Friday, November 17, 2006

Al-Jazeera on the air, in English!

Well, it was only a matter of time before the network that commands the eyes of the entire Muslim world decided to branch out into the non-Muslim world. Yesterday, Al-Jazeera launched its English-language channel, bringing its graphic images of dead Iraqi children to the Anglophone world.

Yes, it is propaganda, and yes, it is sensationalist. But anyone who has chanced upon Fox News while surfing to better channels has surely noticed the alarmist footage of “Things that will kill your baby in your own home!” and the like.

The value in Al-Jazeera is that it is sensationalism from another point of view. They are doing the same things as we are, but with the frank criticism of our administration that the American media seem incapable of producing. The idea of news organizations as public watchdogs holding hypocritical government to account is sorely missed in the United States.

Moreover, if we are serious about understanding “how they think” and “why they hate us,” then Al-Jazeera is a way of getting right to the proverbial horse’s mouth. With millions of Arab eyes glued to this Qatar-based news channel every day of the Iraq war, it would be helpful for those of us who actually care to see with our own eyes what they see with theirs.

This is another strength of Al-Jazeera’s new English channel. From my rudimentary understanding of Arabic, my experience watching Al-Jazeera with Moroccan Muslims, and my continuing dialogue with friends in the Maghreb, it seems that the English version, like the original, pulls no punches in its condemnation of the United States’ foreign policy decisions. The coverage is, purposely, as similar as possible to the parent, considering its use of anglophone journalists poached from BBC and CNN, among others.

Most important to keep in mind is that you can only get the whole story by listening to all sides. For once, we have an authentic Muslim voice to listen to in this new era of history where the Middle East and Islam are making news right on our doorsteps.

The next step is for Al-Manar (Hizbullah’s News station) and Al-Arabiya (the relatively moderate one based in Dubai, UAE) to follow suit. So call your cable/satellite provider, or just download RealPlayer and watch it streaming off of the website. It is well worth it to see things from the other side...
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