The following video is about the current Arms Trade Treaty that I helped produce at United Nations in NY.
The following video is about the current Arms Trade Treaty that I helped produce at United Nations in NY.
The following video is part of the recent NYC soda ban that I assistant produced for Al-Jazeera Arabic. Arabic text and the English translation below.
Supreme Court of New York overturned by a judicial decision mayor the day before the effect. The resolution bans the sale of large packaging soda drinks in restaurants and mobile food vans and sports stadiums. Judgment represents a victory may be temporary for manufacturers of beverages industry, which manages more than seventy-five billion dollars.
Murad Hashim / Island / New York
Media, undeniably, is a dominant structure of power. It contains the authority to influence, mold, shape and develop ideas ranging from commercialized news to streaming propaganda. With an unlimited outreach and an ever growing audience, the media is not an institution that is expected to die out anytime soon.
However, what most people don’t realize is that controlling the media is not the only form of power. In fact, it is media literacy that has transformed into an unraveling form of true empowerment, a skill so critical that rarely is it ever implemented within society. The commodity continues to be so greatly underrated and infrequently used to the point that as individuals, we fail to differentiate between simply consuming media and consuming it critically. Therefore media literacy is no longer a skill, but it becomes a necessity.
Before being able execute the concept, one must visibly define and comprehend the notion of media literacy. The idea is composed of a repertoire of skills that allows an individual to not only absorb the millions of message around them, but to evaluate, analyze and reproduce that content in an educated and indulgent matter. Critical analysis also includes examining construction techniques, patterns of media representation as well as detecting propaganda, censorship, and bias. Understanding what is happening around you is one thing, asking why it is and who it telling that story is another.
In an age where education is strongly emphasized, it is crucial to prevent an institution to instill one’s morals, values and ideas. For wasn’t the holocaust justified through the power of propaganda? Aren’t drones acceptable since the American media initially refused to report its tragic effects on civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia? Didn’t various Middle Eastern countries, starting with Egypt, attempt to censor its media during the birth of the Arab spring?
Therefore one can only reinforce the true power of media literacy. Its capabilities are beyond than just reporting, but it obtains the supremacy to oppress, free, educate or destroy humanity, as whole or on an individual basis. Questioning what we hear and where these sources are coming from must be conditioned into our daily consumption. For what may seem like the truth now, may not necessarily prove to be as such 50 years from now. Look back, our history only seems to prove us that point exactly.
And consequently so, with the thousands of flourishing messages constantly being fed into the human brain of what is considered acceptable in society ranging from body image to political secrecy; it has become more crucial than ever to be aware of our surroundings.
Because if you don’t think for yourself, the media will think for you.
1,468 words. 9 hours and 3 cups of coffee later, and all I had written was 1,468 words. I slammed my laptop shut and sighed. This paper was definitely not progressing, I thought to myself. It was time to call it a night.
I quickly packed up my things and wished my friends the best of luck on their school work. It was finals and everyone was piling up on readings and solving their last equations during the little time they had left. I would normally include myself into that category, but there was just so much on my mind. Academics was not a priority right now.
So I decided to do what I did best when my thoughts overpowered my learning abilities: I run.
Running provided me with an outlet that nothing else could. I didn’t run for the exercise and I sure didn’t run for the pleasure. But I ran to think and I ran to forget.
I also cannot run just anytime. But it had to be under such strict circumstances in order for it to be considered productive. Most importantly, it had to be cold. And not just 50 degree weather, let me bundle up with a hoodie type of cold. It meant cold enough for my body to lose physical feelings within the first 60 seconds of just standing outside.
Irrational, but it was my requirement.
And so without a second thought, I quickly changed, grabbed my ear phones and escaped outside. Running is not a new concept for me, I ran all the time. I knew exactly what each run meant to me for they varied. Some were very emotional and so I’d cry and run. Some were steady, a planned run with a set goal and a set time. And some runs were mental, I ran because I was frustrated. Each run was set perfectly to its mood and a playlist. It had to be just right.
