Friday, September 10, 2010

To Burn or not to Burn, Is that really the Question?

“If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed

Mohammad Mukhtar, an Islamic cleric and author of the above statement, is only one man but he is one of many who see this book burning as a controversial and offensive action not only to Muslims but to all of the Middle East.  But where does the problem actually exist? So we must ask the questions, is the burning of the Koran the real problem or are the underlying issues at the core of this dispute?

It is easy for most to dismiss this previously anonymous pastor as just one man with a radical idea that the majority of Americans do not agree with.  However, this whole issue sparks the intense debate on the impact of mass media within international communication.  As Professor Gary Weaver, founding faculty member of the International Communications program at American University, explains 
[mass media] They easily convey images of the beheading of prisoners around the globe with an impact that is just as dramatic as blowing up a building in New York City. We have quickly realized the dramatic impact modern telecommunications is having throughout the world.”  
Although there is no direct comparison between the beheading of prisoners and the burning of the Koran, we can still see the impact that media has played in promoting these messages in the international arena.  Thousands of demonstrators from Indonesia and Afghanistan have protested, the US government has official denounced this pastors actions, members from all faiths have come together to denounce this message of hate and all have used mass media in order to bring their message to the forefront. 

In recent years the United States has begun to implement more public and cultural diplomacy efforts through media, yet in all those efforts one man can make a huge uproar in the international arena.  International communication is at the heart of international relations, and ultimately this leads to cross cultural understanding, yet my question I must ask, how do we use the impact of mass media in a more dynamic and effective way to encourage this cross-cultural understanding?

1 comment:

  1. I think the kind of debate that the pastor's proposed plan to burn copies of the Qura'an can help in cross-cultural understanding. But it depends on the role of the media how to guide this debate towards an understanding among the diverse population of the US and among the nations of the world.
    It was the global uproar, magnified by the mass media, that forced the pastor to shelve his planned protest. The role of the media becomes all the more important in a crisis situation because communities and country communicate with each other through the mass media.
    The mass media, instead of playing up such issues, should educate the rest of the world that the church that the pastor, Terry Jones, does not speak for the whole American society; he heads only 50 people. Similarly, the forces that are bent on harming the U.S. and its people are a minuscule of the Muslim community. But the acts of these few on both sides are creating a yawing gap between the so-called East and West. The role of the media is to bridge this gap, not to increase it. And it can be done by creating cross-cultural understanding.