Arab Press

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf on Islam, freedom of speech and global communication


This is a great talk from American Islamic scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf on issues surrounding global communication and Islam. He spoke after the YouTube video portraying the Prophet Mohammed caused so much offense in the Muslim world last year.

He makes some great points. First, he describes how Islamic scholars sometimes limit freedom of speech by labeling anything they disagree with as an insult to the prophet. He mentioned his own experience in which Islamic scholars said he needed to make public repentance for defending someone who had insulted the prophet. Yusuf said:

That certainly wasn’t my intention. But, I was pointing out a nuance. Well, we’re living in a world where nuance is no longer in our vocabularies. We are in the cartoon world of black and white. It’s not even color cartoons.

Fantastic point that could apply to some Islamic scholars as well as many segments of American society. In my opinion, Islamophobia and Islamic extremism are essentially two sides of the same coin.

He then goes on to discuss freedom of speech with some nuance. Yusuf discusses Holocaust denial laws, the confusion between the support for free speech vs. support for the specific speech, and the shifting perspectives on protection of reputation. Give it a listen.

By | April 29th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reflections on our RMAS conference

Our Role of the Media in Arab Societies at Zayed University in June was a resounding success. Journalists and experts from the region gathered to discuss the impact of media in the Arab world, the difficulties of reporting in this region, and the effects of the new media landscape on these issues.

Click on the video above to watch segments from our night panel that featured Emirati columnist Mishaal al Gergawi, CNN Arabic’s Caroline Faraj, the Brookings Institute’s Shadi Hamid and Al Arabiya’s Najib Bencherif. We had a lively debate about self-censorship in the Arab press, the proper role of journalists in the region and even discussed whether reporters should strive for objectivity. I plan to use this video and the other sessions to launch classroom discussions with my journalism students.

On the day of the conference, we were honored by an invitation from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. He invited us to his palace and spoke to us about the importance of our conference. Sheikh Nahyan said that new technologies meant the media can no longer control messages completely. He illustrated this point by mentioning that cell-phone photos of him at a recent event had quickly spread over social media.

The official state news agency, WAM, quoted the Sheikh as saying: “This technology will change the world.” And he added “that it would also help to make Governments more responsive.”

Sheikh Nahyan went on to say that the media owed it to the public to promote “understanding and tolerance.”

Well said.

By | August 23rd, 2011|Uncategorized|1 Comment