Friday, September 21, 2007

Al-Akhbar (The News)

It goes without saying that media coverage in the Middle East is drastically different from that in the West. Although I cannot read Arabic well enough to make my way through an Arabic language newspaper, I do read Egypt’s collection of English language sources. My favorite is Al-Ahram Weekly, a branch of the government-controlled Al-Ahram newspaper based in Cairo. Despite monitoring by the government, the paper provides a range of viewpoints and can actually include criticism of the government. Many of the columnists are knowledgeable and experience academics working in think tanks in Egypt and the United States. But the perspectives here are very different. The paper does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and instead refers to Tel Aviv. The conflict between the Arab-Islamic world and the West is highlighted in numerous articles, some of which are critical or the West, others of which are simply trying to encourage understanding. Below is a sample of some of the headlines or quotes from recent issues of Egyptian newspapers:

“Going Nuclear: Entering the nuclear era is no longer a luxury, writes Sherine Nasr.” Says one Eygptian nuclear expert: “In a country where the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, and where there is urgency to bridge the gap the technological gap with the rest of the developed world, the issue takes broader dimensions than simply trying to satisfy a growing demand for energy.”

The world’s largest tanker just paid $6 million USD and an additional $250,000 in insurance fees to pass through the 101-mile Suez Canal.

“Lebanon is heading towards a show down between the American project and the project of Arab resistance. The only way to avoid a clash that can escalate into a war is to elect a consensus president.”

Writes the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies: “The US seems inescapably schizophrenic: on one hand it calls for the respecting of human rights in the Arab world, and on the other commits some of the most blatant violations of human rights witnessed anywhere, in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”

He goes on: “The exacerbation of the tragedy of the Palestinian people (during the period since the beginning of the Iraq war) because of the unlimited political and diplomatic support that the US offers Israel, which has reached unprecedented levels, has also played a large role in undermining whatever credibility was left for the US project of ‘democratizing’ the Arab world.”

Several journalists face criminal trial for publishing false rumors about president Hosni Mubarak’s failing health.

“Why the West Attacks Us.” The very opinionated author argues: “The West is not hostile to Islam, per se. It is hostile to a resistant Islam, an Islam that challenges the West’s Darwinism and consumerism.”

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