Archive for AlJazeera

More ‘Anti-Islam’ Courses at US Military, AlJazeera Reveals

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by loonwatch

AlJazeera uncovered another “anti-Islam” class in the US military. The class seems to have been lifted directly from the talking points of extremists such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer:

US Military Under Fire for ‘Anti-Islam Class’

(AlJazeera)

The United States military has called for a review of all its training classes after receiving criticism for a course taught to senior officers that allegedly encouraged war against Islam.

The controversial class presented slides that accused dozens of Islamic groups, many widely recognised as mainstream advocacy groups, of infiltrating the US media, education system, government and military.

One slide titled “The Muslim Brotherhood and Violence” showed a photo of an al-Qaeda beheading, erroneously conflating the two groups.

Through the slides and other presentations, the course created a picture of a US government co-opted by subversive Muslim elements.

Al Jazeera’s Josh Rushing reports from Washington.

Karim Miské: Muslims of France

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Muslims_France

A phenomenal three part film series on the history of Muslims in France over the past 100 years by filmmaker Karim Miské:

Part 1: Colonials
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1
Part 2: Immigrants
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1
Part 3: Citizens
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Aljazeera: Fault Lines-Politics, Religion and the Tea Party

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by loonwatch

A must see documentary on AlJazeera English, dealing with the contemporary influence of Far Right Christianity on American politics. It gets really interesting from the 18:00 mark.

Fault Lines-Politics, Religion and the Tea Party

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can’t do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. – including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. – cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet’s website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.

Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.

The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s public hostility to the network.

“There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that’s changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Burman said.

Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. “We had a completely different process and result here in Canada — a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful,” said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera’s Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)

Media critics have begun to push for Al Jazeera’s inclusion. “It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it,” wrote Jeff Jarvis on Sunday. “Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.”

Al Jazeera follows a public broadcasting model similar to the BBC, CBC and NPR and is largely funded by the government of Qatar, which Burman said takes a completely hands-off approach to content. Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC, said Burman. “As proud as we are of our Middle Eastern coverage, we are in other places in the world that are never, never seen on television in American homes,” he said.

Burman said that he will use the experience with the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings in upcoming meetings with cable providers as the network continues its push. Comcast did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why in the most vibrant democracy in the world, where engagement and knowledge of the world is probably the most important, why it’s not available is one of these things that would take a PhD scholar to understand,” Burman said.

UPDATE I: A reader emails to say that Al Jazeera programming is also being carried by the satellite channel LinkTV, which can be found on channel 9410 on Dish Network and 375 on DirecTV.

UPDATE II: Another reader emails to say that Al Jazeera broadcasts over some of the Pacifica stations, including WBAI (New York, 5-6 AM, 99.5 FM), KPFA (Berkeley, 6-7 AM, 94.1 FM) and KPFT (Houston, 5-6 AM, 90.1 FM).

 

Imran Garda: Never-ending Cartoon Chaos

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by loonwatch

A thought provoking piece about the cartoon debacle by AlJazeera’s Imran Garda.

Never-ending cartoon chaos

by Imran Garda (AlJazeera)

At a meal of halal pasta at a Johannesburg restaurant in 2004 , I found myself defending my one-time work colleague, Graeme Joffe, at a table of young Muslim men, after a joke he had made on a local radio station.

“Even if he thinks he’s funny, this was insulting to us, and the brothers are right to launch a complaint,” said one.

“They should fire him. Do you even know what he said? ‘What do you call a Bangladeshi cricketer with a bacon sandwich on his head? Ham’head. And if he has two bacon sandwiches? Mo’Ham’head!’ Disgusting!”

I tried to interject diplomatically, “I know Graeme, he’s one of the most polite, least offending, self-deprecating people you can meet. It’s a light-hearted radio show, come on. I worked with him at Supersport; if anything they should fire him because the joke was so bad!”

“Garda, you don’t understand”, insisted the most annoyed. “No matter how harmless the intention” and, with the surest of conviction, he continued: “When it comes to the prophet, there are no jokes.”

Joffe and the radio station were censured after South Africa’s Broadcasting Complaints Commission saw his joke as “hate speech” that violated the constitution. And yes, it has been no joke since late 2005, when 12 cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten seemed to ignite frenetic flames of fury that just wouldn’t die down.

