Posts Tagged ‘Aljazeera’

Indonesia is not a ‘Muslim country’

June 16, 2009

Al Jazeera is promoting a special program called “Hearts and Minds: the struggle for Indonesia’s soul” ahead of nation’s presidential election in July.


The show is off to a bad start in its promos, calling Indonesia “the world’s largest Muslim country.” Indonesia is not a “Muslim country” – it is a secular nation with the world’s largest Muslim population. An estimated 85-90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims. But there are more Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims in Indonesia than there are people in Australia, Sri Lanka, Scandinavia, or Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories combined.


Recognizing that significant minority, Indonesia’s founders made a conscious decision not to declare their nation a Muslim state, and voters have affirmed that decision in every election the country has held. Indonesia’s motto remains Unity in Diversity, not Allah Akbar.


Beginning with its misinformed “Muslim country” premise – whether due to poor preparation or ideological predisposition – Al Jazeerah’s special seems unlikely to shed useful light. Instead it will help Indonesia remain the greatest story never told.


Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. 

All Ahmadinejad, all the time

June 14, 2009

The most thoughtful and thought provoking show on CNN International in Asia these days is Fareed Zakaria GPS, airing Sunday night at 8pm Hong Kong time, a few hours before it’s shown in the US. This week, Zakaria’s program featured a segment on the Iranian election with a pair of Iran-born scholars and former top US Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross.

Rather than let us hear these smart people’s insights on Iran, CNN chose to continue its live feed of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s press conference complete with sycophantic questions and polemic replies – long after even Al Jazeera International dropped it. The network finally relented about 15 minutes into GPS’s scheduled broadcast time, so viewers enjoyed some of the panel’s intelligent analysis.

But after about 30 minutes, CNN decided we’d seen enough. It interrupted the program again, under the banner of “Breaking News,” not for more of the news conference or live pictures of protests by those disputing Ahmadinejad’s reported win. No, CNN interrupted GPS to bring us Christian Amanpour, who was at Ahmadinejad’s news conference, complete with snazzy red head scarf, to summarize what CNN International viewers had been forced to watch for most of the past two hours.

It wasn’t enough to see it once, we had to suffer through Amanpour blathering about this non-event. The insult to CNNI’s Asian viewers is multiplied because here, unlike other regions, GPS doesn’t have a reasonable rebroadcast time for us to see what we missed. Shame on CNN.

Former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen told America’s story to the world as a US diplomat and is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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