Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Do all Arabs hate Americans? Can Arab women work? Are there any YouTubers in Jordan? The queen said questions like that are what she seeks to address.
"In a world where it's so easy to connect to one another, we still remain very much disconnected. There's a whole world of wonder out there that we cannot appreciate with stereotypes, so it's important for all of us to join forces, come together, and try to bring down those misconceptions," she said in her YouTube posting.
Queen Rania said YouTube is a "great platform for dialogue," and she plans to use it to replace "misconceptions" with "true images" of the Middle East.
The Queen is urging YouTube viewers to express their opinions about the Middle East and about Arabs and Muslims. She says she will try to break down those "preconceptions" in the months ahead, continuing the online conversation until International Youth Day on August 12.
"I want people to know the real Arab world -- to see it unedited, unscripted and unfiltered -- to see the personal side of my region -- to know the places and faces and rituals and culture that shape the part of the world I call home," she said in her first official YouTube clip.
The queen, 37, was born in Kuwait to a Palestinian family. She is an outspoken advocate for improving the lives of women in her country.
The queen's YouTube video clip was posted on Monday, and as of Tuesday afternoon local time, it had received more than 58,000 views.
Comments posted at the site included encouragement for Queen Rania's project. "We are fortunate to have the King and Queen of Jordan to interpret Arab culture in such a positive light for us in the West," one viewer wrote.
But a number of people posting comments took the opportunity to speak bluntly:
"Powerbuddy wrote, "Most Muslims are not terrorists. But most terrorists are Muslims." He asked Queen Rania to explain why "your own Gulf people shower millions on jihadi groups spreading hate and terrorism" in the non-Muslim world.
"Deaathwail" wrote, "I think it's great seeing Muslim leaders like yourself stepping forward to try and bridge some of the issues...My question for you: what can be done by normal, everyday Muslims to denounce and stop the actions of the radicals who...make many [of] us, myself included, fear Muslims and Islamic ways of life for its violence and hate of all things non-Islamic?"
An American called "clearlyme2" noted that Arabs have attacked the U.S. repeatedly. "Americans are tired of it. Before coming to America and trying to change our opinions maybe you should try to change your people. If you can do that then maybe the stereotypes would disappear on their own."
According to the U.S.-based Freedom House's 2007 report on Jordan, the Palestinian-majority nation is "partially free."
Freedom of expression is sometimes restricted, the report says, while freedom of assembly is "heavily restricted," apparently to minimize protests.
Women enjoy equal political rights, but face legal discrimination in matters involving inheritance, divorce and child custody, which fall under the jurisdiction of Shari'a (Islamic law) courts, the report says. Marital rape is not illegal, and government pensions and social security benefits favor men.
In a CNN interview, Queen Rania addressed some of the criticisms about her country, admitting there are many hurdles still in terms of changing "mindsets" and "cultural perceptions."