The very depiction of Prophet Muhammad was an affront to Muslims, who do not depict him for fear of idolatry, among numerous other theological reasons. He has been depicted before, to the annoyance of many Muslims, but not much more. What seemed to tip the saga into the epicly dangerous territory that it has occupied since is that a substantial number of the images of him had sometimes tacit, sometimes overt references to Muhammad and misogyny, Muhammad and violence, Muhammad and terrorism.

Manufacturing anger?

But was that it? Was there merely an impulsive, collective rising up, a synergy of the insulted? Had the outcry been devoid of any larger outside forces prodding, pricking, planning – manufacturing anger?

The recent WikiLeaks revelations suggest otherwise. They show that the US charge d’affaires in Damascus, Stephen Seche, believed that Syria actively encouraged violent protests in which the Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked. The leak reminded me of another meal in another African country, Egypt, in 2008.

“Mashallah, you’re from South Africa? I do a lot of work there; we are training 600 da’ees (Muslim missionaries) to approach fans during the World Cup in 2010.”

Imam Fadel Soliman paused for another spoonful of molokhiyya, an Egyptian soup dish. He was hungry – he had been fasting all day. We shared our Ramadhan iftaar before recording an Inside Story programme later that night, where he appeared as one of our guests.

A big, friendly man, who seemed permanently out of breath, with an engaging presence, Imam Fadel was bursting with a faith he was keen to share; he later dished out DVDs on Islamic guidance to our film crew and producers, in multiple languages to boot. He was like an ambassador for Islam, but it was what he told me about another ambassador which was of infinite interest to me:

“Do you know our Egyptian ambassador to South Africa, Mona Attiah?” he asked as he wolfed down some more Iftaar.

“I can’t say I do.”

“Mashallah, she’s a good sister, has done a lot for Muslims. She doesn’t wear hijab, but she’s a good woman.”

He continued.

“Are you sure you don’t know her?”

“I’m sorry”, I said. I wasn’t sure whether it was my South African or Islamic credentials which were beginning to wane in his eyes.

“She was in Denmark before South Africa. She was the ONE ambassador who really stood up to the Danish government, and insisted on a meeting with them over those cartoons about our prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam (peace be upon him). And when they said they didn’t want to meet and can’t stop ‘freedom of expression’, she stood firm! She was the one who got the other ambassadors on board to go the Arab League in Cairo together to show our united condemnation, that the cartoons were unacceptable! Mashallah.”

It was what he said next that I’ll never forget:

“If it wasn’t for her, we may never even have heard of those cartoons.”

Two Danish imams carried the cartoon “dossier” throughout the Middle East with some extra cartoons thrown into the mix – images that were never published in Jyllands-Posten. One wasn’t even a cartoon, but a photocopied photograph of a picture lifted off the internet of a man wearing a pig-snout.

Ever since the outbreak of the crisis, it has been noted that many usually undemocratic governments, often brutal in their suppression of mass protests which call for political reform, or rally against the price of bread – suddenly wholeheartedly embraced (and maybe even sponsored) the protest fever.

CCTV footage from the building that housed the Danish embassy in Beirut shown in Karsten Kjaer’s film Bloody Cartoons even suggests that the Lebanese army allowed protesters to converge on the building, Molotov cocktails in hand.

Does it come then as any surprise that years later, with over a hundred dead since the first spasm of violence, three men have recently been charged with plotting to mow down the staff of Jyllands-Posten with machine guns?

In early 2006 even mainstream scholars, like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, hated by many hardliners for his liberal and forward-thinking opinions on issues of Islamic jurisprudence, called for a “day of anger” around the Muslim world in response to the cartoons. He said Muslims are not “donkeys to be ridden on” but “lions that roar”.

In context, seen along with his and other scholars’ calls for an economic boycott of Denmark and strong political lobbying against the country and the newspapers that published the cartoons, many would interpret his call to “roar” metaphorically. As a call for a stern but peaceful response against a provocation from Jyllands-Posten that smacks of goading, demeaning and ostracising Muslims.

But (and it’s a big but) an obvious, glaring problem is with the rise of the far-right in Europe, where issues of Muslims veils and minarets, anti-immigration and integration dominate the discourse: will every offended Muslim interpret the call that way? Much of the post-cartoon rhetoric left ample room for subjective interpretation. Are we not seeing the fallout continuing to unfold before our eyes?

