National Geographic : 2003 Mar
Linked by youth and faith, kids visit relatives for treats on the feast days ending hajj, the tin for pilgrimage to Mecca. Their generation may inherit a Qatar both Muslim and modern, den cratic and devout-if today's reforms endure. One of Al Jazeera's most provocative voices is that of Faisal al-Kasim, a 41-year-old Syrian who hosts The Opposite Direction, a popular show modeled after CNN's Crossfire. I asked him what topics had generated his most important programs. "Those that have touched upon the debate in Islam over highly sensitive religious issues," he replied. "I've had secularists challenge Islamists, and Islamists challenge representatives of their states. This is at the very core of what's happening in the Middle East today." 104 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * MARCH 2003 These have also been among his most e controversial shows, including one in which two women debated the merits 1o- of polygamy. One, a leftist member of the Jordanian Parliament, opined that a seventh-century practice, though sanc tioned by the Prophet, was "total rubbish" now. As Faisal looked on in disbelief, his other guest, an Egyptian Islamist and traditionalist, stormed off the show, shouting "Blasphemy!" as she made for the door. I asked the emir about the repercussions of sending such programs into the homes of some 35 million viewers, in an Arab world unaccus tomed to hearing the truth on its nightly news. "Was there any turning back with Al Ja zeera?" I began.