Remembering Anthony Shadid (1968-2012)


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On September 1st, 2011, late journalist & NYT foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid came to speak to UCF students about his recent escapades in the Middle East, namely his most recent experiences in Libya, where Shadid recalled being taken hostage with two other associates for three days.

I am grateful to say I had the opportunity to sit in on his speech. I was even able to meet with Shadid shortly after his speech during which I introduced myself. He was quick to smile with news that I am Syrian. I purchased his most recent book, Night Draws Near, in which he left me a little note, perhaps a little naive in hindsight, or just rashly hopeful as all Arabs tend to be. “See you in Damascus,” he uttered.

Anthony Shadid reminded me what it means to be an Arab, aside from the ordinary customs, our cuisine, language music and traditions. Anthony Shadid reminded me that at the heart of being Arab is the nature of resilience; our ability to laugh and chuckle even amidst the darkest of chaos. I vaguely remember a story told to me by close friend of mine, a Palestinian political activist from Ramallah, Tami Rafidi. Rafidi, whose husband was taken captive by Israeli forces never to be returned, embodied this resilience. Despite her frustrations; anger & suffering, Rafidi recalled memories of running wildly along the rugged Palestinian terrain dodging Israel fire while laughing, telling jokes & drinking the famous Arab liquor – ‘arak’.

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In 2006, when Israel began bombing Hezbollah sites in Lebanon, the Lebanese people were seeking refuge by day; clubbing relentlessly by night. Despite all the misery and control, the Arabs found a way; an outlet.

It is Tami’s resilience, the resilience of the Lebanese people, which echoed the sentiments of Anthony Shadid, who did not stop short of asserting during his speech: “At the heart of the Arab struggle is Palestine, a very dear subject for the Arab & Muslim world. This cannot be understated.”

I admire this man for his courage and resolve.

In 2012, during a trip to Syria where he was capturing stories about the ensuing conflict in the region, Shadid suffered what appeared to be a asthma attack. Shortly after Shadid passed. I was shocked by the news. Without any history of medical complications except for minor sensitivities to allergens, Shadid was not on course for any type of health issues.

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I remember having met his daughter at the time of his speech. She was quite young, very polite & beautiful. My prayers and thanks are with her, wherever she may be, for having had such an amazing man as a father. My dream is to honor his legacy and the struggle of the Arab people all over the world, which he represented so well.

I did not want to go into any details or elaborate on the possibility of foul-play regarding Shadid’s death, out of respect for him & his family. I will add, however that with regards to the Middle East, there is without a doubt an unrelenting fear among journalists, dissidents or activists of any sort, of persecution for propagating legitimate news, especially if it poses a threat to the interests of particular political actors. His bodies of work, including the aforementioned book, shows no restraint in exposing the consequences of the US government’s disastrous policies which would usher in violent instability & chaos that has yet to conclude, even a decade after the US initiated the invasion.

I pray that in the case of Shadid, his passing was a matter of fate and nature. Nonetheless, his legacy remains & the struggle for Arab dignity continues.

RIP Anthony Shadid. Thank you. May the children of Iraq see justice one day. Long live the Arab struggle for freedom & may Palestine one day be free!

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Faux-News: Balancing News Coverage in the US Media-Mainstream


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The reason why most immigrants to the US are less inclined to believe lies on US media channels is because they have more experience in the outer world.

That is why when US media outlets inflame the crimes of violent groups like al Qaeda and ISIS, it almost makes us laugh because in our eyes, we know that none of these groups are Islamic and that the real perpetrators are in fact some of America’s closest allies, like Saudi Arabia & Israel. The problem is the US has much at stake, economically and in its reputation. American politicians & corporate execs are involved.

That is why when the Daily Beast posts headlines about the crucifixion of babies by ISIS, it upsets me because this in fact serves ISIS’ goal of garnering attention and slandering Islam.

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Article link here: http://thebea.st/1CZQRv8

Why don’t CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, Daily Beast, or even Al Jazeera America broadcast the international crimes committed by the apartheid state of Israel on a daily basis? Where are the journalists and the news broadcasts and the full fledged reports about the causes of income-inequality inside and outside America? Instead all we hear about is the dangers of “Islamic terror”, the urgency of blind, self-righteous American patriotism and unquestionable support for indiscriminate international security measures. Instead, we get stories about Iggy Azalea and Suge Knight. Instead we get headlines titled Je Suis Charlie.