Freedom of Expression

“Freedom of Expression” – it has a post-modern, sacrosanct, warm-fuzziness about it. But are those who claim it entirely consistent?

The editor responsible for the cartoons, Flemming Rose, pledged to Christiane Amanpour in an interview that Jyllands-Postenwas attempting to make contact with the Iranian newspaper that ran cartoons about the Holocaust, and hoped to publish them too. He reneged on his promise, and was put on a short “leave of absence” by the paper.

At the time, cat-eyed Anders Fogh Rasmussen was the Danish prime minister. His devotion to “Freedom of Expression” and “Freedom of the Press” in his country was indisputable and was tested from multiple corners, diplomatic and otherwise.

He cannot have been too impressed when he went from being the head of a friendly, isolated Scandinavian country to seeing effigies of himself burnt on the streets of Pakistan.

But now, as the secretary-general of NATO, the most powerful fighting force history has ever known, RSF (Reporters Without Borders) claims his NATO forces in Afghanistan have treated “journalists working in difficult provinces … like dangerous criminals”.

Afghan journalists, like Al Jazeera cameraman Mohammed Nader, have found themselves arrested and later released without charge, on suspicion of having links with the “enemy” because of alleged links to the Taliban and their spokespersons.

This dovetails with an Afghan government order in March 2010 banning all coverage of “insurgent attacks” in the country with the threat of prosecution of any journalist who does – an ominous message to journalists there.

Is the dedication of men like Flemming Rose and Anders Fogh Rasmussen to “Freedom of Expression” relative to an ideological worldview? Are they dedicated to a complete freedom of expression only of the “good guys” – but heaven forbid you let the “bad guys” express themselves.

As Noam Chomsky put it – “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Blame

Who’s to blame? Jyllands-Posten? The Danish government? Global Islamophobia and its racist defenders or global Islamism and its idealogues? Or the governments who may have actively encouraged their citizens to get angry?

In the five-year long cartoon crisis, anger ebbs and flows, condemnation bursts and retreats and worldviews collide. Art meets politics, satire meets the sacred, and provocation cries crocodile tears when it meets a response it claims it never expected.

Maybe, just maybe, the seemingly never-ending cartoon chaos was epitomised by the guy who held up the banner at the cartoon protest rally in London, saying “Freedom of Expression Go To Hell!”

 

Soumaya Ghannoushi: Islamophobia Acting Like Free Speech

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by loonwatch

An interesting piece from Soumaya Ghannoushi published at AlJazeera English.

Islamophobia acting like free speech

by Soumaya Ghannoushi

The caricatures of Prophet Muhammad first published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten then reprinted in a string of European newspapers have exposed the gulf separating the West from the Muslim world.

The cartoons and the reactions they have sparked across the Muslim hemisphere, many have conjectured, symbolise the confrontation between two irreconcilable value systems, one based on the Enlightenment tradition, the other clinging to religious dogma.

These simplistic explanations would have stood a better chance of being accepted if the majority of those offering them had been more vocal in denouncing the continuous assault on free speech in Western societies in the name of the war on terrorism. The reality is that the controversy over freedom of expression and its limits is a symptom of an infinitely deeper crisis affecting the relation of the West, European and Atlantic, to the vast Muslim world from Tangier to Jakarta.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Since we are historical beings, we cannot be detached from our hermeneutical tradition and historical condition.

Only by reference to these contexts are our actions understandable. Any explanation of the cartoons crisis that does not take into account the explosive climates of the post-September 11th world and the rise of the right wing in Europe and the United States is bound to remain superficial.

Islam, which had lain forgotten during the cold war and the obsession with the communist threat, has now come to the fore, penetrating into the heart of the public domain.

It is no coincidence that the cartoons were published in Denmark in a right-wing paper under a right-wing government then reprinted in countries notorious for their hostility to their Muslim minorities and opposition to the cultural and racial diversity of today’s European societies.

That reactions to the cartoons have been so passionate should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following developments in the Muslim world closely. To Muslims, the caricatures vividly brought back the scenes of Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes in Jenin, the invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Baghdad, terrors of Abu Ghraib and humiliations of Guantanamo Bay.

