubarak, the military was seizing citizens at checkpoints and it is speculated that the army would deliver unidentified bodies to the coroner’s office, in which these individuals were the same individuals seized at the checkpoint because they were never seen again after making it to the checkpoint (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/15/world/meast/egypt-mubarak-petition/index.html ).
In looking at the case against Mubarak and Adli, the first case against the two resulted in the sentencing of a life term decision. However, upon appealing the case to the highest court, the court found that after hearing from both the prosecutor and defense as well as concluding the presence of procedural errors, there was enough evidence to a retrial (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22149867).
This is the area of the case where things get a little strange and begin to question whether corruption or improper practices are occurring in the Egyptian court system. Upon starting the retrial, Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah who was assigned to the case reportedly stepped down off the case. Sources say that the judge cited medical problems relating to his eyes as the main reason for stepping down and also claimed feeling pressure in being the magistrate in the case. When looking at this, my first question is how much the medical problem really played in the judge’s decision. I feel that this judge stepped down for either one of two main reasons, not having anything to do with the medical problem. First, I feel that the pressure of being the magistrate in such a high profile case in which he as the judge would have to rule on a matter involving a former powerful and Presidential figure, caused him to fear having to make a ruling in favor of placing him in prison. The other possible reason comes with the question on whether he was paid or coerced (corruption) into stepping down by Mubarak or someone close to Mubarak. With the background of President Mubarak having numerous avenues of power and numerous activities involving corruption, conspiracy, and cover-up, this would not surprise me at all if this influenced his stepping down. It was stated by the CNN in their article on the case that Mubarak’s two year detention only ran out based on legal technicalities, so this makes me begin to wonder if more legal technicalities or acts of corruption will occur to prevent Mubarak from being tried all together(http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/15/world/meast/egypt-mubarak-petition/index.html ).
The following are a few cartoons created involving Mubarak:
On April 20th, 2013, Iraq will be holding political elections in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. As a result of these upcoming elections, candidate’s posters and campaign advertisements have plastered the streets of Iraq. While this is not unusual for numerous amounts of signs and posters to fill the street, what is unusual about the campaign advertisements are the images and messages featured on them. Many are claiming that a majority of the messages are bizarre compared to the traditional message and conventional images usually portrayed in political posters. What many individuals in the community believe is that these posters are purposely bizarre based on the fact that the candidate supporting the poster is trying to increase voter’s attention through abstract or unusual methods of campaigning. (http://www.arabnews.com/news/446128)
While political elections and campaigning is fairly new to Iraq, based off the fact that Iraq prior to 2003 was under the rule of a dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, many new candidates are doing all that they can to make themselves look to be the perfect candidate. It wasn’t until 2003 when Saddam was forced out of power through military involvement led by the United States that political elections for government began to take place. Prior to this April 20th election, the last election for representatives of the Iraqi Parliament was in March of 2010.
While there are a numerous number of bizarre posters, two poster have been prominent and most widely spread. The first poster contains a picture of a female dressed in traditional Iraqi clothing with the caption in Arabic stating “Salam Kurdi Abbboud is dead”. The poster is claimed to ask voters to vote for Sauasen Abduladhaim Ahmed, who is the widow of Salam Kurdi Abboud and a member of the secular sunni party. However, what makes this poster bizarre is the fact that the female candidate (Sauasen Abduladhaim Ahmed) does not appear anywhere on the poster. The second major poster involves a current Member of Parliament (Aytab Al-Duri) satnding next to her husband with her hand over her heart. Underneath the two individuals Arab text reads “The candidate Karim Khalaf Mohammed Hussein is the husband of MP Dr. Aytab Al-Duri”. However, many claim this to be bizarre because no credentials or policies are expressed or associated with the poster; the candidate has simply made the connection to the voters with who his wife is. (http://www.arabnews.com/news/446128) The following are the two most promiement examples of the posters plastered around the provinces and one other popular poster found in Iraq:
Although many candidates believe that they are attracting voters through the use of these bizarre and unusual posters, many people of the voting public still see this as a political strategy and way for candidates to simply get elected. Many Iraqi’s have turned to social media to both bash as well as mock the candidates because majority of society has lost confidence in the electoral process as well as elected officials. Many individuals have stated that the electoral process has become too greedy and quote “these candidates want to create political families on the expense of the voters”. (http://gulftoday.ae/portal/e20f6414-8636-40d8-aacb-fde02e3967ce.aspx) On one source of social media, one candidate’s slogan has been the topic of conversation as well as the source of mockery. The slogan is featured in Arabic stating “My province comes first”, however, many have played on the fact that the word province in Arabic with one letter removed turns the word in wallet. Other candidates that have found themselves very popular in the social media realm have been the candidates that pose themselves with prominent figures of society. Many have bashed these individuals for attempting to prove their political connection, for example by linking themselves with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, when in reality majority of the candidates have not even met these figures or been supported by this individual. Through this spread on social media as well as society’s loss of confidence in politics, many have turned to spreading the word of corruption and state on these sources that candidates are only in it for themselves. Iraqi society has now reached a point where power and wealth are seen as the goal of political figures rather than the focus on helping individuals of society. (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130327158671)