View Full Version : Ramadan PR: US-funded Muslim ads on Malaysian TVs

06-11-2002, 07:47 AM
Wednesday, November 6, 2002

<FONT SIZE="+1">US Muslim ad drive 'a waste of time'</FONT>
US must realise that its foreign policy upsets Muslims
and not how it treats its Muslims at home, clerics say

By Leslie Lau

AN ADVERTISING campaign by the United States aimed at reaching out to the Islamic world is just a waste of time as long as Washington's foreign policy remains unchanged, Muslim leaders in Malaysia said of a series of one-minute documentaries on the lives of Muslim Americans that is being aired here.

<img src="http://www.straitstimes.com.sg/mnt/media/image/launched/2002-11-06/6mal.jpg" align="left"> The happy Muslim American family is exemplified by schoolteacher Rawia Ismael and her family members in her kitchen in Ohio, in one of the video shorts. -- AP

Beginning yesterday, Malaysian television began airing a series of 'mini-documentaries', on the life of Muslims living in the US.

The advertisements, paid for by the US State Department, features interviews with ordinary Muslim Americans telling their stories about living as a Muslim in the US.

'These mini-documentaries are aimed at dispelling misconceptions Muslims may have about the United States because there are many preconceptions Muslims may have all over the world,' Mr Karl Stoltz, the public affairs counselor of the US embassy here told The Straits Times.

But an Umno Youth leader, Datuk Nur Mohamed Jazlan, calls the campaign a shallow attempt at portraying a softer stance with Muslims.

'The US has finally realised that there are other people in the world. This is probably being done now because of opposition to their campaign against Iraq,' he told The Straits Times.

He said that while what is portrayed in the documentary shorts may be genuine, the US must realise that it is Washington's foreign policy that upsets Muslims and not its domestic policy.

He was referring to, among others, the US support for Israel despite the latter's occupation of Palestinian lands.

Former academic Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi feels that the US is probably wasting its money. 'This is just a public relations blitz. They are wasting their time.'

He said Muslims over the world are angry because they perceive the US as a superpower that abandoned them.

Despite whatever good intentions the US may have in the campaign, he said Malaysia's Muslims had access to the Internet and alternative news networks like the Al-Jazeera news network that showed the plight of Muslims in Palestine and Chechnya.

'We can see the brutality that goes on against Muslims but the US does not do anything. So it is going to be very hard for them to change their image among Muslims,' said Dr Azman, an MP from Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

The airing of the series began last week in Indonesia and will also be shown in other Muslim countries like Pakistan and in the Middle East.

They are timed to coincide with the Ramadan fasting month, which begins today in Malaysia and Singapore.

It is part of an initiative by the Council of American Muslims for Understanding (Camu) to initiate dialogue and an exchange of ideas between US citizens and the rest of the world, say Weber Shandwick, the public relations company for the campaign.

Funded by the US State Department, Camu also has a website where US Muslims bear testimony to life there.

The series features individuals from teachers and entrepreneurs to academics whose lives, according to the introduction to the shorts, 'demonstrate the great richness and diversity of the American Muslim experience'.