Alaa Al Aswany on America’s Ignorance Problem

Question: What keeps Americans from looking outside their borders?

al Aswany: Americans were not really interested to know much about what’s happening abroad, you see, for many reasons.  First, America is a very huge country, powerful country, so you have in America everything.  You could live in America and you could educated and get your work and even retire without being a need to communicate with people abroad, you see.  Second, because I believe that the media in the US and even the education system is designed in a way that really keeps the people away from what’s happening abroad, so Americans are not to blame because they don’t know much.  They were not taught, you see, to what’s happening abroad.  Second, that we have a table…  I mean, I could give, I can understand the situation because if you don’t know anything about Muslims and you don’t know anything about Arabs, and the only Islamic figure you see is Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, these terrible people, you see, who are totally medieval in appearance and they are very proud of committing terrible crimes everyday, then I can understand, I do not justify, but I can understand that you relate this ethnic group or this religious group with violence, you see.  But, I must tell you, I would give you an example.  For example, the Catholic Church, which, in my opinion, gave the world very positive meanings about love and forgiveness, etc., according to negative interpretation for Christianity, the Catholic Church began the inquisition in Spain against Jews and Muslims, you see, and it was a terrible time because hundred of thousands of Jews and Muslims were burned and were killed.  I cannot relay this to Christianity, you see.  This is a point.  I relay this to a negative interpretation for a great religion, which is Christianity.  I cannot say, if I say that, if I use the same logic this lady who was talking to John McCain used, I would say, I would relate Christian to somebody who is willing to kill as a people, you see, because they are different.  I would never do this, you see, because I know that that was…  And even the people who did that were not only Christians, they were presenting the Christian people, the Pope, you see.  The Pope of the Catholic Church who was the one who decided to make the inquisition, to burn Jews and Muslims, you see.  So, but, still, I have no right to relate this to Christianity.  I would like, really, to see this difference very clear in the West, you see, between the religion itself and some terrible people who are using a terrible, negative, totally wrong interpretation of the religion.

Alaa Al Aswany on the culture of myopia.

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Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
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