Random stories of interest in the Middle East which aren’t major stories but should be:

  • An American pastor, Saeed Abedini is in Iranian prison facing death simply because he believes in Christianity. While it is far from front page news, finally this week, after he has been imprisoned for three months the State Department expressed “serious concerns” in speaking out about the intense violation of this American’s civil rights.  There is an intense awareness campaign being conducted by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) urging the American government to intervene in the case.  Deafening silence when a Muslim nation is abusing an American due to his religion?
  • Saudi Arabian police arrested a man in Mecca recently when they discovered papers which showed that he was seeking a Jewish wife.  It is said that officials believe the man may have a “mental disorder”.  Of course, people who have visited Israel or born in Israel have been refused Saudi visas, and religious items from any faith other than Islam cannot be brought into the country.  Imagine the world headlines if the same thing happened in the Jewish state?
  • The American-Israel dynamic will continue to change, and with Al-Jazeera news entering the U.S. media market (at a reported cost of $500 Million), expect other trends to come along with it, i.e. Capital Hill jobs like this seeking research assistants for lobbying efforts to assist “Palestine” on the Arab-Israeli conflict in Washington, D.C. Al-Jazeera can bring many change to the U.S.. One wonders if Al Jazeera’s primary American interests will be turning a profit or influencing American minds (and policy).
  • Like many other regions in the world, The Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce is concerned about misconceptions surrounding their country, and this week announced they hired a major PR firm to work to attract more tourism. While Dubai attracts over 9 million annual tourists, undoubtedly helping the nation’s economy there is concern that Westerners know the law and what is permissible while visiting. Brand matters.

“The quack, the charlatan, the jingo, and the terrorist can flourish only where the public is deprived of independent access to information. But where all news comes at second-hand, where all testimony is uncertain, men cease to respond to truths and respond simply to opinions. The environment in which they act is not realities themselves but the pseudo-environment of reports, rumors, and guesses. The whole reference of thought comes to be what somebody asserts and not what actually is.” Walter Lippman, Liberty and the News

Media and influence – what is covered and what isn’t – will continue to be important issues as times continue to change.