Media and Islam: Al Jazeera

For many Americans, Al Jazeera is probably the most well-known and most misunderstood news organization from the Muslim world. Launched in Arabic in 1996 by the Emir of Qatar, a tiny country in the Persian Gulf, Al Jazeera‘s ambition is to become an independent and influential television network on the scope and caliber of BBC and CNN International. It became hugely popular yet controversial in Arab countries because of its many confrontational talk shows, but few Americans paid much attention to it until after the 9/11 attacks when Al Jazeera aired statements by Osama bin Laden. It’s hard for Americans to trust Al Jazeera and it was hard for me, too.  I suspected that an Arab news organization would have an inherent bias. I doubted that a  TV network sponsored by a government, a non-democratic government, could be truly independent. The suspicion was hard to get rid of when I couldn’t receive or understand Al Jazeera‘s broadcast. Continue reading

Islamic College in America

zaytuna-collegeWhen choosing the right college to attend, not many people think of an Islamic college. That’s about to change. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, two prominent Muslim scholars, are planning to create the first accredited Islamic college in the United States, to be called Zaytuna College. The goal of the college is to teach Arabic and Islamic studies in the context of American culture. The founders argue that the Muslim American community is in need of scholars who not only are familiar with American culture, but actually come out of it and thus will be much more in tune with the needs of the community. Continue reading