Faisal al-Qassem

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Faisal Al-Qassem
Faisal al-Qasim.jpg
Born 1961
Al-Suwayda Governorate, Syria
Residence Qatar
Nationality Syrian, British
Education Damascus University, University of Hull[1]
Occupation Talk show host
Years active 1994–present
Religion Druze

Dr. Faisal Al-Qassem, also written as Faisal Al-Kasim (Arabic:فيصل القاسم ) is an internationally renowned British-Syrian veteran and television personality based in Qatar, who is known for hosting the famous and controversial live debate show The Opposite Direction (Arabic:الاتجاه المعاكس ) on Al Jazeera, where two guests with extremely opposed view points debate on current affairs. Fights break out on occasions.[2][3]

Al-Qassem is known for his provocative on-screen style, and is frequently credited with playing a large part in Al Jazeera's reputation in the Arab world as willing to break taboos and potentially offend individuals and states.[4] He was listed by Arabian Business Magazine as one of the top most influential Arab personalities for the year 2007, ranked as 64th.[5]

Al-Qassem is married to a Syrian woman who comes from the same village, and has 3 children, a girl, Siba, and two boys, Aseel and Adam. Outside his work in media, Al-Qassem enjoys a range of interests and pastimes including internet surfing, shopping, and listening to music. [6]

Early life[edit]

Faisal Al-Qassem was born in 1961 in the village of Thaala, in the province of Suweida, Syria. He is from the Druze religious minority in Syria. He graduated in 1983 from the University of Damascus with a degree in English Literature, and later received his PhD from the University of Hull in 1990.[7] At Hull, he Initially studied drama, later moving on to television. [8]

As a child born into a poor family, Al-Qassem had to work various jobs including metalwork, harvesting, street cleaning, electrical work, and more tedious tasks. Since then, he dreamt of leaving that world to work in something that would allow him to have a public presence and voice. He used to call radio stations to hear his name on air. He had a very strong interest in radio and television, and used to go to the city to watch television through windows of houses. He once got caught doing so by a homeowner who accused him of being a thief. After hearing his story, however, he allowed him to enter the house and watch television with the family. Al Qassem's family were able to buy a black and white television set of their own after electricity was introduced to his village. Al-Qassem originally aspired to become a weather report presenter on television.[9]

Career[edit]

Work in Media[edit]

Before joining Al Jazeera, Al-Qassem worked for the BBC Arabic Radio and TV for over eight years as producer and anchor of political and cultural programs.

  • 1994-1996: Worked as a news presenter and host for the show "Behind the News" on BBC television.
  • 1993-1996: News journalist for The Arab Emirates Radio in London.
  • 1991: Producer and presenter of The Journalism Show for MBC channel.
  • 1989-1988: Producer and presenter of cultural shows in the Arab department at BBC.
  • Producer and presenter of several entertainment and music shows at BBC, including "Adwaa Wa Qadaya" (Lights and Cases), "Araa Wa Maraya" (Opinions and Mirrors), and others.
  • Producer and presenter of several political programs at BBC, including "Al-Aalam Hatha Al Sabaah" (The World This Morning), "Aalam Al Thaheera" (Afternoon World), and others.
  • Has many article contributions in Syrian newspapers.
  • 1988-1992: Has many article contributions in "Al-Hayat" (Life), "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat" (The Middle East), and "Huna London" (This is London) newspapers.
  • Has many article contributions is=n American Magazines.
  • Writes a weekly article in "Al-Sharq" (The East) Qatari Newspaper until today.
  • 1996: Joined Al-Jazeera as a news and show presenter.
  • 1997: Launched "The Opposite Direction" show.[10]

The Opposite Direction[edit]

"The Opposite Direction" is regarded as probably the most controversial talk show in the history of Arab television. It is also one of the most popular, and has drawn official protest and complaints from officials. It is similar to CNN's Crossfire, and is a political debate show that features guests who hold opposing opinions and debate a controversial topic. Hugh Miles writes in his book on Al-Jazeera "the show has been the source of numerous international disputes and instigated the severance of diplomatic relations with several neighboring countries."[11] Dr. Faisal Al-Qassem prepares the show himself, researching, writing, and presenting it single-handedly. Through it, he has become one of the most famous faces in the Arab World.[12] Al-Qassem's program has led to diplomatic crises between the state of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, and several Arab countries, five of which withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in protest over the program.[13] Faisal Al-Qassem has stated that his mission is to liberate the Arab World from dictatorship, despots, and traditions. He believes that Al-Jazeera and his show have been successful in doing that.[14]

