Monday, October 29, 2007
Jared Cohen
Young men watching popular American TV shows on satellite dishes. Young women wearing garish makeup. Teenagers sending secret text messages and arranging illicit trysts. These are perhaps scenarios you'd expect from a major U.S. city, not the images we normally see from the Middle East.

These are some of the things Jared Cohen found when he set out to get the real story from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This young foreign policy force is responsible for public diplomacy, Muslim world outreach and North Africa at the U.S. State Department's Office of Policy Planning and, at 25 years old, has the experience to rival his veteran counterparts. Defying government orders, Cohen toured hostile Islamic regions to talk face-to-face with terrorists in an effort to debunk stereotypes and reveal a shocking subculture in his latest book, "Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East."

As a Jewish American, Cohen has guts. He went to Lebanon to interview Hezbollah members at, of all places, a McDonald's. In Iran, he found underground parties, where bootleg liquor, Western music and the Internet are all easy to access. His risky itinerary aims to show us how and why the under-30 generation in the Islamic world is the best hope for the West.

Update: Watch the CNN.com Live Video interview
Visiting countries that have on numerous occassions murdered journalist is not worth the risk and is irresponsible.
"His risky itinerary aims to show us how and why the under-30 generation in the Islamic world is the best hope for the West."

So, if they don't dress like me, listen to the same music like me, watch the same movies like me, then I am out of hope?

Why is the American lifestyle the standard by which other people are judged by?

Ofcourse, the assumption here is that anything Arabic or Islamic is bad, and everything Western and American is Good.

Very simplistic worldview, that does nothing but enforce the idea that one people are superior to the rest.
Can you guess who the superior one are?
Going into this, what would you say was your biggest apprehension and did it materialize?

Thanks,
"Young men watching popular American TV shows on satellite dishes. Young women wearing garish makeup. Teenagers sending secret text messages and arranging illicit trysts."

This "shocking subculture" is supposed to give us the 'real story' about the Middle East? The whole premise of (gasp! omigod they're not all muslim fanatics because they drink, wear makeup and presumably have premarital sex!) is ridiculous and in fact simply reinforces a Huntington/Lewis'esque Clash of Civilizations world view.

Is this what the author set out to 'uncover'? Is this what the Bush administration sees as the 'hope for the future'? Or is it CNN's sexing up of a mediocre travel narrative by an administration hack, (albeit a twentysomething one)? At any rate it seems little more than the continued vapid simplification of an entire region, not to mention ignoring our own highly problematic role in it.
I do not believe that the author intended this article to be racist, as Ahmad points to. The way in which the author portrays Cohen's story is a bit sloppy. The intention I believe was to show how some of the Islamic community supports the western way of life, not to show that the Islamic way of life is wrong; although Ahamad, there are many interpretations of the Islamic religion that do lead to bad things, as there are interpretations of the Christian religion that lead to bad things. Just remember that all Americans aren't against the Islamic way of life. We aren't all out to get you.
After having gone through this rather out of the box experience (kudos, by the way!), how have you changed and what advice would you give to the rest of us?
I appreciate very much your effort to get the perspective of youth in these countries; I think it could prove valuable to our country (the US) if we pay heed to what you have learned. I feel that under-30 generation in America is also the best hope for the West. My question is how do you think we can use the knowledge gained from their perspectives to work toward peace and communion with their countries and religious communities and for world harmony?
Visiting countries that have on numerous occassions murdered journalist is not worth the risk and is irresponsible.
So's going to war. At least Jared's mission is a positive one.
And I hardly think he's purporting any sort of superiority; he's simply showing that Middle Eastern teens are different than the terrorism-happy image that American media tends to project. It's not his doing that they happen to embrace Western culture.
Is it true that Hip Hop music is popular in Iran's youth? Can they use bit torret to download music & TV shows?
Umm... there is nothing particularly spectacular about anything he has done. In fact, if you have spent any time in a truly cosmopolitan city it will not be too long before you find yourself at the Iran Air booking office on Piccadilly and shortly thereafter at an 'underground' party in Tehran... seriously no big deal and the same a a regular 'kegger' in SoCal. None of this is really a particularly 'dangerous' or spectacular journey into the 'hotbed of insurgency'. Global kids do this ALL the time.
An attempt at entering the middle east as a journalist has to be a quite daunting and uneasy task to say the least. What are some of the most suprising and possibly memorable results and/or experiences that you had during your endeavors in the middle east?
Very brave...as an american jew did you ever consider the fate of daniel pearl? I am assuming they knew you were jewish
Ahmad,

