Al-Jazeera America faces steep climb among U.S. viewers

RNS) Al-Jazeera and America, two name brands often at odds since 9/11, were wed as one on Tuesday (Aug. 20) when the Qatar-based media network began broadcasting its U.S. news channel Al-Jazeera America from New York.

 

This is not the first time Al-Jazeera has tried to find a home on American TV. Al-Jazeera English debuted with an international focus in 2006 but was never picked up in major media markets outside the Northeast.

 

From CNN to MSNBC to Fox, the leading cable and satellite news channels all struggled to gain and hold viewers, credibility and profit for years after their launch. But for Al-Jazeera America, deep-seated prejudices among some U.S. audiences are likely to make this uphill slog even steeper.

 

With some 800 journalists and staff and bureaus in 12 U.S. cities, Al-Jazeera America bills itself as a network committed to “rebalancing global media by respecting the diversity and humanity of the world” and “giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Although once ranked among Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks as one of the world’s most influential brands, many Americans still view Al-Jazeera with suspicion — in part because of  Al-Jazeera’s decision to air messages it received from Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

The take-away for many viewers was that Al-Jazeera was nothing more than a mouthpiece for terrorists.

Some influential commentators continue to label Al-Jazeera anti-American or to imply the network is somehow a front for terrorism. For many Americans, perceptions of the network are tied up with negative feelings toward the Middle East, Arabs and Islam.

“I’m afraid the terms Middle East, Arab and Muslim are all often lumped together under Muslim,” said Roger Owen, professor of Middle East history at Harvard University.

John Esposito, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understandingand the author of several books on contemporary Islam, said Al-Jazeera America will have to deal with a segment of the population that is biased against Islam.

The Tampa-based Florida Family Association, which opposes what it perceives to be the “Islamization” of America, recently launched a campaign demanding major companies stop advertising on the channel.

More than 20, 000 Muslims attend conference in Toronto

News Agencies – December 27, 2011

Over 20,000 people showed up at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre for the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention to listen to leading Muslim scholars, personalities and artists. Ticket sales to the convention were closed on Saturday evening as the facilities reached its capacity. Overflow rooms with TV screens were set up to handle the large crowd that showed up for the annual gathering, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Organized by a group of young, active Canadian Muslims, the three-day convention opened on Friday, December 23. The theme of the convention, “Control, Chaos or Community: Three Ways, One World, Our Choice”, was chosen to address the many challenges plaguing humanity today beyond the confines of cultural, religious or intellectual divides, according to the organizers.

Leading among attendees were prominent scholar Dr Jamal Badawi and Sheikh Abdallah Idris from Canada, Prof. Tariq Ramadan from Switzerland and Dr. John Esposito from the United States. Also attending were Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah from Mauritania, Habib Ali Al-Jifri from Yemen and Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury from Australia.

Muslims Today A Radical Reform: Tariq Ramadan with John Esposito

Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan joined John L. Esposito in a conversation exploring the challenges of confronting the status quo and promoting radical reform in Islam and the Muslim world. Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University and President of the European think tank European Muslim Network in Brussels. His most recent publications include What I Believe, Islam, The West and the Challenges of Modernity, and Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation. John Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam and Oxford Islamic Studies Online, his most recent books are: The Future of Islam; Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed); and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam.

Europe’s waning liberalism: by John Esposito

Last year, at a European meeting of intelligence officials from the US and Europe, a Swiss participant commented on a proposed referendum on minarets. He was sure it would go nowhere since, as he said, Switzerland is a very pluralistic society; its Muslim population is relatively small and there are few mosques with minarets.
Enlightened Switzerland has now become part of an “Enlightened Liberal Europe” that is increasingly not all that liberal. The stunning Swiss vote – 57 percent – approving a referendum to ban minarets, should not have been all that surprising, considering the growing power of Islamophobia.

In both Europe and the US, right-wing politicians, political commentators, media personalities, and religious leaders continue to feed a growing suspicion of mainstream Muslims by fuelling a fear that Islam, and not just Muslim extremism, is a threat. (…)

Georgetown Professor John Esposito comments on Hasan media coverage

In this op-ed, Georgetown Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies Dr. John Esposito critiques some of the media’s coverage of the Fort Hood incident. He claims some journalists were too quick to judge in immediately placing the incident and Hasan within a framework of Islam, and discusses how extremist acts by people of Christianity and other religions are often not as strongly linked to their faith as acts by Muslims.