I paced my every breath with every footstep and heartbeat until the rhythm of my body was synchronized with my thoughts. I mentally raced each passing vehicle, every bird and anything that moved. Everything was competition. My thoughts alone were competition. So I increased the volume of my music until I couldn’t hear anything around me and continued running. I’d figure it out later, I thought.
But for some reason, I couldn’t figure out why I was running. I wasn’t emotional, stressed or prepping for a marathon. Why was I running? Things didn’t quite make sense and so out of frustration, I picked up my pace and ran faster. Like a machine, my legs began to furiously speed up as I perfectly paced my 90 degree arms alongside of me. I dodged every pedestrian like racing bullets and jumped every broken sidewalk. I ran until my chest began to rapidly tighten as less and less air was barely making it through my nose and out of my mouth. My stomach began to heat up frantically as I felt every organ inside of me about rip apart. It was hitting me that I was losing my synchronization. I couldn’t run anymore, instead I was breaking.
So I stopped and toppled myself onto the top of the nearest picnic table, struggling to fathom what just happened. I ripped out my earphones and abruptly shut off the loud music. Exhausted, I attempted to regain my breath, allowing for my body to settle as the cold air began to hit me. For a moment I forgot how cold it really was as I felt my face burning up. Everything began to tingle as each body part screeched in numbness. There was so much going on. My head was clouded with so much noise.
But as my body began to settle, it all eventually stopped. Everything. There was not a soul in the street, not a passing car nor any sign of any type worldly existence. The only noise in that moment was coming from me, the panting of my own breath. I couldn’t listen it for some reason it just felt so painstakingly loud. So I held it in momentarily and tried to not think but to simply listen. But what I heard was absolute nothingness. An abyss of silence that so soothingly peaceful.
In the midst of it all, I realized that I was the one causing the noise and the chaos. I was the one who brought upon the disruption. Through every infuriating and exasperating moment of frustration, it was all simply because of me. I was my own enemy.
I calmed my breathing and decided to stop trying to find logic. I had to let everything go, so I did, and in that second, I felt my thoughts ooze out of my ears and my shoulders come to rest. I wasn’t so tense anymore, only immersed within the silence.
My run didn’t go according to plan. It had no distinct purpose. But that was okay because I didn’t need to make logic of a sight that was already so perfectly beautiful. Things were in place so why question it?
And just like that, the sound of nothing, helped me answer everything.
Flip on the TV and observe the following headlines:
Child Killed in Local Community. Country Falls Into a Civil War. Natural Disaster Destroys Homes. World Poverty Rises.
The overabundance of news constantly sending out messages of causalities, emergencies and worldwide obstacles. It becomes too much, some say. Why depress yourself? Today was like yesterday, and it will continue tomorrow.
So just turn it off. Cut it out. The news is just too depressing. Ignorance is bliss.
The images of dead bodies, the screams of children and the guilty void of hopelessness becomes overbearing. So with power of one finger, the OFF button becomes our escape from reality.
And poof, it’s all gone. No more crying children, no more blood, no more poverty, no more guilt. Our flat screen TV’s, gleaming smart phones and HD radio’s are all off. Ignorance is truly bliss.
But on the opposite side of the world, where is the off button? Where is this magical square miracle that one can press and the sight of the dead father, the raped mother, the hungry child and the demolished homes can simply vanish? Where is it?
For our ignorance is their reality.
For our mute buttons cannot mute the cries of the raped woman in Afghanistan. It cannot mute the bombs in Syria. Our mute button cannot mute the screams of the starving children in Africa.
Our OFF button that so fortunately turned our TV screens black from the bloodly battles in Palestine and the human trafficking in the Philippines is the same blackness that is seen in Pakistan when they lose electricity every night.
For then is ignorance truly bliss?
