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State of Anxiety: Al Hurra TV for Change PDF Print E-mail
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by Marah Bukai
Exclusive for Al Waref

"In the beginning was the word." And in the beginning of the rising American nation was the constitution, emanating the values of human rights, freedom, and democracy. Thus was born a nation based on pluralism; advocating justice and equality for all people. These pillars of humanity are the dream of a great portion of the significant “Silent” majority of the Arab and Muslim world.

The first country to recognize the independence of the United States was Morocco under the leadership of the Arab and Muslim Sultan Muhammad bin Abdullah in 1776. Nearly two hundred years later, in 1956, the United States reciprocated this honor by being the first country to recognize Morocco's independence. The United States continued to support the political independence of the Arab peoples and developed relationships with the Arab world based on friendship and cooperation.
Today we are witnessing a state of “temporary” anxiety and mistrust in which the relationship between the United States and the Arab world has been compromised by those who have kidnapped and reshaped the core values of humanity to meet the needs of fundamentalists.
The establishment of open dialogue between the people of the United States and the people of the Arab-Muslim world requires a return to the values which have allowed their civilizations to flourish over the years. It is important that the United States and the Arab world strive to rebuild and strengthen the equality between them.
No Arab or Muslim would reject conversation with the poignant ideas of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, or Louis Armstrong just as no American would reject dialogue with the thoughts of Averos, Sultan Mohammed bin Abdullah, or poet Nizar Qabbani. In order to revive these voices of the past and to make louder the voices of the open minded thinkers of today, it is essential to reaffirm the qualities of American, Arab, and Muslim values which have allowed them all to recognize one another.

The duty of the American sponsored media is to show the wrongfulness of events such as the September 11th attacks. In the wake of 9-11, Arab television networks such as Aljazeera were broadcasting live images from the Gaza strip of Palestinians celebrating the attacks; neglecting the images of the innocent dead and wounded in Washington and New York. There is wide difference between the methodology Arab media uses in presenting news and the way the same news is presented by western and international media, adding to the rift on the grassroots level between the Arab world and the west - specifically the United States. The conveyance of news should be based on impartiality, freedom of expression, and professionalism. There should be no spin and there should be complete impartiality.
Even at Al Hurra, a Virginia based and American funded news station, which is broadcasted to the Arab world, there have been instances of incomplete news coverage. This bias may appeal to some viewers, providing a temporary boost in viewership among certain demographics, however, it will severely harm Al Hurra's image as a free and objective news source. Al Hurra has in times overlooked the importance of cultural discourse which speaks to the minds and the hearts of its viewers. Reaffirming a dedication to unbiased media is the only way for Al Hurra to reclaim its dedication to the foundations of the American values that celebrate pluralism and cultural diversity.

I have hopes that Al Hurra will embrace the cultural elements and freedoms which comprise the United States: the unique jazz of African character, the cowboy poets of the southwest desert and their relationship to the Arab poet in the Sahara, the freedom of expression, political participation, and religious belief – the freedoms laid down by the founding fathers of the United States, the same freedoms that continue to be the source of most democratic institutions throughout the world. 
There should be a forum that encourages harmony and peaceful coexistence between different ethnicities, religions, colors, and political affiliations. This is what I imagine Al Hurra being in today's world. It will uncover the roots of the American civilization while embracing reformer liberal voices as a model of freedom and democracy in the Arab and Muslim world. It will empower women and provide new hope for young people. Rejecting intolerance and celebrating difference, Al-Hurra can become a beacon of light, which will allow the Arab and American worlds to see one another clearly.

Through the use of cultural channels the most important elements of Arab-Islamic culture can become the means to enlighten communities, combat terrorism, and develop cooperation among nations. Through the use of eloquent Arabic and through reaffirming social equality and justice, a cultural renaissance can lead to a path of revived intellectualism.

Al Hurra has the potential to become a balanced media network that sees the Arab viewer as a wise audience, and not an ignorant listener. The political news should be transmitted in such a way that the socio-cultural values of a community are respected.

As American media professionals of Arab origin Al Hurra has double duties: to save the American civilization from the dangers of extremism and fundamentalism attacking from the east while protecting the Arab world from receiving false teachings that preach intolerance.
The United States can set an ideal example for social change, encouraging a commitment to human rights, individual freedoms, and scientific progress. President Clinton stressed this vision in his speech at the 2008 Denver DNC saying, "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." I envision Al Hurra becoming and integral part of this example by reasserting its dedication to the American pillars of equality, justice, and freedom.

The Middle East is a mosaic of more than two thousand years of intricately woven fabric, consisting of different races, religions, and sects, and where politics and religious issues are constantly intermingling in everyday life. This is a critical phase in the history of Arabs and Muslims, where the diversity of the past has led to bloodshed and hatred of the “other.”

Unfortunately, the United States has found itself in quicksand, trying to deal with confrontations and divisions which began centuries ago. Because of the recent success of extremist trends in the Middle East, there has been a monopolization of decision making centers throughout the region. 

Any media coverage of these ethnic, religious, and sectarian clashes is lacking if it does not address possible solutions. The role of the media and of enlightened thinkers of our time is to focus on the role of the civil society in addressing socio-political issues and on the voice of the moderate Arabs and Muslims.

It has been the failure of Arab television stations across the world to accurately portray the voices and activities of moderates in the Arab world who could be the greatest ally to the United States in its war against extremism and anti-Americanism. Having a foundation of open-mindedness can fulfill the power vacuum in the case of sudden regime collapse as in the case of the sudden Virgil dictatorships.

I envision Al Hurra being the support base for open-minded voices breaking through. I see it becoming a station that acts as a launching pad for economic, social and political reform in the MENA region, paving the way for women empowerment and moderate voices to triumph.

I imagine Al Hurra as a podium for all reformers who are committed to fearlessly challenging the extremists who have recently become incontestable obstacles to progress and achievement between the Arab and Muslim worlds and the rest of humanity. I feel there is a need for a news network to deliver balanced and authentic messages, to the Arab world and from the United States, based on developing dialogue between people of all cultures, colors, and identities.

In this sensitive time, a liberal minded media, which provides a voice for those who have become overshadowed by the voices of violence, can help to bring about a “Neo Renaissance” of the Islamic and Arab world.  


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