Friday, November 11, 2011

Middle East event at American University in Washington, DC

Sarah sent me this (I cite with her permission):  "I meant to shoot you an email after this event. I mean, I go to my alma mater on Wednesday to hear Abderrahim Foukara give a talk on Al Jazeera Arabic and the revolutions, and even though I had my hand up for 30 minutes to ask a question (he said that the Bahrain coverage was limited due to lack of access and I wanted to ask him why lack of access wasn't presenting a problem for them to cover Syria and how does a lack of access result in the tone of their coverage being pro-regime and anti-protester and I wanted to point out the irony of the event being held in the Prince Salman atrium) they skipped over me repeatedly in favor of a random dude rambling to himself for 5 minutes and this gem from an AU student:

"So, I am studying Arabic, fus7a, and I studied in Jordan and when I got in a cab, I tried speaking fus7a to the cab driver and he said he couldn't understand me and asked me to speak in English. Because Al Jazeera is in fus7a and there are so many dialects in the Arab world, do you think you are limiting the reach of the channel to only people who understand fus7a?"

I have no doubt this guy will be a future American policymaker. I rolled my eyes so hard at the question. I know they say there are no stupid questions, but seriously. You think that the Arabs should change their language because you can neither pronounce nor understand it? Worst part was someone next to me was like, "That is a good question" to which I had to retort, "No it isn't. This type of Arabic is understood throughout the Arab world, provided you are literate. They shouldn't change their language because this guy doesn't understand it." These people really are probably the future of the American policymaking establishment.

I feel like Middle East studies events at universities are so dumbed down. And I felt like Foukara was playing into that when a student asked about the tone of coverage on Al Jazeera Arabic on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and Foukara basically made it sound like they just have to have the tone they do on Palestine because Arabs watch the channel and not because, I don't know, Palestinians are constantly being killed and bombed and that's newsworthy."