“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”
And although you may have the luxury of closing your eyes and ears, let it not come to the point where we close our hearts. Desensitizing to one another’s struggle is not the solution, in fact, is only adds to the problem.
So instead of pressing your OFF button, you may want to turn UP the volume. Turn it UP so you may begin a discussion with those around you, educate. Turn it UP so that you may learn new ways to help them, donate. Turn it UP so that you may find resources to become part of the solution, communicate.
For the world’s problems may never end, no one said it was meant to be perfect. But at the end of the day, it is our world. If the roles were switch, wouldn’t you want someone to hear you out, or would you rather be turned OFF?
Just because you can, don’t. For ignorance is no longer bliss, it becomes darkness, just like your turned OFF television screen.
It was a typical Friday afternoon back on campus. I was at work, finishing up loose ends for the week. Focused, I continued to race the clock as I placed an order for my last textbook, grabbed the last sheets from the copier for my supervisor all while attempting to catch up with my mom on the phone. Multi-tasking became more than just a skill, it was a necessary habit acquired to get through my days, especially when my day revolved around international news. I was discussing with my mom the recent protests in the Middle East that recently sparked over an anti-Islamic film titled Innocence of Muslims. The film was first announced to be produced by Sam Bacile, a Jewish Israeli citizen living in California. However, later reports discovered Bacile was simply an alias and the filmmaker was Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a militant Coptic Christian. With the funding of Steven Klien, both men claimed to be “counter-Jihadist.”
The film that that can be found on YouTube angered Muslims across the Middle East resulting in violent attacks on the United States Consulate and the death of US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. Since then, the world has been glued to their TV channels, radio stations and online news sites with the terms “Muslim” “violence” and “angry” being headline one word after the other.
It wasn’t until a pause in my mom’s voice did my racing thoughts momentarily stop. “Rowaida, I’m not going to get the position,” she said softly referencing her upcoming job interview. “With everything that’s going on, I wouldn’t even want to hire me.”
I listened attentively to my mom’s heartbroken voice. For years, Muslims across the world have struggled with media image and representation. Every day has become a struggle to prove that Muslims were “peaceful” people. That Al-Qaida did not represent “us” and “we” valued love, democracy and coexistence like anyone else. But with the running headlines and images of Muslims breaking into governmental buildings and burning down the flag, the Muslim population has only fallen two steps backwards to the one step forward.
Ever since I was young, my mother has always emphasized the importance of modeling good character through our everyday behavior. “You are Muslim,” she would say. “If you want to show people, act like one.”
A friend of mine had put it nicely on Facebook the other day. She pointed out that “the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, was stoned, exiled, had the intestines of animals thrown on him while he prayed – he was no stranger to people’s insults or abuse- at what point does he ever retaliate by becoming violent, by killing the other person?”
As the Quran states:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace” [25:63]
The film nonetheless was nothing but merely a poorly conducted series of deception, lies and blatant disrespect. However, instead of focusing on the maybe 0.7% of Muslims that did protest, it is vital to look at the bigger picture. Everyone has the right to peacefully protest but violence-driven political exploitation must be avoided. Until the mainstream media is able to distinguish political strategies from religious beliefs and recognize that we all flaw as humans, we should strive to react positively, and to keep an educated and keen eye to what is being fed to the general public.
The directors of the film do not represent the greater United States just as any terrorist organization doesn’t represent the Muslims across the globe. Perhaps there’s something greater to this film fueling such violent reactions in the Middle East and just perhaps there’s a larger part of the story that we aren’t being told during our 7AM news. But even so, its more important to recognize that an insult to a religion has been made, a reaction was stirred and a progressive movement needs to be taken. The Middle East has witnessed centuries of instability with and without external interferences, a YouTube film shouldn’t be the reason the region goes up in flames.
No one is perfect and so until the day comes where our different beliefs is no longer the reason political leaders drive us apart, justify the murder our families and ruin the image of Muslims everywhere, we must overcome this experience, one moment at a time.