I think you are misunderstanding that comment. I read it as, perhaps this under 30 generation doesn't possess as much hate toward these American objects as some in older Islamic generations do (those that do not want these objects imposed on their culture).

I do agree with you that other cultures are often judged compared to the American standard - which is ignorant. I just do not think that that was what the author was saying here.
In my view, any efforts to non-objectify each other (and to not let the media feed this objectification) is a positive move. Regardless of where people live….US, Europe, MiddleEast, Africa or wherever….. to understand that a person that seems so different from me actually has similar interests and wishes is incredibly powerful. Isn't it one of the reasons we are all gravitating toward social networks, and blogging, etc.

How can I dislike someone who is moved by the same music as me? How can I feel anything be empathy for someone who dances late into the night, or who blushes at the thought of their love interest?

Kuddos to Jared, and others who remind us of our fundamental human links.

If this topic is interesting there is another good book(Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran) by Azadeh Moaveni. She gives both the view of growing up in the US and spending a lot of time in Iran.
They let you in with a name like Cohen? I think I'm repeating what other people have said, but just because they're Americanized doesn't mean it's a good thing. And also, why didn't you come to Israel?
How did Jared go about setting up the meetings?? Were his guest eager to meet with him? Did the trust him right away?
Well, that's brave. But the question is: does he have "the guts" to see what Palestinian children in Gaza are undergoing? Does he have the guts to criricize America's unflinching support for Israel? Does he have the guts to see that, in the summer of 2005, Israel was intentionally destroying hospitals and lively structures in Lebanon? To dare to criticize Israel or not, that's the question. To be a Jew does not necessarily mean you have to be on Israel's side if it's making wrong and brutal acts. To be a human being is the priority.
At what can still be considered such a young age, what persuaded you at 25 to travel so far into such a dangerous place in search of information that many did not even know exsisted?
Jared,
What can I do as a middle-aged, white women, to bridge the gap of hatred between arabs and americans?
To my amazement and as an Iranian living in US, I'm blown away by your research and findings. My question is at such a young age, how did it all come about? Why did you decide to study Middle East, and how did you supported your self financially??
Great job by the way
I went to college with Jared, and he has always had amazing goals. I had the great fortune of being his travel buddy on our first trip to Ghana. I'm very proud of him and all that he has accomplished. He has already gone far beyond his goals at that time. My question for him is, what is next?
Jared,

Where did you find the courage to enter such hostile areas of the world? I'm sure you knew your own life was at risk when you did so. How can you help others understand what it takes to perform similar deeds? Your work can bring lots of positive energy to the world. It is exactly what the world needs and if delivered by the masses, just imagine what we could do for humanity. Keep up the good work.
I am a christian arab and I have many muslim friends, I know that most of them do not hate the U.S.A or americans. What they do not like is the US policy toward the mideast conflict, what they and I do not like are kids living in camps being killed by Isreal almost every day. Arabs do like the way americans can elect their leaders and they hope some day they can do the same, instead they know that the US government supports the un-elected leaders in the middle east. The unemployment among the young people in the middle east is high and when they do have jobs the pay is low, so I do think that there is hope when things do change and when the US change its policy in the middle east
How would you say these Iranian youths perception of the West and its culture will affect the 'War on Terrorism' in the future?
Talk about the sentiments of some of the new friends you made. Do they hate Americans or just the American government? Or do they like us?
Could you find any kind of hatred among young Muslim towards
Jewish people and Israel, if yes, please indicate few of the main reasons.
Thank You
Yedidia Shraga
Los Angeles,CA
Good job. This will lead to a better future for all of us.
Very impressive. I would like to know how the people you spoke with felt about a Jewish ma interviewing them?
Thanks
Hi Jared, I'm wondering what everyday Americans can do to help foster understanding with the under-30 generation in Muslim countries. If this is our "best hope for the West," what can we do to help? Thanks, and your book sounds really interesting!
Hi Jared,
What do the the young people of Iran think about their controversial leader? Is his "wipe Israel off the map" mentailty shared by many of the people you encountered?
How do you think your interviewees would have received you had you been female? Are attitudes towards women in the Middle East finally changing, or are they still oppressive?
As a fellow 20-something with a degree in International Studies and an MBA with a concentration in International Business, I have to say nice job! ...and are you single? :)
Was his main goal to interview Muslim youth? How about the numerous Christian youth that live in the regions he visited? Did he interview this group of youth and find out how life was for them living amongst a religion that looks down on them and wants them gone? At least the Muslim youth live in a country in which they fit in, they are not targeted and murdered for their religion like the hundreds of thousands of Christian were and are every day. Before you post a comment about my comment please know that I lived in Iran, grew up there as a Christian and went to school and lived there enough to see the discrimination and hate that comes about when you are of a different religion.
My question would be, what makes the author think bumming around Lebanon and Iran, hanging out at McDonald's and going to frat parties constitutes a scientific or even basically sound, basis for the writing of a book that claims to be an authority on the subject of Middle Eastern youth?
Jared,

I admire your courage and applaud you achievement. You have demonstrated fine work, and a sincere concern for humanity and understanding. Yet, as you are a Rhodes Scholar, I would have expected a more academic and less qualitative objective. While this is certainly a moving account of your experiences in dangerous regions, what exactly --if at all--is your academic "arguement" here?

Best wishes on all your future works!
To the first anonymous poster, if the measure by which you define irresponsibility is danger, then everyone who owns and operates a car is irresponsible. And who are you to decide what risking ones own life is worth? I believe that what Jared has done should be the standard M.O for all our foreign diplomats. We might actually stop this war by doing what he has done.
I'm an American Jew who recently served as an Army officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I got along just fine with the locals of these Muslim countries, and I actually made some long-term friends. And yes, they all knew I was Jewish.

Despite what you may believe, most civilized Muslims are good people just like everyone else. True, most of them are anti-Israel (as many have candidly told me), but their reasoning is often more political than it is religious.

The typical Western traveler does not usually meet the hardcore extremists in Muslim countries; they're few and far between. However, if Jared is actually interviewing children of these die-hard jihadists, then he deserves a great deal of respect -- he could actually make a difference.
Jared just may have found the future to world peace.
I think people have a bad opinion of Islam and the Muslim countries. They should not be judge by their turbans or burkas. They have the right to practice their religion freely and wear whatever pleases them. However, I was glad to read that their views on Jews and Americans are not as negative as we thought they would be. That is why I think they are the best hope for the West not because they are becoming Americanized.
The future has always been with children. I would like to see more young people from the Middle East reporting on the good young people of the US and other countries. I think we all could use a different point of view. Thanks Jared.
Jared is a very brave young man. Perseverance may eventually lead to open doors, open eyes, and confront the truth of Islam.
Dude, I just read your book Children of Jihad and heard you interviewed on youtube.com via the BBC. You are remarkable.

You mother must be so proud of you. Hell, I am proud of you and what you have accomplished.

Tell us more about young people and how we can set up an organizations to help the youth of middle east with their search for freedom, communication and especially economic opportunity.

But take time out to work on your speaking in front of the camera. You speak faster than people can listen.

Congratulations of your books which have been so well received, your accomplishments and your new job with the US Department of State.

Be safe.
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