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Month: November 2022

Regulating Religious Expression in MENA

For the United States, the first amendment’ freedom of religion and the separation of church and state are two of its many fundamental beliefs and values. The MENA region however, has the highest percentage of nations with an official religion, most Islam, and is known for its strict regulation and censorship of religious expression. In these countries with an official religion, governance and Islam are combined: citizens are required to be Muslim, public worship by religions other than Islam is forbidden, and the distribution of non-Muslim materials such as the Bible or the Torah are illegal.

While doing my research, I was especially interested in how high or low levels of the population following the official religion affected the validity and reasonableness of the country’s level of regulating religious expression.

Let’s look at Algeria for an example. Algeria’s official religion is Islam, and the country is dominated by Muslims. In a country where 99% of its population is Muslim, I personally find it logical for the country to have high religious regulation in regard to preserving and following Islamic law. Naturally people wonder about the 1% of religious minorities? Is it fair for them that the country heavily censors religious expression?

Religious Affiliation in Algeria 2020 (Source: PEW Research Center)

Maybe the reason the country has such a high percentage of Muslim population, is because the high religious censorship has pushed other minorities out. Why live in a country where the entire state is based on a completely different religion than your own?


83 Nations Have Official State Religion or Favored Religion – Good Faith Media

Saudi Arabia – The World Factbook (cia.gov)

Religions in Algeria | PEW-GRF (globalreligiousfutures.org)

Religion in Algeria – Wikipedia

Anthony Borden’s ‘Journalism in Conflict: Reporting from Ukraine and Beyond’

I really enjoyed the Clarke Forum on ‘Journalism in Conflict: Reporting from Ukraine and Beyond’ with Anthony Borden. He discussed his experiences and the obstacles he faces as a journalist and war correspondent in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the current war in Ukraine.

During the Iraq War, Borden talked about how his ‘Institue for War and Peace & Reporting’ (IWPR) trained Iraqi officials to become journalists, working to build a network of local voices across Iraq. Where instead of shutting down extremists, the Iraqi journalists would present a different view of the conflict.

In Ukraine, there are many obstacles for journalists; the main challenge being Russia’s disinformation campaign, or its’ “big lie,” where the government readily lies to dodge any responsibility during the conflict. However, with the current digital age, specifically social media, war correspondents are able to cover events through nontraditional media sources and platforms like Twitter and TikTok. In fact, as we have seen in a lot of authoritarian countries, individuals in both Ukraine and Russia are also able to post images and videos during the conflict.

Another major challenge is data; some information is there, and some is not. On the one hand, the CNN effect means people around the world can see soldiers being killed in real-time, influencing how both citizens and policymakers interpret and respond to the war. On the other hand, a lot of information is not there because the government doesn’t allow for its collection; information such as gender, etc.

Thank you, Mr. Borden, for coming to Dickinson and talking with us! From now on, I will have a better understanding and appreciation for journalists and war correspondents!

The 2022 COP27 is in Egypt? The Same Egypt with Heavy Censorship and Thousands of Political Prisoners?

The COP27 is currently being held in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Egypt is the fifth African country to host the COP; Africa being especially significant as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change. Amplified by its role as host of the conference, Cairo has situated itself as Africa’s climate leader, with its main goal being to secure funds for helping developing countries’ adaption efforts.

At the same time, Egypt is still a relatively strict police state under the Sisi military dictatorship. In fact, many critics argue Cairo is using the summit as a “rebranding exercise” to deflect and distract from its authoritarian censorship and societal crackdown. Since 2013, Egypt has increasingly blocked independent news outlets and now holds approximately 60,000 journalists and activists behind bars.

Image result for egypt cop27

Entrance to the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (Source: HP News https://hoshyarpakistan.com/world/egypt-human-rights-cop27-climate-activist-hunger-strike-rcna55405/)

Now, as the host of the Cop27 climate summit, attendees have already faced the country’s heavy censorship. For example, the conference internet connection blocks access to important news websites, such as the global rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty international, needed for the informational talks. Ironically, both the HRW and Amnesty Interntional are supposed to lead panel discussions at the conference but are unable to access their own websites. The extensive list of blocked websites, about 700 sites, is creating trying difficulties for the talks; one activist argues that, “there is no climate action without truth and information.”


Egypt Is Hosting COP27. Can It Become Africa’s Climate Champion? | Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org)

What is COP27? Everything you need to know about Egypt’s landmark climate conference | Euronews

Egypt human rights record under fire as it hosts COP27 climate conference – HP NEWS (hoshyarpakistan.com)

Regime Change in Lebanon: which Medium is Reliable?

If Lebanon were to undergo a regime change, which media channels would I turn to, to understand the situation?

I would first try to find news sources completely detached from the direct control or influence by the Lebanese state. Under a newly established regime, these channels would be disorganized and unreliable in their ability to provide accurate and neutral information.  However, with the majority of the media belonging either to political parties or powerful Lebanese families, finding an active and nonpartisan Lebanese news outlet is nearly impossible. Instead, it is safer to look outside of Lebanon for news content.

On a similar note, I would also try to avoid most of the western media sites such as BBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, etc. As we have seen before during the Iraq war, the West, invested in advancing their own interests and beliefs, often portrays a different situation that what is truly happening. If I were to use a Western source, I would use a U.S. military news site such as the Early Bird Brief from the DefenseNews. The site provides daily stories discussing military, defense, and national security issues to the U.S. around the world. Obviously, the site would present an American and military perspective, however I believe it would provide concrete information on the military and overall internal affairs of the country.

Overall, the sites I would most rely on an are international Arab media outlets like Al Jazeera.  Although often criticized for its sensationalist and argumentative content, Al Jazeera is an active actor in the media, devoted to covering Arab news for the Pan-Arab sphere and the rest of the world. Yes, Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari Royal family; rarely criticizing or reporting on the affairs in Qatar. In other countries however, Al Jazeera is aggressive and blunt, unafraid to condemn and critique problems in their state. Al Jazeera would critically analyze the Lebanese situation and report all important information and stories they believe the world needs to see. International media sites in the Arab region are detached enough from the state that they are free from its influence, but are still geographically in the region, reporting as members of the Arab community, sharing in the communal sense of anger and worry, and devoted to bringing all people, especially fellow Arabs, the truth.



Middle East News Sources – Middle East and Islamic Studies Guide – Research Guides at New York University (nyu.edu)

Early Bird Brief – Top military, defense and national security headlines. | Defense News


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