I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
I made the mistake of watching the tea-time news with the in-laws today. It was on Australia’s Channel 9, which is Murdoch-owned, but I didn’t know that at the time or I should have known it’d be bobbins.
I should also have gotten suspicious when they announced their Europe correspondent was covering the current uprising in Egypt. Errr… I know the media is under-resourced at the moment (well, bits of it are, but given News International’s profits you’da thunk Channel 9 could have afforded maybe even a ‘Middle East’ correspondent).
So, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when the pasty muppet of a ‘Europe correspondent’ (in Cairo) called Mohammed El-Baradei the ‘head of the Muslim Brotherhood.’ El-Baradei, for the record, is the pretty secular, liberal former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. He’s been leading a campaign for political change in Egypt since about spring last year. As I understand the situation, the Muslim Brotherhood are one of a plethora of (pretty establishment) Egyptian organisations which have endorsed El-Baradei’s leadership of a loose opposition coalition, and he is very far from ‘leading’ them. I can’t imagine the Muslim Brotherhood are huge fans of some of the things that El-Baradei has to say, but since he looks to many people like the most likely candidate for replacing Mubarak, I guess they want to have a foot in the door. There are various useful bits of analysis of el-Baradei’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood here:
‘ElBaradei: No reverse in Egypt’, Al-Jazeera English, January 2011
‘Opposition Leader ElBaradei: Threat of Muslim Brotherhood Is A ‘Myth’ Lacking ‘One Iota Of Reality’’, ThinkProgress, January 2011
‘ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood Offer Political Path Out of Egyptian Confrontation’, UrukNet, January 2011
‘Muslim Brotherhood snubs ElBaradei, will run in parliament elections’, Palestine Note, October 2010
‘Muslim Brotherhood says it will back ElBaradei campaign’, BBC, June 2010
‘Conflict arises in Egypt opposition over ElBaradei’s leadership, Muslim Brotherhood’, Bikya Masr, March 2010
It’s not just the poor fact-checking implied in the Channel 9 slip which is significant. It needs to be put in the context of the knee-jerk reaction that many Westerners – including, I imagine, a lot of Channel 9 viewers – have when they hear the word ‘Muslim,’ especially in connection with the governance of Middle Eastern countries. I can imagine foaming reactions amongst the readership of certain lunatic Aussie websites which shall remain nameless, who will probably get it into their heads that Egypt is about to become a Wahhabi theocracy or Al-Qaeda in state form under El-Baradei’s command. Once upon a time, when the media made such boobs it was in nice printed format and you could write in with corrections, which got printed in an erratum section (or in the Guardian’s case, an errata section). I guess Channel 9 won’t be issuing corrections on tomorrow’s 5pm news slot.
In the meantime, Marcia Lynx Qualey, writing on ArabLit, has as usual some sane and interesting things to say about the relationship between literature and the political situation in Egypt and the wider Middle East.