Raouf and Zaher: A social queen, but effective?

Recently known as the queen of social media, Rania al-Abdallah has become a household name. Her eloquence and education, as well as her position, have garnered her worldwide attention and the 76th spot on Forbes’s list of the world’s 100 most influential woman. She is due to give a speech this afternoon at Sprague Hall. It is important for us to set aside the excitement of her speech and understand the pietism with which she delivers her words.

Queen Rania aims to use social media outlets, such as Twitter and YouTube, to break stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims “one by one,” as she has said, to Western audiences. She asks her viewers to send in stereotypes for her to debunk. Many of her replies, however, have been mere regurgitation of facts found in post-9/11 Western media.

In a recent interview with Wolf Blitzer, she adopted an apologetic tone by pointing out that gender disparity in education is embedded in a culture and tradition that does not conform to Western ideals. Aside from herself stereotyping Arab culture, she failed to acknowledge the many positive aspects of Arab and Muslim culture.

This culture and religion has granted its followers a positive path of its own. In one video on her YouTube channel, the queen embarks on a journey to create a Jordanian superhero for Arab kids, a concept foreign to them. It is an inevitable educational failure through which these kids will grow up idealizing another culture in favor of theirs.

In addition, Her Majesty fails to acknowledge that the main obstacle to development — specifically the education and employment for which she so strongly advocates — is due to lack of awareness and poverty. So perhaps instead of breaking stereotypes on YouTube channels whose access in Jordan is restricted to certain classes, she could direct her efforts to change the negative trends rampant in her country through media outlets available to virtually everyone, such as Jordan TV. In addition, by using WatWet and Ikbis, Jordanian media platforms similar to Twitter and Youtube, she would support a regional platform, while taking it global to international audiences. Consequently, she would start a true dialogue in two languages, between two worlds, on one platform.

When Blitzer asked about teachings encouraging hatred of the West, specifically Israel, in madrasas (the Arab name for school which in the West is often misinterpreted as a school of fundamentalist training), she clarified the use of the term but digressed to talk about an educational initiative. If this lip service of hers is directed at a Western audience, then she should perhaps elaborate on the topic rather than digress in fear of an explanation not pleasing her Western peers.

Her Majesty avoids touching topics of human rights abuse — including accusations of terrorist suspects being tortured, laws clamping public dissent and arrests without trial of government critics. It seems that clinging to social media outlets is an attempt to mask criticism of an intolerant monarchy.

Queen Rania talks passionately about freedom of speech and equal rights, takes pride in “putting herself out there” for viewers’ questions, but remains utterly silent about the many problems in her country. Jordan has become a home to over 2.5 million Palestinians and, following the Iraqi refugee crisis, also a home to a number of Iraqis whose official number has not been disclosed by the Jordanian government. Both groups, comprising over half the Jordanian population, have been systematically discriminated against over the years.

Yet no effort has been made by Her Majesty, who is of Palestinian origin, to address this grave issue, which has been hindering development in her country. Moreover, during the Gaza conflict last December and January, her response was another simple video on her channel denouncing the human right violations.

@QueenRania: we appreciate your efforts and dedication to your causes. We believe that much more can be done with your influence and power. We also realize that receiving half a billion dollars of aid from the United States has its price.

Saned Raouf is a senior in Berkeley College, and Yasmin Zaher is a sophomore in Saybrook College .

Comments

  • anonymous

    Right on!

  • Jessica J.

    The authors convey their tone in this piece well; there’s no doubt where they stand on their opinion of Queen Rania.

    But I was upset to see that most of the article was subjective interpretation of selective material. A few YouTube videos fired off as examples, without looking at more solid evidence, such as her actual work in the field.

    It’s was also a shame, really, to pose your own question is she effective, and then spend 700 words not answering it. Instead, it became a scatter gun list of criticisms, let loose from the safety of Berkeley and Saybrook Colleges – no mention of the difficulty of her job in such a precarious and sensitive region, for example.

