The latest member of the Youtube community is non-other than Queen Rania of Jordan. In an effort to offset the negative ways in which Arab culture has been portrayed in the media – most recently in the film Fitna – the Queen has called for an open dialogue on Youtube. Her subject: Arab Stereotypes. “I want people to know the real Arab World”, said the Queen, “to see it unedited, unscripted, and unfiltered.”
While she has received hundreds of replies, the Queens’ first response has been to showcase a video of a young American who traveled to Jordan and was pleasantly surprised to experience Middle Eastern hospitality and openness. As you can see it leaves a lot to be desired.
One of my favorite youtube response has come by way of Benjamin Carruth.
In an email exchange, Ben further clarified his points: “Saying “I don’t know” allows us to recognize that much of what we think we know is false. Many of the American stereotypes regarding the Middle East draw from sources like Indiana Jones or Laurence of Arabia. We rarely imagine an Arabic-speaking nation that includes comfortable chairs, t-shirts, or mp3 players. In saying “I don’t know”, we acknowledge that we do have these images, and acknowledge that they are false.
We also need to recognize that even if these past fictions were modern fact our picture would be far from complete. These stereotypes are so thin, so shallow, that they reduce centuries of history to a still photograph and the thoughts of the people that fill that history to a few slogans. Admitting our ignorance is a step towards recognizing that someone on the other side of the globe lives a life every bit as complex, rich, and varied as my own.
In her reply, Queen Rania said that “We don’t always have to agree to get along.” I would add that it is when we don’t agree being able get along is most important. This is something we practice as cultures and nations, but must learn as individuals.”
To see the piece I prepared for the Observers, click here.