Panel Addresses Conflict in the Middle East

Breanna Giovanniello

On Wednesday, September 26, students and faculty gathered in Love Auditorium to take part in a panel discussion on the Middle East hosted by the Peace and Conflict Studies Department. Associate Professor in history Noor-Aiman Khan organized a panel consisting of five professors from various departments all with a common interest in the Middle East. Senior Lecturer of Arabic Abdal- Ghaffar, Assistant Professor of Peace and Con-flict Studies Jacob Mundy, Assistant Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization Aisha Musa, Associate Professor of Po-litical Science Bruce Rutherford and Assistant Pro-fessor of Religion Aaron Spevack all shared their insights on current issues facing the Middle East.

The panelists focused a large portion of the discussion on a controversial YouTube video circulating the web, “Innocence of Muslims.”

Panelists agreed that the video was a deliberate attempt to offend. The provocative video mocks Muhammad and Muslim culture. The movie trig-gered mass protests in Muslim-majority countries and is believed to be the cause of the murder of United States ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The Professors on the panel discussed how the video had been online for months before it actually went viral. Professor Musa claimed that the film only caught the attention of the public when it was translated into Egyptian and Arabic and highlighted on the news in those countries. She also believes that a main reason the video was so inflammatory was because it offends ones identity; it insults an entire culture and hit home for so many people. Professor Ruth-erford raised the question of censorship and how it plays a role in all of this. YouTube temporarily restricted access to the video in certain countries due to outbreaks of violence. Rutherford claimed that this was a core difference between freedom in the United States and freedom in the Arab world. The video would not be prohibited in the United States because it is an act of free speech.

Professor Musa suggested that people pay less attention to hate ads and videos. These ads aren’t a big deal if people don’t make them out to be. According to Musa, the videos de-pend on our reactions so if we don’t spread them, they’ll just fizzle out rather than spark a fire.

Contact Breanna Giovanniello at [email protected]u.