Cultural arrogance was added to political aggressiveness. Muslims have grown used to the torrent of terrifying images that associate them and their faith with the most horrifying of practices, from violence and cruelty to fanaticism and oppression. When it comes to Islam, all boundaries and limits could be dispensed with. The unacceptable becomes perfectly acceptable, proper and respectable.

The truth is that today racism, intolerance, xenophobia, and hatred of the other hide behind the sublime façade of free speech, the defence of “our” values and protection of “our” society from “foreign” aggression.

Let us not be deceived about this rhetoric of liberalism and free speech. The Danish cartoons have nothing to do with freedom of expression and everything to do with hatred of the other in a Europe grappling with its growing Muslim minorities, still unable to accept them.

Muhammad, who had been depicted in medieval legends as a bloodthirsty warrior with a sword in one hand and a Quran in another, is now made to brandish bombs and guns. Little seems to have changed about Western consciousness of Islam.

The collective medieval Christian memory has been recycled, purged of eschatology and incorporated into a modern secularised rhetoric that goes unquestioned today.

The medieval world abounded with hostile stories, folktales, poems and sermons of Muhammad where the imagination was given free reign.

About Muhammad, or “Mathomus” all could be said since, as the 11th-century chronicler Guilbert of Nogent had put it: “One may safely say ill of a man whose malignity transcends and surpasses whatever evil can be said about him” (Dei Gesta per Francos, 1011).

Guilbert’s Muhammad, like that of most medieval authors, bears little resemblance to the historical Muhammad, or his journey.

Just as in the Danish caricatures, he appears as a scoundrel who used licentiousness and the promise of paradise with its many beautiful virgins to lure men into following him. His career was devoid of virtue. His vast empire was built on slaughter and bloodshed.

In the popular Chansons de Geste, written from the 11th to the 14th century at the height of crusading fervour, reflecting sentiments and beliefs that were widely accepted, Muhammad and his followers, the “Saracens” are described in the most grotesque of terms.

Creatures of Satan, they are painted with huge noses and ears, blacker than ink with only their teeth showing white, eyes like burning coals, teeth that can bite like a serpent, some with horns like the antlers of stags.

Humans inherit their prejudices as they do their language. Europe has inherited an enormous body of stereotypes of the Muslim elaborated in the course of many centuries of confrontation with Muslim civilisation.

Islam could not be regarded with the same detached curiosity as the far away cultures or beliefs of China or India. Islam was always a major factor of European history.

As the historian Richard Southern put it, Islam was Latin Christendom’s greatest problem, a mighty military and cultural challenge, dazzling in its power, wealth, learning and civilisation.

In the heart of Europe, its poor northerly neighbour, it generated an array of emotions that ranged from fascination to fear and resentment.

When in the 11th century European writers began to form a notion of what it meant to be European, they found themselves faced with a powerful Islam, which they were neither able nor willing to understand.

Islam was integral to the European notion of the self. The encounter with the Muslim other was fundamental to the formulation of the Western world view, particularly in the centuries that began in the Crusades and culminated in the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire.

By forcing the continent to find ways of concerted action, Islam encouraged Europe towards a stronger sense of “self” and a stronger sense of the “other”. In more ways than one, Islam was Europe’s midwife.

In the tense post September 11th climate, with its pre-emptive strikes, growing military interventions and increasingly powerful right-wing parties, the medieval arsenal of fantasies and stereotypes of Islam and Muslims has been brought back to life. Gone are the devils and Antichrists of medieval legends and polemics.

But their bleak outlook on Islam and the Muslim lingers on unchanged. It survives in an essentialist self-enclosed discourse centred on a mythical pure self permanently pitted against an imaginary dehumanised, demonised Muslim other.

In the past as in the present, religion, culture and the politics of fear are placed at the service of the great games of dominance and mastery.

Make no mistake about it: This is a political conflict that speaks in the language of culture and religion. The conflict is not between “we” and “they”, not between cultures and civilisations, but within the same cultural and political front.

The battle must be fought, a battle against intolerance, hatred, myth of cultural superiority and will to hegemony over the other.

Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher in the history of ideas at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.

The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.

Ghannoushi is currently writing a book on Western Representations of Islam Past and Present.

 

AlJazeera’s Hour Long Newscast on KPFT Receives Threats

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by loonwatch

AlJazeera News has begun to air for one hour on KPFT, a prominent Texas Radio Station. It has received threats and hate mail since.