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Emmy Award-winning producer presents movie at the U

It has become increasingly important both for the United States to understand the Muslim world and for the Muslim world to understand the United States in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and in the current state of uncertainty in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to one documentarian.

“It struck me that at the [Sept. 11 commission] hearings of Dr. [Condoleezza] Rice, not once but several times, one of two commissioners would say, ‘We have no concept of how the Muslim world thinks of us,’ and it’s painfully evident that there is really little we are doing about it,” said six-time Emmy Award-winning documentary producer Charles Stuart.

He spoke as part of presenting his film, “Hollywood and the Muslim World” at the Dumke Auditorium last week.

Stuart referred, in part, to Commissioner Lee Hamilton’s comments when Rice testified in which he said, “There are…2 billion Muslims…Some don’t like us; they hate us…How do we get at this discontent, this dislocation, if you would, across a big swath of the Islamic world?”

In an effort to help both parties understand one another more clearly and to create a dialogue among the people of both populations, Stuart traveled to the Arab world just a year after Sept. 11, 2001, to shoot this documentary.

He focused on this westernization of the Arab world both in his short address to the audience and in his documentary, raising the question along the way, “What is the effect of American culture on Arab identity and the Muslim faith?”

Stuart says he decided to focus on this “cultural invasion” in his documentary because he was shocked by the degree of American culture that had penetrated the borders of the Arab world.

Statistics flashed onto the screen at the beginning of the documentary including the following two:

In 1990 there was one Arab satellite channel; now there are more than 100.

For just $12 U.S. per month, a person living in certain Arab regions may access 70 channels, consisting largely of American programs including “Friends,” “Will and Grace” and “Sex in the City.”

Stuart elaborated on his point with a story that occurred the first time he traveled to Cairo, Egypt, which was in 2000.

“While having dinner, I looked across the Nile River and saw a bright red neon sign that said Applebee’s,” he said.

These reasons provoked Stuart to give the people of important regions in the Middle East-including Egypt, Qatar, Lebanon and pre-war Iraq-the opportunity to speak to America for themselves through this powerful medium.

As one would expect, the reactions of these Arab populations in the documentary varied drastically from person to person.

Some said American culture and values, presented through television and films, were driving people to radical fundamentalism.

Others said they believed the people needed to stop blaming America and admit the real problem that “Arabs are losers.”

Stuart is still trying to break down stereotypes and further understanding through a series he wants to produce for PBS that he calls, “Real Arabs, Real Americans.”

Stuart says he only needs the appropriate funding to make the series a reality.

Stuart says he wants to look at three Arab countries in three one-hour episodes focusing on the family and youth and then have Abu Dhabi television do a similar three part series on America to present in the Arab world.

“As silly as our perceptions of the Arab world are, I think their perceptions of us are equally silly,” Stuart said.

He illustrated this idea with the example of his cameraman for the Hollywood and Muslim World documentary.

“He was an educated Arab man who watched all the news channels and still claimed that al-Qaida was not responsible for Sept. 11, but in fact that the CIA remotely controlled the airplanes to their targets,” Stuart said.

Stuart summed up his experience saying, “[Arabs] don’t like our policy, but they like us as Americans.”

Charles Stuart provided a copy of “Hollywood and the Muslim World” to the U. It can be found in the Middle East Center’s video library.

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