April 23, 2014 -- Updated 4:10 pm GMT

Queen Rania Wraps YouTube Project

Posted in: Jordan

Five months after launching her YouTube channel,  Queen Rania of Jordan has finished with her series of daily interactive YouTube video and written blog postings. She did this to promote dialogue and understanding between the West and Islam.

357 207x300 Queen Rania Wraps YouTube ProjectWhile the Queen has admitted that her project did not at ”melt away” the stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs, it has sparked some change in attitudes.

“I’d like to think I’ve made some people pause, reflect and reconsider ideas and assumptions they held as true, but it would be naive to think that everyone who clicked on to the page, now thinks differently,” Rania told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

The site mixes the humorous with the serious. In one video, a comedian says that an American once said, “Oh, you’re Arab, but you look so nice,” when discovering his heritage. Other videos show the real-life perils – from terrorism to human rights abuses – for people in Arab countries

Rania and her husband, King Abdullah II, have worked hard to position themselves in the vanguard of new Arab leaders: young, moderate, pro-Western, and technologically savvy. An international icon, the queen has become known for using her position to advocate for social causes from education for girls to an end to honor killing in Jordan.

Then in February, she started the YouTube page and asked Westerners to send in their stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims and open a discussion on how those negative images could be changed. Rania’s first video received 1.4 million views within weeks, prompted 83 video responses from other users, and generated nearly 6,000 text comments.

“YouTube is, primarily, an entertainment network, so I did wonder if people would engage in a serious discussion,” the Queen says. “It was a leap into the unknown for me. But to be honest, everything has exceeded my expectations – the good and the bad. There’s more misunderstanding than I had appreciated, more anger, more bias, but also more interest, more support, and more engagement.”

“My favorite response is still one of the earliest ones I received: ‘Are you Michael Jordan’s wife?’ My husband found that one very funny.”

The Palestinian-born Rania said she was “very pleased” with the frank discussions and probing questions YouTube’s freedom provided. She said she witnessed “changes in attitude” mainly among the site’s returning visitors.

“If it resulted in a smile to a stranger, or a knock introducing yourself to your neighbor, then I’d be very proud,” she added.

Rania said her YouTube channel would remain online after Tuesday, and she would post “from time to time,” but less frequently.

To check out Rania’s YouTube channel, click here

Jordan’s King Abdullah Visits Iraq

Posted in: Jordan

Jordanian King Abdullah II became the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was an unannounced visit, and the King had talks with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, and vice president Abdel Mahdi. Abdullah originally planned to go to Iraq last month, but cancelled to avoid massive publicity.capt cps ngk82 110808214206 photo00 photo default 512x387 300x226 Jordans King Abdullah Visits Iraq

The King had “frank and positive talks” with al-Maliki on relations between the two countries, the Iraqi government said in a statement. The meeting only lasted four hours, and Abdullah left Iraq before it was even announced he came.

But Maliki seemed optimistic following the brief meeting, saying in a release statement: “This visit will open a new page in relations between the two countries which will help to maintain the stability and security in Iraq and all the region,” he said.

Ties between the two neighboring countries have been strained since the Saddam’s government collapsed. U.S. officials had been urging Abdullah to visit Iraq to bolster ties between the two countries. Jordanian officials have been concerned about the rise of a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Iraq and the loss of discounted oil, which Saddam once provided.

Al-Maliki visited Jordan in June for the first time in nearly two years, and since then, the two nations appear willing to put their differences behind them.

In addition to meeting with Al-Maliki, King Abdullah also met with vice president Abdel Mahdi. He discussed the sectarian violence with Mahdi, and said, “Uniting Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political powers is the only way to build a unified and sovereign Iraq that would be capable of serving its people and the Arab nation.”

“Iraqi and Jordanian officials should exchange visits after this trip to discuss mechanisms for boosting bilateral relations in various fields and serve the interests of Jordan and Iraq,” the King added, in a statement released in Amman.

When Iraq visited Jordan back in June, he agreed to renew oil supplies to his cash-strapped neighbor for the next three years at discounted prices.

capt cps ngk82 110808214206 photo01 photo default 512x3382 300x198 Jordans King Abdullah Visits IraqJordan also agreed to ease restrictions on the entry of Iraqi students and those transiting to a third country.

Jordan hosts between 450,000 and 750,000 Iraqi refugees who have fled violence in their war-torn country, and Amman has estimated the costs of sheltering them so far at more than two billion dollars.

Jordan has also named an ambassador to Iraq, joining other Arab countries that have agreed to upgrade their relations as the Iraqi government becomes more stable and security has improved — despite sporadic attacks and ongoing military operations.

The king’s visit was seen as positive if symbolic step forward for Baghdad which is working to rebuild relations with its neighbours in the wake of five years of bloodshed that continues despite violence dipping to a four-year low.

Maliki said the visit paved the way for strengthening Iraq’s relations with other Arab countries.

King Abdullah in 2004 warned against the emergence in Iraq of a pro-Iranian government that would promote a “Shiite crescent” bringing together Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — a comment criticised by Iraqi officials.

The Sunni-ruled Arab monarchies of the region had been reluctant to upgrade ties with Iraq, not just due to violence in the country but also because of its Shiite-led government’s perceived tilt toward non-Arab Shiite Iran.

Posting based on articles from the AP and AFP.