For a globalization of ideas 251

Ben Johnson at Floyd Reports writes that Juliette Kayyem, the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the DHS, urges the beaming of al-Jazeera into American homes and minds:

[She] wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe this week entitled, “Let US See Al-Jazeera.” … In it, she rakes ign’ernt Americans over the coals for not appreciating Al Jazeera English (AJE), the Anglophone counterpart to Al-Jazeera. Kayyem writes that cable providers should be “promoting engagement in the Arab world” by “bringing a major player in the Arab world to American audiences.”

Al-Jazeera is a Qatar-owned enterprise and a medium of Islamic propaganda.

Juliette Kayyem is the American-born daughter of Christian Lebanese parents. So it’s likely that she would have an emotional bias towards the Arab world – but towards Islam?

Yes, apparently she has that too.

Kayyem wants America to step aside, promote Islamic interests, and hope our enemies will reciprocate our selfless acts of goodwill. In this case, she wants a major Islamic fundamentalist propaganda outlet beamed into 300 million infidel homes. “AJE’s battle with the cable carriers is major news in the Middle East,” she writes. Not carrying the network “sends a message to the Arab world.” Although she reassures her readers, “Cable companies have no obligation to run programming,” she warns that shunning AJE is “understood by the Arab world as a value-laden decision about America’s lack of desire to hear from the Arab world about the Arab world.”

When she served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton White House, and as an adviser to Janet Reno on terrorism, she “came to believe that within the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, there was a bias against Muslims which the Justice Department had a responsibility to address.” Now she wants the government to make good … by serving Muslim interests.

However, (Johnson informs us):

Taxpayers are already paying $1.5 million a year to put Al-Jazeera on public radio airwaves. Two of the three sites attacked on 9/11 now have at least one hour of Al-Jazeera radio piped in over publicly funded Pacifica Radio stations.

He reminds his readers:

Kayyem’s not-so-subtle pressure on American carriers to run Islamic fundamentalist programming joins numerous other Obama initiatives to give more airtime to its friends and deny airtime to its political foes.

It should be obvious to everyone  by now that Obama has a pro-Muslim agenda. Still, we don’t think Al-Jazeera should be prevented from competing for viewers in Western countries. All opinions should be allowed to be heard so that they can be judged. True, Al-Jazeera might win some converts to the ideology of Islam, but it is likely to confirm more in their rejection of it.

What we would like to see is a massive effort at teaching, by every one of the numerous means that now exist, our opinions, our culture, our history, our enlightenment, our method of critical examination, to the Arab and the wider Islamic worlds.

In our post, A cure for religion, February 6, 2011, we wrote:

If the West only took the trouble to teach its values to the peoples who live in darkness – those billions of Others – it might achieve what wars have failed to: the subduing of the barbaric hordes, the ending of their persistent onslaught.

During the Cold War, America spoke to the Communist bloc through Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. The effort was made to tell the enslaved peoples that what their masters would have them believe was not true. Those broadcasts helped to bring the Wall down. Why is no such effort being made to give new ideas to the Muslims? Vast numbers of them are taught nothing but the Koran – or rather, have it beaten into them. …  Why doesn’t the secular West give them something better to think about?

We are not alone in asking that question. Donald Kochan, Associate Professor at Chapman University School of Law,  writes in the Wall Street Journal that we should spread Western ideas in the Arab world by dispensing books:

At this time of unrest and transition in the Arab world, the United States’s capacity to communicate core values of democracy and individual liberty is a priority. Our capability to translate them into Arabic is a necessity. We need to expose the Arab world to the fundamental texts of Western political and philosophical thought. Indeed, the export of ideas may be the most valuable commodity we have to offer.

We agree with him of course. But there is a difficulty to be taken into account.

Literacy rates in the Arab countries are below that of the West, in some very far below. About half of all Arab women are illiterate, and in some countries more than two-thirds. In Yemen, for instance, the male literacy rate is 69%, the female only 28%.

In Afghanistan the literacy rate is 43% for men, and 12.6% for women.

Professor Kochan says, “Our seduction by the power of the Internet has distracted us from remembering the power of books.” But while we might try to teach millions in the Third World to read, we could start teaching them to think by using television, radio, and every device that connects individuals with the world wide web, and that those millions are snatching up with obvious delight.

We think that the best ideas of the West – individual freedom, secular polities, democratic rule of law, limited government, the questioning of all ideas – stand a very good chance of winning in competition with those of collectivism and religion. At least they should be sent into the arena to compete.