Well Je Suis Ahmed Merabet. Je Suis Mike Brown. Je Suis Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. Je Suis Eric Garner. Je Suis Rachel Corrie. Je Suis Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

The forces of imperialism currently being incited right now to destabilize universal concepts of national sovereignty, international peace and cooperation are the following: Zionism, Wahhabism, Communism, Anarcho-Capitalism, Libertarianism, Turkish Fascism & Ottoman Expansionism, White Supremacy.

We need fair coverage of world events in the US. Europe isn’t as bad as I’ve heard from peers, friends and family. But considering the US is the most influential country on the planet, for better and/or worse, it is urgent that we get a fair display of what is going on in the world here on American soil. It is hard enough for us political scientists who aren’t willing to compromise truth for the sake of riches to maintain our sanity let alone survive because the American economy isn’t very friendly to critics of its own politics. There isn’t anything un-American about it; though those in power might have you believe it does. In reality its just a group of Americans who benefit off media-bias, unfair coverage & imbalanced lobbying. It is of no coincidence that this group is likely white. Just afraid of a little competition…

The twentieth century allotted much of the global policing responsibility of the world to America. But just as England, Spain, Rome, and nearly all of history’s global empires overreached, so to has America; and the 21st century is finally time for the US to turn it down a notch. Protecting the world from extremism has turned into an impetus for exploitation.

While communism and extreme statist policies were viewed as the enemy of global stability; the 21st century has ushered in a new force of evil; anarchical capitalism. The King of Morocco once said, “capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin.” I agree. Being a mixed economist myself, I have relinquished any desire to associate myself objectively with any particular ideology. This highlights the dynamic of the Vietnam War per se during which the US viewed Communism as a global threat therein being blinded by its own imperial ambitions. The same is true for Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion; the product of that debacle was the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the Taliban and al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden himself with close ties to the Saudi monarchy.

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The problem is there is large disconnect between the US government, Big Banks, and the American people, exacerbated by a culture and tradition of self-righteous Republicanism. Why Americans Hate Welfare, by Martin Gilens, shows how failure on behalf of the media to accurately and fairly portray the socio-economic realities within the US not only leaves the issue of economic inequality unaddressed but largely perpetuates the misery of the impoverished classes by distorting their image and the root causes of their suffering to begin with. This same principle ought to be applied to US coverage of foreign affairs which leaves various groups and communities like Arabs, Armenians, Africans, Palestinians and Native-Americans disenfranchised altogether; without a voice.

I believe only through democratic collective initiatives and progressive movements can we put pressure on politicians and the media to address public concerns. Let us honor the legacies of our predecessors like Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. who strove to balance the rights of all men in this world by fighting and protesting peacefully until our voices are heard.

Part I: Barbara Walters & Bashar al-Assad


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was recently interviewed by American journalist Barbara Walters in the first official interview by a western journalist since Syria became the center of international attention last February.

Walters asked Assad if he believed he still had the support of his people after having commanded what the international community has referred to as a brutal crackdown on “peaceful protesters”.

“I believe the majority of the people are in the middle,” he responded.

Walters then referred to specific incidents within Syria. She mentioned pictures and videos released on the internet showing people being shot and killed, and rumors of children being kidnapped and mutilated.

“How do you know this is true?” he responded. “Have you verified these pictures? I visited the family of the boy [who you said was kidnapped and tortured] and his father told me his child was not tortured.”

Walters told Assad that the United Nations had evidence of the Syrian government committing crimes against humanity.

“Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” he responded defiantly.

Al-Assad suggested that outside forces were responsible for inciting the uprising in Syria.

Even ordinary people inside and outside of Syria have questioned the validity of the videos and pictures on the internet.

They often ask questions like:

“Why aren’t we seeing videos of pro-Assad demonstrations? Why don’t we hear about the number of pro-Assad Syrians being killed? How do we know these uprisings are not incited by extremists and neighboring interest groups?”

Later on in the interview, Walters asked the president why Syria had an ambassador to the United Nations if it were indeed an illegitimate institution.

Al-Assad chuckled.

“It is a game we have to play,” he replied.

When the interview concluded, Walters described her overall outlook on the president.

“He is soft spoken. He is calm. He answered every question…”

“He is not as grim as Mubarak, and he is not crazy like Gaddafi.”

Before going to Damascus, Walters was told not to leave her residence. She was cautioned that it was a very dangerous atmosphere and that her life could be threatened.

But based on her direct personal experience, Walters said that she faced no such danger. Things seemed to be carrying on as usual in Damascus.

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Author’s Note: The original interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad was much longer than what was made available to viewers. I found to this be unfair, biased, and completely unprofessional on the side of ABC and Walters herself. Although I believe she did a great job, I do think that the entire interview should be made available for viewers in order for them to form their own perspectives and opinions.