How the media is helping the region reject extremism
The contributions by so many global coalition governments to the military defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria is understood and deeply appreciated across the Arab world. However, we all know that the collapse of Daesh’s final outpost will not be the end of this story.
Moving forward, we also know that civil society leaders and the private sector must step up our efforts, in partnership with governments, to defeat extremist ideologies. We do this because the ideology that animated Daesh, Al-Qaeda and others threatens the aspirations of people across the Muslim world for a prosperous and modern future. It threatens our societies, our businesses and our children.
MBC Group is the world’s leading independent Arabic-language media company, with global reach and influence in information and entertainment programming. MBC’s chairman, Walid Al-Ibrahim, launched our pan-Arab network in London in 1991, and we moved our headquarters to Dubai, the Gulf region’s business capital, in 2002.
MBC’s ownership is Saudi and the young people in Saudi Arabia have always been our largest market. We are closely attuned to, and engaged with, the massive social changes taking place in the Kingdom. These changes are having enormous consequences for the region and beyond. MBC is putting our money and our long-standing reputation for social reform behind a positive, globally engaged outlook for our region under Saudi Vision 2030.
The Arab world is changing rapidly. Although we still face many challenges, it is time to transform Daesh’s military defeat into a rejection of extremism and its proponents.
For several years, MBC Group has been working with media partners and the Global Coalition Against Daesh — particularly the US — to help shape the Muslim world’s evolving social norms through the creation and distribution of new Arabic-language film and TV content that promotes tolerance, diversity and pluralism. We have seen much value in this cooperation. As Daesh approaches military defeat, MBC is stepping up our campaign for the ideas guiding our future.
We have launched new program streams — MBC Iraq and MBC Persia — using the same program mix that made MBC the region’s leading network, to reach out to people in these important countries, where young people aspire to better lives. We are looking forward to MBC Maghreb this spring, and expect MBC Kuwait, MBC Lebanon and MBC Syria to follow.
We are also currently developing programs to engage creative and talented young Arabs in outreach messaging. These include a series featuring experienced filmmakers who recently participated in a US State Department initiative in cooperation with the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts. Our people have important stories to tell — and we want them to be seen and heard.
Because young Arabs are video enthusiasts, we are planning a region-wide short-form video festival and competition that will spur a wave of additional content that will be promoted online and on TV. Rather than sensationalist violence and iconoclasm, people will see with clarity our hopes and aspirations.
Finally, on Tuesday we announced MBC’s commitment to supporting the launch of the Creative Community Partnership — a gathering of Western and Muslim world media executives that will sponsor the creation and distribution of content to refute terrorist ideology and support hope. This project will be private sector-led, but we hope that coalition governments will join in too.
The Arab world is changing rapidly. Although we still face many challenges, it is time to transform Daesh’s military defeat into a rejection of extremism and its proponents. MBC’s core market, Saudi Arabia, is a nation on the move. Its youthful population is opening up to the world and is eager to play a positive role within the global community. MBC Group invites you to join us in the Creative Community Partnership — we must harness the power of media in support of a Middle East that is turning despair into hope.
• Ali Jaber is MBC’s Group TV Director. This op-ed is taken from his opening remarks at the Global Coalition Against Daesh’s Communications Working Group meeting in London on Tuesday.