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America, Islam and the War of Ideas Author
America, Islam and the War of Ideas Author
The book’s preface is very beneficial as it constitutes the light that takes us through the book and it also sets the tone for the coming chapter through the author’s objective eye. Obviously the author’s objectivity is not only derived from the constant reminder of how different his perspective of issues
Tuesday, June 2,2009 09:30
by Lawrence Pintak Wordpress.com

The book’s preface is very beneficial as it constitutes the light that takes us through the book and it also sets the tone for the coming chapter through the author’s objective eye. Obviously the author’s objectivity is not only derived from the constant reminder of how different his perspective of issues from that of his wife’s. But also from a deep knowledge of the current situation in the Middle East as he is one of the few American journalists that as described in the book reported on the Middle East while he is actually in the Middle East.

 

Moving further into the Introduction, in which we not only find a historical background of the roots of misperceptions by both societies but also the main psychological frame that nourished these misperceptions. The frame which is “US and Them” is so solid because it has what it takes for any ethnic society to be united no matter how many differences are there among its members. The core of every famous political approach in human history the Ultimate Truth as the author says “with a capital T “and “the conviction that God is on my side”. This political approach constituted Israel’s foreign policy,  American foreign policy through the war on Iraq, the Christian Crusade , Caliph Salah el-din  Al-aubi , the Ottoman Empire, Osama bin Laden and the Muslim brotherhood. Even through the Egyptian government’s war against the Muslim Brotherhood, the government used the same conviction. It can be spotted during what was called as the “Islamization Era”.

 

Under the title “In the eye of the Beholder” the author shows how different the perspective of each party and where it comes from. It answers the hanging American question “why do they hate us?” That question has turned into a motive for America’s war on terror. The Chapter is an in-depth look into the foundations of the American Israeli relations which have caused the Arab perspective of a double standard American policy towards the Palestinian cause. And it concludes that it wasn’t only Arabs who felt this way but also all poor masses around the globe. Of course the implications of the new unipolar world added to this sentiment. And the last rock to hit the glass house was the Islamists perception of media as offered by the US. That perception added to the “Us and Them” dichotomies.

 

The Second Chapter of the book entitled “US coverage of Islam” shows how Islam filled the void of the Soviet Union as the new Other in America’s search for the end of the world. It also shows how the question “Why do they hate us?” has turned into a cry for a preemptive strike against Islam as the sole enemy for the US. This culture of fear led to the journalist patriot concept in the US. It also affected what the author portrayed as the climate of opinion in the US where journalists failed to exercise skepticism of administration’s claims and where the media became a mouthpiece for the American administration.

 

At this point the author describes how American politicians started using slogans like “Remember Pearl Harbor” to exploit public outrage over apparent attacks on the nation’s honor to further their own geopolitical goals. The ability of the US government to set the news agenda and manipulate coverage was aided by the market realities of the news business as the national discourse was also manipulated by merges and advertisers.

 

The quality of news coverage was also extremely hurt by the increased bottom line pressure. And the bottom line here was “they hate us”. The answer to the Why part of it would be getting too much in detail.

 

At the beginning of Chapter 4 the author illustrates how 9/11 shows the depth of the perception gap between the US and Arabs or Muslims. And takes an in-depth look on how Arabs really viewed 9/11.It also showed that how any attempt to understand the motives behind the attack was considered unpatriotic. The author illustrates how Bush and Bin laden where “mirror images standing at opposite poles”.

 

In Chapter 5 the author portrays how media created the myth of the victim which validated the narratives being produced by White House speechwriters. The claim that America is hated for its freedom and success was countered by a host of Arab and Muslim voices and at the end proven false. As evidence showed in the book jihadis are fighting for the same freedoms they were accused of hating. The way the term suicide bombers are explained in this chapter is too objective even for me as an Egyptian Muslim. As I still believe there is a fine line between suicide and dying in a war which is martyrdom. And this is the concept we come up with by the end of the Chapter.

 

The following chapter shows that terror as an enemy was not a 9/11 creation but it was there in many places through the American history. And this is where Bin Laden has succeeded. Because of that history in reaction to 9/11 the American administration abandoned the House of Saud for the first time and that was a declared goal for Bin Laden.

 

And the last thing I have expected to read in this book is that Bin Laden is the product of the American Saudi jihad against the Soviets. I believe the evidence to support that argument must have been a lot of work.

 

Moving to the last chapter in this reading which is entitled “Weaponizing the Media”, where the author portrays how media was used as a weapon during the war on terror. The author looks into how the war changed the look of Arab media in a way that made Aljazeera offices in Kabul and Baghdad subject to bombings by the US military which knew the exact coordinates for these offices.

 

Finally, I applaud the author’s choice and use of quotes but who could have done it better than the professor himself.

 

Pintak’s prism of pain

 

In the Chapter entitled the prism of Pain the author explains how Arabs’ perception of US policy was through their prism of pain over the Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, the neoconservatives in the American administration’ perception were “the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad.”

 

The author describes how the American administration’s “fatally flawed strategy” led to the War on Iraq. And the reasons behind this strategy were “the administration’s conscious denial of Middle East realities”.

 

This prism of pain was used by Bin Laden in his rhetoric about the Palestinian struggle. However, the issue was as the author puts it “front-and-center” in the succeeding years by emerging Arab news channels.

 

During its search for Arab allies the American administration tried not to fall for the Israeli bait of as the former Israeli PM put it then “Yasser Arafat was our [Israel’s] Bin Laden.” Although Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat tried hard to distance himself away from Bin Laden, the American administration still held him responsible for being unable to stop violence against Israel. The US then gave Israel the green light to wage its own war against Arafat. That move was perceived by many Arab and Muslim countries as double standard especially after the Arab countries backing for the US through the War.

 

The author ends this chapter with the opinion of Jordan Times journalist Rami Khouri who gave credit to American President George W. Bush for “acknowledging the eventual necessity of a Palestinian state”. However, Khouri felt that the core of Bush policy was “so heavily tilted and burdened by Bush’s pro-Israeli statements that it has been largely lost”.

 

Moving to Chapter 9 entitled Rewriting the script, where the author portrays how the American administration used the media as a tool to prepare the psychological ground for the war. While journalists in the US were openly declaring patriotism, the BBC was “as reporters in the trenches like to say, committing journalism”, in a bid to give a fair and balance version of the story.

 

The author shows how the “you scratch-my-back” nature of relationship between journalists and the American administration was used by the administration to write the news script. And it was considered by journalists’ then as “patriotic journalism”. The idea of writing the news script carefully not to affect the country’s national security have been used by authoritarian governments around the World for many years but I think in the US, 9/11 could be considered one of the few times it has been used that is why it passed by the public. But in countries with authoritarian governments there is always another version of the story told by a friend.

 

The author then raises a very important question “Where were [the American journalists] when the ground of global opinion shifted?” The author cites the opinion of some observers who wrote of the emergence of a new “World news order” where journalists are responsible of creating a worldwide discourse that would be sensitive to the different perspectives.

 

And to show how much the American public’s view of the war was distorted by their perspective of the news I quote the author as saying “It was a war the whole family could love.”

 

And finally, the author ends with well chosen quotes that show how the American President lost the war of ideas during his war on Iraq.

 

The Source


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