CNN’s Generation Islam

For more than a week I’ve wanted to post about CNN’s Generation Islam feature, and it has been thwarting me by making it impossible to copy and paste the text or save the graphics. I had to resort to typing. It is not clear to me why CNN is interested in disseminating a mix of accurate and inaccurate information about Islam right now, but they’re doing it and so here I am.

The Generation Islam premise seems to be that Muslims are exotic people in strange clothes who live far away and that there is a giant gulf between us and them, and that those Muslims resent us for mysterious reasons and we might want to do something about it so they don’t hurt us again.

Here’s the tagline right under the banner:

9/11 taught the U.S. that it ignores rising Muslim resentment at its own peril. America can’t have another generation of Muslims who hate it. Is it possible to win the hearts and minds of Muslim youth?

and the first link, immediately underneath it:

Experts: Why some turn to violence

This will take more than one blog post to squeeze all the possibilities out of Generation Islam. Let’s start with the simple stuff and go to the Islam: Key facts page.

Islam has a monotheistic (belief in one God) message and follows some of the same principles as Christianity and Judaism. Muslims, the followers of Islam, believe in Allah and believe Mohammed was his prophet.

I used to expect better from CNN. Of course, that was before Lou Dobbs starting telling lies in prime time and getting away with it. So now I’m dying to know which principles CNN thinks Muslims follow that Christians and Jews also follow, and which ones CNN thinks they don’t. CNN also leads us to think that Muslims believe in some crazy, alternative god named “Allah,” whose pronoun doesn’t get capitalized the way good old American God’s pronoun does.

CNN has several related articles on the page. Kind of a journalistic version of “scent layering,”* which a guy in my college speech class explained as he gave us all an Amway-style sales pitch as a class assignment.

I saw part of the story about the Muppet Show for Palestinian children the other day. Maybe I’ve gotten overly sensitive, but the vibe I got from what I saw was that Palestinian children are inherently prone to violence, probably due to their Arab genes, and need extra handling and guidance to guide them on the right path.

Daoud Kuttab, executive producer of “Shara’a Simsim,” knows that the Muppets are highly effective communicators. “Anything the Muppets do, anything they say, any idea they transmit, the children accept.”

An internationally respected Palestinian journalist, Kuttab began working with the show more than a decade ago. After covering the war-torn region for years, he realized that Sesame was a great way to reach Palestinian children who desperately needed an alternative to the harsh lessons they were absorbing.

“I would say 3-, 4-, 5-year olds — if we don’t catch them at that early age, we do risk losing them to all kinds of propaganda, whether it’s conservative, religious or fundamentalist,” Kuttab said.

Okay, I would argue that Palestinian children aren’t absorbing any worse lessons than Israeli children are. Different, sure. Palestinian children are seeing that they are second-tier human beings, and they can expect to spend their whole lives being pushed around, made to wait in interminable lines, walled off from their own property, arrested or shot for venturing outdoors, etc., but Israeli children are learning that apartheid is natural, that some people are far beneath others, and that disproportionate violence is the only way to deal with your unfounded fears.

“We are interested in teaching tolerance, respect, pride in their own country and their own nation, and also in understanding that there are people who are different, and that’s OK,” Kuttab said.

“Boys are a problem in our society. They see their parents being humiliated. They think they are the men of the house and have to do something about it. But they can’t do anything,” Kuttab said. “We’re trying to tell them, ‘your energy is OK, but let’s channel it in a different way.’ ”

Live-action segments introduce children to Palestinians who have channeled their energy into becoming teachers, doctors or business owners — people, Knell says, “who can act as role models, people who strive to remove themselves from the hardships children see.”

Sesame Workshop hopes to expand this type of localized programming into other areas that have witnessed recent conflict, such as Pakistan. Perhaps that means Iraq will get its own show someday and won’t have to hold on to someone else’s.

The bolding is mine. As far as I can see so far, this is the only acknowledgement in this entire Generation Islam cloud of “information” that the population of Gaza is in distress, and that those scary Muslims who might wish to do violence to us might have a reason for it. More information here would have done a world of good, CNN.

As for Shara’a Simsim, it’s basically nothing more than a new market for Sesame Street. At least it’s not Disney Princesses.

—-
*Off-topic plea: please go easy on the perfume and cologne. As in, I shouldn’t be able to smell your perfume or cologne unless I am snuggling you.

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Filed under arab, arabist, Islamic relations, movies and shows, pedantry, religious conflict

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