A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|propaganda or good pr? ::)|
|11/02/02 at 21:32:00|
|Advert from America fails to hit mark with Muslims |
By Shawn Donnan
Published: November 2 2002 4:00 | Last Updated: November 2 2002 4:00
Looming conflict in Iraq, a second intifada pitting Israeli forces with US-made weapons against dispossessed Palestinians, a war on terrorism many Muslims see as a war on Islam: it is no secret the Islamic world has a jaundiced view of America.
But if the State Department has its way, America's poor reputation will not endure. This week it unveiled a $15m television commercial campaign designed to burnish its image in south-east Asia, the Arab world and North Africa.
The series, Common Ground, received its first screening yesterday in Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim nation - to coincide with the start of Ramadan, the Islamic fast, next week.
As a country known for practising moderate Islam, Indonesia was an ideal testing ground, US officials said. But if first impressions count, rescuing the US's reputation will call for more than a few television commercials.
The campaign is part of a broader endeavour conceived by Charlotte Beers, a former Madison Avenue executive who is now under-secretary of state for public diplomacy. Soon after September 11, many Americans wondered: "Why do they hate us?" Ms Beers was tasked with finding out and banishing anti-Americanism.
The one- and two-minute mini-documentaries profile Muslims living in America. Each declares his or her admiration of the US tradition of religious freedom.
"I have never had any child who thought it was weird or anything like that," says Rawia Ismail, a school teacher, talking of the head scarf she wears to school.
"I have co-workers who are Jewish, Christian, Hindu even," says Farooq Muhammad, a New York paramedic featured in one spot. "We treat each other with respect. I've never gotten disrespected because I'm Muslim."
But the imagery can also be clumsy. Footage of another American Muslim following an Orthodox Jew on the streets of New York was no doubt meant as proof of pluralist America, but an al-Qaeda propagandist could just as well see it as a Zionist leading on a US Muslim.
Material handed out at a launch of the campaign in Jakarta seemed earnest, amateurish even. The first bullet point in a primer on "Ramadan in America" states: "Ramadan awareness events are held on college and university campuses across the United States." All very well, critics say, but it is unlikely to do much to allay suspicion of the US in in the Islamic world.
Parmo is a 47-year-old Jakarta motorcycle taxi driver who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name. As he put it: "The video is not enough. We need real action."
Like most Muslims, Mr Parmo objects to US support for Israel. He also feels slighted by America because of his faith and what he sees as an anti-Islamic slant coming out of Washington.
Andi Mallarangeng, a US-educated political commentator who studied at Northern Illinois University and heads a progressive party in Indonesia, argues the campaign highlights the wrong things. The religious freedom it features is something most in Indonesia - and elsewhere in the Islamic world - already know and admire about the US.
"The problem of the image of the US is not because of what happens within the boundaries of the United States but what happens when the US conducts its international affairs," he says. "I was in the US for eight years and I felt free. But that's within its boundaries. Outside, it's a different thing."
The campaign is due to be screened in Malaysia in coming days. But its future outside south-east Asia already looks doubtful.
The State Department approached al-Jazeera, the Gulf-based broadcaster and the Islamic world's answer to CNN, about airing the commercials. However, the department said the network was too expensive. Efforts to air the film in Egypt have also reportedly stalled.
Adian Husaini, a moderate cleric who lectures at Islamic universities, says the poor perception of the US is "strongly built" among Muslims, largely because of its support for Israel. "So far I haven't seen any warm response [to the videos] from the Muslim community here," he says. "I doubt it's going to work." Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat
[color=Green] heard about this a little while ago, thought it was pretty ::). A tiny part of me was saying wow their showing muslims in a positive light! The other was rolling my eyes at the motive behind it all. Has anyone seen the clips? I saw bits of them and from what i've seen they are very glossy, and rather artificial. But thats coming from someone who's never been to the U.S. What do you guys think?
|Re: propaganda or good pr? ::)|
|11/03/02 at 00:42:30|
ummm.. yeah ::)
if someone approached me for participating in a campaign like that, i'd be like no thanks! i doubt that it will work. They think that the muslims are so dumb that they will buy into that.
I mean do they actually think that the muslims will react positively to this? "Oh thank you america for allowing us religious freedom that you give to everyone else. ps. thank you for bobming us too!"
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