As the endgame approaches in the war against Osama bin Laden, Pakistani professor Pervez Hoodbhoy has written a thoughtful essay, published in two installments, which ponders the next steps that must be taken. "If the world is to be spared what future historians may call the 'Century of Terror,' we will have to chart the perilous course between the Scylla of American imperial arrogance and the Charybdis of Islamic religious fanaticism," he writes.
Most of the new PR plan was ready to go. As the new moon ushered in the month of Ramadan last week, U.S. officials prepared "Mosques of America" posters, showing glossy images of domes and minarets, for distribution across the Arab world. President Bush and ambassadors in the Middle East and Asia would welcome Muslims into their homes to mark iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Muslim Americans were set to mingle with foreign Islamic journalists from the Washington area, no doubt to extol the virtues of the Bill of Rights.
The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which has fought against both the Soviet occupation and Islamic fundamentalists, has issued an appeal to the world community. "The people of Afghanistan do not accept domination of the Northern Alliance," it states. "The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development, but entering of the rapist and looter NA in the city is nothing but a dreadful and shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet. ...
PR Week reports that U.S. undersecretary of state for public affairs and public diplomacy Charlotte Beers has unveiled her strategy for "telling America's story to overseas audiences, particularly in Muslim countries." Contrary to earlier reports, the campaign does not emphasize advertising.
Apparently Muslims have learned a thing or two from America after all, according to Fouad Ajami, who complains that the Al Jazeera television network is guilty of "the Hollywoodization of news ... with an abandon that would make the Fox News Channel blush." Ajami notes that "Al Jazeera's reporters and editors have no qualms about challenging the wisdom of today's Arab rulers. Indeed, Al Jazeera has been rebuked by the governments of Libya and Tunisia for giving opposition leaders from those countries significant air time.
"In the days since the United States launched its armed and diplomatic responses to the Sept. 11 atrocities, few phrases have passed the lips of American leaders as often as 'this is not a war against Islam.' But as civilian casualties from American airstrikes in Afghanistan begin to pile up, and as the timeline for military action threatens to stretch into months, growing anti-American riots in the Muslim world are underscoring the message's limited reach."
MIT Institute Professor Noam Chomsky, an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, discusses U.S.-Muslim relations and reasons for the tensions between the two.
An editorial in the Dawn, a Pakistan newspaper, notes with approval that U.S. "official utterances and media commentaries to depict the 'war against terrorism' as a clash between western values and Islam or the Muslim countries" have been replaced by "strenuous efforts to correct that impression." However, the United States still has a long way to go if it wants to avoid turning the campaign against terrorism into a wider, religious war.
In the round-the-clock U.S. media coverage of the September 11 attacks, one might assume that all angles of the story are being reported. That, however, is not so according to Salon writer Eric Boehlert, who interviewed a number of Islamic and Middle East experts about the media. The good news is that initial coverage after the attacks is generally more informed about the Middle East and Islam than Gulf War coverage of 10 years ago.
A New Jersey Sikh group has hired MWW Group to launch a national PR campaign to educate Americans about the religion that was founded in India more than 500 years ago. There has been at least one hate-based killing of a Sikh and many other reported hate crimes against Sikhs in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. There are 400,000 Sikhs living in North America.