It was a hot sunny day as cars were screeching down the highway. Trucks were swerving left and right as pedestrians ran across the street. My close friend quickly pulled over to the side of the road, parked the car and looked at me. “Are you ready?” she asked.
I put on my reflective sunglasses providing me with the strong sense of anonymity. Looking into someone’s eyes is a dominant passageway of reading emotion. I wasn’t going to have that. I took a deep breath and nodded. It was time.
We stepped onto the busy highway, immediately feeling the sun’s heat on our faces. Ahead was a metal stairway and up above was my destination. The George Washington Bridge.
I felt my body begin to tremble, as I grasped onto the hot metal railing, pulling myself upward. The honks and screeches of the racing cars grew louder, the sun rays burned through my skin and the thoughts in my head began to escape. We began to walk towards the center of the bridge, dodging cyclists and runners. My friend plugged in her iPod as the wind became stronger and the noise grew louder. I felt the bridge under my feet rumble so violently that I couldn’t differentiate between the thumping of my heart and the shift of the bridge’s surface.
With every step towards the center, it became harder to breathe. I didn’t know what I was doing, or why I was there. Around me I saw signs. “You’re Not Alone,” one said. “In Crisis? Call the Life-Net hotline” said the other. I began to wonder how many people must have had to jumped in order for those signs to go up.
Finally at the center, I looked out to the view in front of me. Clasping tightly to the railing, blocking out the screams of the rolling tires and momentarily forgetting the blazing heat, I gazed out to the horizon of river and silently observed very ounce of water ahead of me. I followed the water with my eyes as the waves swarmed under the bridge until I was looking directly below me. It must have been at least 500 feet. It was a long way down.
I quickly turned around and watched as each vehicle sped by. For a moment, I saw my life flash across my eyes, as each car and each truck represented a portion of my life; my family, my academics, my friends, my career, and so on. They were all on the same journey, rushing towards the same direction. But there I was, disconnected, watching it all go by from the sideline. All my life I’ve been trying to perfect these areas, hoping to fix every broken patch in my life. If I were to jump in front of any of these moving cars, surely I’d die instantaneously. Instead of fixing the patch, I would have killed myself.
And that’s when it hit me. All my life I’ve been jumping in front of each car, attempting to fix every part of my life that may have beyond me in exchange of hurting myself. I’ve brought negligence onto my own life, failing to realize that just like I couldn’t stop these cars, I also can’t stop the amount of unexpected struggles that will come along on my journey. I’d have to step aside and let them pass. Some of these cars will crash on their own, and some will make it to their destination. But they’d have to do without me. I’d have to watch them drive by. For isn’t that what life’s all about? Struggles and obstacles that we attempt to fix , even if it mean risking our own well-being? But like the screeching cars and trucks on the highway, life simply, moves on.
And so I turned back towards the edge of the bridge facing the horizon of the water and the city. Every person that came here, did they realize this? That life was one major highway of life obstacles and experiences rushing by. Maybe some did and embraced it. While others, decided to take a leap of faith, literally. I held on tighter to the iron rail as the noise level once more began to rise. For a moment, I couldn’t handle everything that was going on in my life. I couldn’t stop these cars. I felt a lump in my throat as tears began to fall down my cheek under my large reflexive sunglasses. I felt lost and alone despite the signs behind me. I felt a loss of control on my life, just as helpless of not being able to stop the speeding cars. I sobbed uncontrollably as the bridge continued to shake beneath me. What made me any different from anyone who jumped before me?
So, I did let go of the railing.
But instead, I let go and walked in the opposite direction. I looked at my friend knowing she couldn’t see behind my large shades and into my cried, red eyes and smiled, signaling that it was time to go.
I didn’t jump. But my burdens did. And so I left it all behind as I walked in the same direction as the traffic, with every car, every truck, every experience, every struggle. All in that moment, everything was moving along, and I wasn’t going to stop it.