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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 18:32 GMT
PR firm 'to polish Arab image'
Worshippers pray at al-Aqua mosque, Jerusalem
The Arab league wants to improve the image of Islam
Frank Gardner

The Arab League is considering hiring a Western public relations company to improve the international image of Arabs and Muslims.

The proposal is one of several ideas under discussion at a two-day international conference at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo that began on Monday.

In the wake of the 11 September attacks, Arabs and Muslims feel they are being unfairly associated with terrorism.

This has put the Arab world on the defensive. But now the Arab League is preparing to seize the initiative.

A woman asks for divine intervention to stop Americans killing Muslims
Seeking divine help to stop attacks against Muslims
Speaking at the opening of a two-day conference in Cairo, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told Arab intellectuals what needed to be done to repair the image of Arabs and Muslims.

He talked of the need to open a constructive dialogue with the West, to combat what he called a distorted image of Arab culture and Islamic civilisation.


But Amr Moussa also urged Arabs to look at their own mistakes, and how they could be corrected.

A working paper being presented at the event suggests hiring a Western media company to carry out a public relations campaign.

The paper also proposes more academic, political and media exchanges between Islamic countries and the West.

Amr Moussa has been the driving force behind this conference, which is entitled 'The Dialogue of Civilisations - an exchange, and not a clash'.

It was prompted largely by hostile reports in the US media associating Arabs and Muslims with terrorism.

Image problem

Even before the 11 September attacks, the Arab world had an image problem in much of the West.

Repeated television footage of Palestinian suicide bombers offering themselves as Muslim martyrs has helped associate Islam with violence in the eyes of many Western viewers.

In the past two months, the apparent popularity of Osama Bin Laden with many ordinary Arabs has further damaged the image of Islam in the West.

Any public relations company hired by the Arab League will have plenty of work on its hands.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Middle East
US builds new Mid-East peace initiative
15 Nov 01 | Middle East
Peres backs Palestinian state
01 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel's 'assassination policy'
19 Oct 00 | Middle East
Who are Hamas?
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