Friday, May 16, 2008

Also on calling out 'experts'

About a month ago, Ambassador & Professor Akbar Ahmad, American University Chair of Islamic Studies, called out the US media for not including experts on TV shows in discussions about Islam and the Middle East.

He pointed out, at a forum on "The Media and Islam" given by AU's School of Communication, that whenever Fox or CNBC or CNN or MSNBC, pick a channel, speak about and analyze Islam and the Middle East they NEVER have actual experts on or actual Muslims or Arabs on their shows. Yes of course you want to have diversity of opinion and background, and not ONLY have Muslims or Arabs or Middle East sympathizers as others might call us, but you want to have someone who maybe I don't know might be able to give you a firsthand account? Is a Middle Eastern historian? Sociologist? Anthropologist? An expert in Islam? Sharia? Someone who knows what Sharia is even please?

This also relates to an extremely important phenomenon: Americans and their leaders don't really WANT to understand the Middle East. It's just too much. Too complex. Too difficult. It would cause too much self reflection and uh oh, self deprecation. It's so easy to blame the violence on 'centuries of religious ethnic sectarian violence.' I mean as is, we don't have to look for the real problems, which are going to be thing we don't want to hear or see or face. That the legacy of colonization and the Cold War dynamic still have implications on how residents of the Middle East (and around the world) perceive of the US and Western powers. That the US acted arrogantly and we the public were duped. All the Bush administration and Cheney cared about were contracts for their oil buddies.

Americans don't want to hear that they can't have their oil and have it on the cheap too.

We don't want to hear that we might have to start thinking about a foreign policy that doesn't JUST consider ourselves, our economy.

We don't want to understand that we can only achieve security by taking into account the security of others and that this security is not achieved through simplistic military might but by a much more engaged, egalitarian, soft diplomacy that considers social justice and economic development.

No comments: