Queen Rania: ISIS using media to ‘hijack’ Arab world

Jordan’s Queen Rania called on the media industry to fight the use of Facebook and Twitter by ‘irreligious extremists’

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Queen Rania of Jordan has called on the Arab media to fight attempts by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to ‘hijack’ the region via social channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking on Tuesday during her opening speech at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Queen Rania also raised of the role of education in thwarting the threat posed by extremists.

“A minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative and hijack our anatomy,” Queen Rania said. “That’s what ISIS is doing to the Arab world and all of us.”

ISIS, which now controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, is notorious for its use of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, through which it has lured foreign fighters to join their self-proclaimed “Islamic caliphate.”

Hundreds of photos and videos emerged on social media highlighting the atrocities committed by the terrorist group, including street beheadings, mass executions, enslavements and crucifixions.

With images of violence and destruction from the Arab world projected on screen, Queen Rania said the images were not a reflection of the vast majority of Arabs.

“These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you. They’re alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs – Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across this region seethe. Because they’re an attack on our values as a people and on our collective story.”

“This is their [ISIS’] version of the Arab world’s story, their plot, their narrative, their heroes, and the rest of the world is listening and watching,” Queen Rania said, adding that the “silence” of moderate Arabs made them complicit in ISIS’ success.

“At the heart of the assault is an ideology. And if you think you can defeat an ideology with a bullet, think of what happened when Osama Bin Laden was killed,” Queen Rania said. “Sure he died, but his legacy is an even stronger, more twisted extremist movement.”

“We must create a new narrative and broadcast it to the world. Because if we don’t decide what our identity is and what our legacy will be the extremists will do it for us,” she added.

Queen Rania is a prominent advocate for women’s rights, education and employment of the youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Presenting the audience with the options facing the region today, Queen Rania said: “We either develop our region, or we let others dismantle it; find solutions to the challenges, or watch the challenges avalanche; harness the tools to drive the Arab world forward in the 21st century, or let others use those tools to drag us back to the dark ages.”

Hundreds of key regional and international media players flew to the UAE capital to attend the fifth edition of the three–day Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

They are set to discuss the biggest challenges facing the industry in the MENA region and beyond and brainstorm ways to sustain the future of the media.

The focus of the summit will be “content, distribution, and financing of the media,” said Khaldoon al-Mubarak, chairman of the summit.

Al-Mubarak pointed to research unveiled at the event, which found that regional spending on media is set to rise to $24bn by 2019, from $16bn today

“At the heart of this growth lies the relentless increasing in connectivity in the region,” he said, referring to the rise of smartphones and mobile-data networks in the region.

“That will make the people of our region one of the most well-connected on earth,” he said.

Al-Mubarak praised Queen Rania as “one of the strongest advocates of education in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Other high-profile speakers at event Ahmad Julfar, chief executive of Etisalat Group; JB Perette, president of Discovery Networks International; and Raghav Bahl, founder of Network 18.

This year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit is set to run until Nov. 20.

Abu Dhabi has hosted the summit annually since March 2010, as part of its ambition to become a hub for regional and global media.

Previous keynote speakers included Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates; and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

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