October 2, 2004

"The Opposite Direction."

Faisal al-Kasim talks about his Al Jazeera talk show, "The Opposite Direction," in the November issue of The Atlantic.
His goal? "To change the status quo, which is horrible politically, religiously, economically, in every way."

Al-Kasim's first show, he says, "dissected" the Gulf Cooperation Council (the league of oil-rich monarchies and emirates that are responsible for some of the most closed regimes in the Middle East) "like a corpse," and since then The Opposite Direction has addressed an array of previously unmentionable questions in the Arab world, in terms ranging from the contrarian to the outlandish. Is Arab unity an unattainable myth? When was life better, under colonial or Arab rule? ("Eighty-six percent of our viewers who called in said they'd rather be re-colonized," al-Kasim told me. "The Algerians would welcome Chirac, if he decided to return.") Was King Hassan II of Morocco an agent of the Mossad? Should polygamy have a place in the modern Arab world?
On one show, viewers were asked "Are Arab regimes refraining from condemning the abuse in Abu Ghraib because they're committing far worse atrocities in their own prisons?" 84% of the viewers said yes. A guest on that show, Khaled Chouket, director of the Center for the Support of Democracy in the Arab World, spoke of:
"standard daily practices" in all Arab prisons, which he depicted as "man-made hells" where prisoners hang by their ankles and are skinned alive; where savage dogs "rip chunks of living flesh from inmates' bodies"; where torturers tear out their subjects' fingernails and hair, administer electric shocks, hack off body parts, deprive prisoners of food and sleep, and submerge them in dungeons filled with icy water.
Terrific article.

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