    No mention was either made of her role in UNICEF, or 1GOAL, or the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, and those are her international positions. Laying down fire at someone for not speaking out on domestic issues, without acknowledging when they have, is almost worthy of Fox News.

    A cursory glance through Google shows Queen Rania has done numerous things in Jordan, including the Jordan River Foundation, which tackles the poverty you decry and the child abuse you denounce, as well as Madrasati which again helps poor families by giving low-income children better schools. And I’m sure she’s done countless other things we simply haven’t heard about because we don’t live in Jordan. This is where the term “investigative journalism” comes into play, I believe.

    It’s not always a Queen as outspoken as Rania is in town. Pity the authors couldn’t take advantage to lay the groundwork for her visit, setting up the scene for a debate and exchange worthy of the Yale name.

    An article on a social queen, but was it effective?

    Maybe next time…

    - Jess

  • Natasha

    I found the commentary by the 2 writers incredibly one-sided.

    For example Rania has spoken out for the Iraqi refugees in her own country many times. Similarly she has commented on the Palestinian refugee crisis many times, including the recent by Israel in Gaza.

    There are things she can improve on but ignoring the many good things she has done, as displayed by these 2 writers, is quite poor.

  • anonymous

    Jess,

    Considering the length of an op-ed, I believe that the point of the article was to criticize acknowledging some things she does. But even with all those goals she mentioned, all she does about them is making youtube videos.

    Also, madrasati has barely had any effect on Jordanian schools. There are no official statistics on what’s going on.

  • anonymous

    @Natasha

    It’s not about what she has said, but what she has done (in terms of refugees as you mention). She’s done almost nothing.

  • Jessica J.

    Dear Anonymous,

    If you turn to http://www.Madrasati.jo, you’ll see that Madrasati is working to renovate 500 schools over 5 years, affecting some 165,000 of the country’s poorest students. Phase 1 has seen 100 schools already refitted, providing a better learning environment for students. Madrasati is currently partnered with 4 government departments, 55 private companies, and 15 NGOs with 85% of schools being adopted by a private sponsor.

    That sounds like quite an effect to me, both on the students (who get better schools), the community (who are brought into the renovation process), and the private sector (who are brought into the community and can exercise some corporate social responsibility).

    As for her goals, just making YouTube videos doesn’t seem to cover it (her last one was months ago). Looking at queenrania.jo, one example of tangible things she has done in Jordan has been something called Ahel Al Himmeh, a nationwide competition to find community champions, who were then awarded with grants to continue their charity work and given scholarships in their name. She’s also launched a Teacher’s Academy, a Child & Family Center, brought Columbia University to Amman to boost local academic and research capacity, and helped establish microfinancing in the country.

    Abroad, she represents her country at places like the World Economic Forum (of which she is a Board Member) and the Clinton Global Initiative (at which she is a regular contributor and panelist). She founded a region-wide organization called the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group to foster greater adherence to sustainable practices in the private sector. She was in Johannesburg and Washington DC, promoting the Global Campaign for Education to support their Action Week to boost literacy.

    And so on… I got all that just by looking at two websites.

    As for sacrificing a balanced argument because you don’t have the space…

    Well, I don’t have time for that right now.

    Jess

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Yo Jessica J. I’m happy for you and I’mma let you finish but Tony Blair is one of the best world leaders of ALL TIME.

  • nesreen

    Brilliant Article , Love it , and interesting questions too . I left similar questions on the Queen s website and i was assured that i would receive a reply to my questions , the questions have been dismissed . I wish the Queen had spoken about the rights of Palestinians or their cause on Oprah winfrey s show to help the US audiences to get a tiny glimpse into reality , and what is really going on , . i did not expect a reply by the way . I wish the queen does more to the so many refugiee camps that live a human tragedy daily .

  • Arab and sick of “her majesty”

    Very well written but the criticism against Queen Rania should have been harsher as she is a complete fraud claiming to fight poverty in her designer clothes. Imagine if someone living in Jordan would confront her hypocrisy, such a person would be thrown in jail, tortured and possibly killed yet this woman expect us to believe she is the perfect example of a “modern Arab woman”. What a disgrace.