Pintak discusses portrayal of Muslims on YouTube


“We live in a world that sometimes can be frightening. Sometimes we make it frightening.

“We tend to create this idea that places are dangerous and that people are dangerous. And certainly, nowhere is that more true than in our relationship with the Muslim world,” said Dr. Lawrence Pintak during his presentation, “The YouTube Effect: How Anger and Agitprop Shape America’s Relationship with Islam.”

Pintak, a former CBS News Middle East correspondent and director of the only graduate journalism degree program in the Arab world, spoke about the disconnect between American and Islamic worldviews during a meet-and-greet breakfast. The event, which EWU helped sponsor, was held at The Spokane Club on Oct. 15 and hosted by the World Affairs Council of Spokane. Approximately 45 guests and council members attended the event.

According to Pintak, agitprop is “propaganda created by agitators to agitate,” and websites like YouTube are being used by agitators to cause contention between Americans and Muslims.

YouTube is a tool being used by people with agendas, according to Pintak. “Something like the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ clips would never have ended up in the hands of the guys on satellite television in the Arab world had it not been for YouTube.”

“Websites such as YouTube allow anything anywhere to be seen instantly around the world, and they can get taken out of context and have devastating effects,” said Pintak. “We need to be cognizant of how our words and our images are seen and heard on the other side of the world. And the same is true from the other side, of course.”

Research survey projects of his have found that “Arab journalists and Muslim journalists consistently say you must balance truth with respect, objectivity with responsibility.”

Aalyaa Malibari, a Muslim student from Saudi Arabia and former candidate for ASEWU presidency, said in response to the “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube clip, “Free speech doesn’t mean you have to hurt other people and this movie hurt a lot of people. … Offending Muhammad or any other prophet is not acceptable for us [Muslim students] and here at Eastern, we respect all the groups, regardless of our religion.”

In a follow-up interview with Pintak, he commented to Eastern students that, “A student who is meeting Arab students or Muslims for the first time, [should] recognize that we don’t all see the world the same way. And just because someone sees the world in a way different than you do, doesn’t make it wrong. That’s where a lot of the problems start.”

Olga Baron, director for EWU internal student services, said, “I hear from many of them [Muslim students] that they are here not only to get information, but to introduce their culture to Americans.”

“This campus has been extremely welcoming to them. … They feel like they are treated by the same standards as everyone else,” said Baron.

EWU student and WAC board member Miranda Larson attended the presentation and said, “I thought that it was very interesting because it’s not a perspective you hear often. Pintak was a neutral party without an agenda.”