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 .