Blogs > Liberty and Power > Aljazeera is "Misunderstood."

Nov 23, 2005 1:49 pm

Aljazeera is "Misunderstood."

Juan Cole argues that Aljazeera is"widely misunderstood." As Cole describes it, the network that conservatives love to hate is

mainly characterized by a quaint 1950s-style pan-Arab nationalism. It is not a fundamentalist religious channel, though it does host one old-time Muslim Brother, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Its main peculiarity in local terms is that it will air all sides of a political issue and allow frank criticism of Middle Eastern politicians as well as of Western ones. It is the only place in the Arab media where one routinely hears Israeli spokesmen (speaking very good Arabic, typically) addressing their concerns and point of view to Arab audiences.

Most of Aljazeera's programming is presented by natty men in business suits or good-looking, chic Arab women in fashionable Western clothes. (I see the anchors every day and am stricken at the idea of them being blown to smithereens by an American"accidental" bombing!) A lot of the programming is Discovery Channel-style documentaries.

The news is often criticial of the United States, though the journalists like controversy and are perfectly capable of asking fundamentalists and nationalists from the region very hard questions. The channel is one of the few places where you can sometimes see frank debate among Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis (the Lord knows we don't see it on US news!) Some Aljazeera journalists may have been sympathetic to radical Muslim groups, but mainly on nationalist and anti-imperialist grounds. These people don't look like adherents of political Islam for the most part.

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Otto M. Kerner - 11/27/2005

Misunderstood? I thought this stuff was common knowledge. Well, I mean, most Americans probably think Al-Jazeera was Saddam Hussein's Minister of Torture or something, but it should well-understood by those who are marginally informed.

Mark Brady - 11/23/2005

Readers should check out the link to Juan Cole's website that he provides. There's another story here, and that is Blair's successful effort to dissuade Bush from bombing Al Jazeera. I've been following this story in the London press (Daily Mirror, Guardian). For an article that summarizes what's been going on, including the British government invoking the Official Secrets Act to prevent newspapers from printing any more of the story, and a discussion of the implications of the story, go here to read UK Media Gagged Over Contents of Bombing Memo: Targeting Al Jazeera, by Linda S. Heard.