This evening I watched a wonderful, informative and challenging TEDtalk by Bobby Ghosh: “Why global jihad is losing.” This is an important TEDtalk to watch for several reasons. (It was filmed in September 2012.) According to his official TED bio:

Bobby Ghosh is an Editor-at-Large at Time magazine, where he covers conflict, global affairs and the Middle East. He was the magazine’s Baghdad bureau chief for five years.

Several things stood out for me from Bobby’s remarks.

First of all, he pointed out that Al Jazeera has played and continues to play a HUGE role in discrediting the cause of “violent jihad” and “Bin Ladenism” because it provides transparency in reporting the realities of current events in the Middle East. Bobby points out that traditional, state-run media channels in the Middle East in the past largely served to KEEP INFORMATION FROM the people, instead of bringing it to them. I think many people in the United States have big misconceptions about Al Jazeera as a mouthpiece for extremism and al-Qaeda specifically. Are we talking about these issues in our current events and social studies classes in schools? This is an outstanding TEDtalk, and if you share it with your students it could provoke some extremely important conversations about Al Jazeera specifically, the “global war on terror,” the meaning of jihad, and other issues. One important thing Internet access and digital tools in the hands of learners in schools SHOULD mean is the use of multiple, alternative sources of NEWS and information from around the world. Do your students know about Al Jazeera and the role they continue to play in shaping opinions throughout the Middle East? If your students are in sixth grade or a higher grade, they SHOULD. Use this TED talk to provoke conversations and further investigation about these issues.

The second standout point from this talk for me regards Arab Spring. While recent events in Egypt might seem depressing and suggest that the events which started in December 2010 and have continued since and forced multiple leaders to step down from power are not bearing lasting fruit, Bobby suggests differently. He points out the demonstration effect of Arab Spring to thousands of young people throughout the Middle East has been “an alternative road” to change governments and effect change outside of violence in the name of Islam. This is HUGE. I am not an expert on these issues by any means, but I certainly had my ideas about Arab Spring challenged last year when I visited Qatar. See my podcast from Qatar in October 2011, “A Digital Witness in Tahrir Square, Egypt in January 2011″ as well as the 60 minute audio podcast of Amy Sanders’ presentation, “Global Collaboration” at the March 16, 2012, professional development day at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine. I originally posted a Cinch recording of that presentation, but since Cinch went offline I republished that talk (with March 2012 permission from Amy, of course) to my “Fuel for Educational Change Agents” podcast channel. The best media artifact from my visit to Qatar in October 2011 is probably this six minute video on YouTube, “Reflections on Unlimited Petroleum Wealth from the Persian Gulf.” I wish I’d had more opportunities to process and further develop my own understanding of Arab Spring and the seismic changes continuing to rock the Middle East following this trip, but I unfortunately did not. Perhaps some of these media recordings can provoke further investigation and research by you and your students about these issues.

The third standout point from Bobby’s talk for me regarded extremism, and is the reason for the title I’ve given this post. Bobby highlighted how in so many different countries today, governments (often with encouragement from the United States, admittedly) are opposing extremism. It made me think of the way here in the United States, we’ve allowed and continue to allow extremist groups like the Tea Party movement to define politics in many respects. We should not do this. In the spirit of Federalist 10, we should always be mindful and respectful of minority opinions and voices, but we should not permit extremist voices to steer the course of our nation. Bobby’s talk not only made me think more about the role of “new media” in shaping global perceptions about Islam and jihad, it also made me wonder about the continuing evolution of governments in the Middle East as well as in my country, the United States.

This is a great TED talk and well worth your time to both watch and share with your students. Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of the issues here. Few people would claim to have a mastery over the issues involved in the global war on terror, jihad as defined by Osama Bin Laden, Arab Spring, or extremism in US politics. Our lack of “complete mastery” over these subjects should not impede us from sharing these issues and leading discussions about them with our students. We are not only citizens of our local municipalities, states, and nations, but also of our planet. We need to help our students (and strive ourselves) to be more globally aware and literate. Great videos like this one from TED can help us achieve that goal.

For additional perspectives from Bobby on these subjects, see the follow-up post to his TEDtalk on the TED blog, “An uphill battle to reclaim “jihad”: A Q&A with Bobby Ghosh.”

'Why Conservatives Should Watch Al Jazeera' photo (c) 2012, KAZ Vorpal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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  • http://twitter.com/RabbiRoss Aaron Ross

    Love the post in general, but have an issue with this quote:

    “we’ve allowed and continue to allow extremist groups like the Tea Party movement to define politics in many respects. We should not do this. In the spirit of Federalist 10, we should always be mindful and respectful of minority opinions and voices, but we should not permit extremist voices to steer the course of our nation”

    The tea party movement was started as a grassroots effort against Obamacare. Media reports of violence or racism by Tea Party protests inevitably turned out to be false. Contrast that with the violence this week by union groups in Michigan or the lawlessness of the Occupy protests all over the country. This is your blog, and you are entitled to espouse whatever politics you prefer, but let’s at least be fair about it.

  • Ben Harwood

    Al Jazeera is one of the best news sources in the World. I learn so much from following

    @AJEnglish

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