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Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations

Al-Jazeera and Qatar’s Soft Power


Tal Samuel-Azran

Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations argues that Al-Jazeera is not an agent of globalization, as is widely argued, but a tool used by the Qatari government to advance its political as well as Islamist goals. This book also maps the Western tendency to reject the network outright despite Al-Jazeera’s billion-dollar investments designed to gain entrance into Western markets; it shows empirically that this rejection is similarly rooted in religious, cultural and national motives. This book asserts that the main outcome of Al-Jazeera’s activities is the promotion of religious and cultural conflicts. The network persistently portrays global events through the prism of conflicting religious and cultural values – propelling a clash of civilizations as per Samuel P. Huntington’s well-known thesis.
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The rise of Al-Jazeera to global fame has raised positive assertions over the Qatari-backed station’s effect on contemporary international and inter­cultural communication. The main trend is to think of Al-Jazeera Arabic as the first independent news network from the Arab world, and Al-Jazeera English as the first English network that brings the Arab perspective to the global news arena. Accordingly, the advent of the Al-Jazeera network to the news arena is widely perceived as a major positive contribution to the global media market.

Indeed, throughout the last two decades, Al-Jazeera Arabic has earned global acclaim for its thorough coverage of controversial topics, many of which are taboo in the Arab world, such as breaches of human rights.1 While these matters were seldom discussed in the Middle East outside the comfort of one’s own home, Al-Jazeera was contentiously broadcasting them on prime-time television, accessible to the vast majority of the Arab population. Accordingly, several accounts argued that Al-Jazeera had a considerable positive influence in fuelling the so-called Arab Spring, as each nation saw the struggles of their neighboring brethren in Al-Jazeera broadcasts and subsequently embraced them as their own, resulting in political protests sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa region.2 The argument goes that Al-Jazeera’s open and persistent scrutiny of the autocratic Arab governments gave rebel ← xv | xvi → groups the courage needed to rise up against their repressive governments, as was the case in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt.3 Wadah Khanfar, the network’s former...

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