“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?