Farnaz Fassihi is the deputy bureau chief of Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Waiting for An Ordinary Day, a memoir of her four years covering the Iraq war and witnessing the unraveling of life for Iraqi citizens. In May 2006, Fassihi was awarded the prestigious Henry Pringle Lecture Award for her Iraq coverage by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her coverage of the EgyptAir flight 990 crash won the New England News Executive Award as well as a finalist nomination for the Livingston Award.
Question: What misconceptions do Americans have about the Middle East?
Fassihi: I think the biggest misconception that the Americas may have about the Middle East is that most Middle Easterners and most Muslims or Iranians or Arabs are terrorists or that they hate Americans and, you know, they favor violence over peace. I think that that’s not true. I think you have extremist elements, but I think most people, you know, would like to just get on with their lives and don’t really hate American citizens. They resents the American foreign policy in the Middle East. I think the question of the Palestinians is, you know, a priority for most Middle Easterners, more so perhaps than the Americans realize. And I think that, you know, Iraq and what’s happened in Iraq has also contributed to uneasy feelings about the US and what could happen. Another remarkable thing that’s happening in the Middle East is that the Middle East is a very young region, you know. Most of these countries, in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, you know, over 50% of the population are under 30 years old, and they’re much more interested in opening up to the rest of the world to, you know, live having democracy to having, you know, more freedom and reforms