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Sanssouci Colloquium
Media Prize
Youth Media Workshop
Offshoot Workshop

chaired by: Josef Joffe
reported by: Melanie Phillips
Speaker: Stephen Cole

[...] The discussions in this working group exposed some of the confusion, leading to radicalism, among young Muslim university students. Because they have no access to their own culture and their own history they find themselves unable to handle the freedom of cultural questioning which is the essence of  university teaching in European universities. It was also asserted that it is very difficult to find moderate Muslims capable of preaching a moderate Islam. Most of the moderates lacked the coherence and appeal of extremists preaching holy war against the West. Calls for the blood of the West were standard fare in most mosques in the West. However, the group was divided over assertions that the West was conspiring to destroy Islam.
The role of the TV channel Al Jazeera was discussed in some detail. Donald Rumsfeld had described it as terror TV. However speakers described Al Jazeera as a useful instrument which had brought an unprecedented degree of questioning and challenge to people in the Arab world who would otherwise only have access to the story as told by their rulers.
One participant questioned whether the Western secular mind might ever be able to understand intellectually the concept of religious fanaticism and especially the mind of a suicide-bomber. It was put to the group that the Western liberal was simply incapable of seeing the situation through the eyes of an Islamic fanatic. The Western liberal could only see situations through the prism of liberalism. In other words, the Western liberal would always assume that the world was full of rational actors subject to rational self-interest and receptive to negotiation over land and other disputed issues. This assertion triggered spluttering outrage from some members of our group. In my view this neatly proved the point, that the liberal mind is simply incapable of understanding anything outside its own frame of reference.
Finally, we asked ourselves two questions. The first was: did anyone think there was a danger if the war of terrorism continued without being checked that our Western societies would be converted to Islam? And the second question we asked ourselves was: did we, actually, believe, that our own culture was superior to that of others and that we were prepared to defend it?
These questions remained completely unanswered and, maybe, that is, indeed, the essence of our Western problem. [...]



Group 1
The clash of cultures
Group 2
The rise of the internet –
towards a global market for business and media?
Group 3
National media facing international challenges