Kingdom of skies, Thailand – While on a flight yesterday, I was enticed to watch CNN’s “Inside The Middle East” after fiddling with much of the channels available. The programme began with a few interesting explorations of Middle East’s main attractions such as Dubai’s Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and the journey of a 9th Century Arab ship known as the Jewel of Muscat that had sailed from Oman to Singapore. Towards the end of the programme, there was the Campus Forum – a special slot allocated for the voices of the Arab youth.
Led by its host Rima Maktabi, the forum consisted of three media students from the American University of Dubai; a 17 year old hijabbed Emirati, a 24 year old male Palestinian and a 22 year old female Syrian. All of these students are fluent English speaking Arabs who are full of enthusiasm in their field of study and are very well-determined in achieving their dreams. Like any other varsity youths, there is that fiery vigour in their aptitude when it comes to elaborating their vision of the future. What interests me is that how their answers illustrated the doctrine that they hold on to when it comes to their opinion about the Arab media and their predilection in their future occupation.
Again, like most highly educated youngsters, these students viewed their media as being distorted and misleading. The irony is that they declared to have interests in working for the Western media such as the CNN after graduation. These young arabs have obviously been influenced by the perception that the Arab media are fraudulent and they are awed by the supremacy of the Western media . Little did they realise that even the Western media themselves are laden with interests and propaganda of a certain party or group. Worst of all is that the Western media more often than not reframe and highlight the Arab media and the Arab world as being politically incorrect according to their myopic perspectives. These perspectives may be delimited by various variables such as due to creed, politics, economics, socio-cultural differences and interests. It is not to say that the Arab media is in complete innocence but it is to iterate that every agent of communication operates with engagement of certain interests where the Western media is also included in the list.
However, it is unfortunate to see how these Muslim students glorify the Western media at its best and unabashingly condemn the Arab media and even struggles of the Arab world outright without realising that they themselves are a product of the very institution that they denounce. What I saw was the possible erosion of an identity (Arab-Muslim) where they themselves are made as the chemical of erosion through education.
Students are supposed to have a mind of their own. They should be able to objectively weigh the pros and cons of a context and not blindly adhere what their lecturers or books tell them. Always pause for rationalization and not consume with one’s eyes closed. My hope is that someday these students will learn more along their intellectual journey and realise how they have compromised their self-identity when they see themselves in a clip of that forum.