Publications[edit]

Al-Qassem has published the following book titles in Arabic:

  • Politics and Literature (Arabic:السياسة والأدب)
  • Memorize and Shut-Up (Arabic - احفظ واخرس )
  • The Missing Dialogue in Arab Culture (Arabic: الحوار المفقود في الثقافة العربية)

[15]

Views & Criticisms[edit]

Al-Qassem has been viewed in many cases as a big supporter of the 2011 Arab revolutions, by fueling them and spreading awareness through his show "The Opposite Direction". His colleague and friend, Yahya Abo-Zakariya, describes the introductory scenes of the show presented by Al-Qassem as more like revolution statements, backed up with dramatic music effects that made them sound very powerful. The show became a fuel to the revolutions, and has allowed the accumulation of awareness on revolt and public awakening which in turn played a part in creating a situation of Arab revolt against the current situation.[16]

Nonetheless, Al-Qassem has been widely criticized by various people for different reasons. He has been criticized for his selection of guests, such as for the episode on the alleged terrorist armed gangs of Syria, where he hosted a military personality to debate with a Lebanese author, where the military personality was viewed as incompetent and unappropriate for such a debate.[17] In addition, a Syrian blogger has criticized and attacked him, describing him as sectarian due to his selection of pro-regime guests only from the Christian sect to debate with opposition figures mainly from the Muslim-Sunni sect, accusing him of trying to give the revolution a sectarian appearance.[18] Also, Al-Qassem's statements that described the Yemeni people as drunks due to their high percentage of qat drug addiction raised a huge amount of criticism on him and his show among Yemenis. Some have even demanded a public apology from him for insulting the Yemeni people.[19] Al-Qassem has declared his support, on November 20, 2013, to attacks by Alqaida onto the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. He said"#فيصل_القاسم "من يلعب بالنار يحرق أصابيعه". This opinion faced an uproar in internet communities. [20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arab Media Forum - Faisal Al Qassem - Presenter of "The Opposite Direction"Al Jazeera Channel
  2. ^ "Faisal al-Qassem- 'Letter from an Arab Leader' with translation". 
  3. ^ "فيصل القاسم". ويكيبيديا، الموسوعة الحرة. 
  4. ^ Cohn, Martin Regg (2003). Al-Jazeera's free-speech gambit. The Toronto Star March 23, p.F5.
  5. ^ "فيصل القاسم". ويكيبيديا، الموسوعة الحرة. 
  6. ^ فائق, أبو المعالي. "فيصل القاسم من الحدادة ونظافة الشوارع إلى أشهر إعلامى عربى فى أشهر قناة إعلامية عربية". 
  7. ^ "فيصل القاسم". ويكيبيديا، الموسوعة الحرة. 
  8. ^ Miles, Hugh, Al-Jazeera
  9. ^ فائق, أبو المعالي. "فيصل القاسم من الحدادة ونظافة الشوارع إلى أشهر إعلامى عربى فى أشهر قناة إعلامية عربية". 
  10. ^ Al-Jazeera Net. "مذيعون ومراسلون: فيصل القاسم". 
  11. ^ Amy Goodman & Juan González. "Democracy Now! in Doha... The Opposite Direction: Why This Al Jazeera Talk Show Draws Fire From Arab & Western Governments". 
  12. ^ Amy Goodman & Juan González. "Democracy Now! in Doha... The Opposite Direction: Why This Al Jazeera Talk Show Draws Fire From Arab & Western Governments". 
  13. ^ Tayler, Jeffrey. "The Faisal factor: a talk-show host on al-Jazeera targets those he believes are the worst enemies the Arabs have: themselves.(Brief Lives)." The Atlantic Monthly 294.4 (Nov 2004): 41(3).
  14. ^ Amy Goodman & Juan González. "Democracy Now! in Doha... The Opposite Direction: Why This Al Jazeera Talk Show Draws Fire From Arab & Western Governments". 
  15. ^ "فيصل القاسم". ويكيبيديا، الموسوعة الحرة. 
  16. ^ أبوزكريا, يحيى. "أنا وفيصل القاسم والثورات العربية". 
  17. ^ "هجوم على فيصل القاسم بعد حلقة الجماعات المسلحة". 
  18. ^ Al-Soori, George. "مسيحيون سوريون ضد الطائفي فيصل القاسم". 
  19. ^ الراجحي, عدنان. "جدل واسع حول فيصل القاسم بعد وصف اليمنيين بـ" السكارى"". براقش نت. 
  20. ^ "فيصل القاسم". twitter.