Sunday, February 20, 2005

Beacon No. 24: My Saudi Was the Centerfold


Anyone see the print edition of Thursday's New York Times? If you didn't and can only read it online, you missed the Saudi centerfold.

This was a full-color, two-page spread headlined "Taking on Terrorism: Riyadh declaration." It's a message from the Saudi National Unity Campaign Against Terrorism, an organization I'm unable to find a trace of via Google searches. This ad discusses the Counter-Terrorism International Conference just held in Riyadh, and its host, Crown Prince Abdullah, is headlined as saying:

"Terrorism does not belong to any culture, or religion, or political system. It is a global crime perpetrated by evil minds filled with hatred towards humanity … This conference represents the will of the international community to combat this crime in every aspect by fighting evil with justice, confronting deviant thought with wisdom and noble ideas and challenging extremism with moderation and tolerance."

among other noble sentiments. The spread's left side offers a huge, black-and-white photo of a small boy standing stoically in front of a bullet-pocked wall. Onto the wall has been photoshopped "Terror will not be allowed to murder hope," and the photo's caption reads "Terrorism affects everyone. Let's unite in peace."

News of the Conference occupies the right side of the spread: Counter-terrorism experts from around the world attended and discussed the relationships among terror, money-laundering, narcotics trafficking and arms dealing. The Crown Prince is shown in three-quarter profile in two photos, one a close-up and one behind a desk at the Conference.

There are mentions of a Colorado Springs man who converted to Islam and then was killed in a car bombing in Riyadh, while working for a U.S. defense contractor. And a mother's loss of her son during the occupation of Beslan School No. 1 by Chechen separatists last fall.

But the most ink by far is devoted to a lengthy story about the effects that Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had on a Christian woman and her family.

It's unclear what readers are supposed to conclude from this presentation and as mentioned, readers who would like to follow up and learn more about this Saudi initiative have nowhere to go: no address, phone number or URL. One wonders who it is we're supposed to unite for peace with.

The overall message I get is: The Saudi government cares about terrorism—but remember, Americans are terrorists every once in awhile too.

If the purpose of taking out a big, expensive centerfold ad in the Times is to somehow strike a chord with American sensibilities, perhaps the Saudis need a new tuning fork. Surely their Stateside flacks can do better.

p.s. At the bottom of both pages is the seal of the Saudi National Unity Campaign Against Terrorism: a circle with two men's right hands clasped (a suit and a djellaba?) beneath a Saudi flag. I understand that the Saudi flag is as precious to Saudis as the U.S. flag is to Americans, but would it be too much to ask to not run this peaceful, hopeful hand-clasp beneath a flag that features nothing but a long sword and the bismillah—the core Muslim affirmation that "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet"?

No comments:

Site Meter