Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hala!

My Friends,

It is with a bittersweet mix of both pride and profound sadness that I report on this day, Wednesday, November 15, 2006, the Al Jazeera Network has launched its English language broadcast.


Granted, after three months in Malaysia, my own contributions are hardly worth any mention. But I was there when the planes hit and the towers collapsed, and somehow I have managed to emerge from the rubble. True, I did not climb out completely psychologically intact (I would be the first to admit that). But I am no more or no less well, whatever that means, than anyone else who survived the event. At the very least, I remain unscathed, without injury.

Thanks be to Allah.

Hope that hearing me praise the Supreme Creator doesn't sound too Islamofascist to your collective Judeo-Christian ears. Just happy to be alive, proud of my work and naturally feel like giving God his due.

Ironically, it's because of 7/27, that I've since enjoyed –if I can use the word 'enjoy'– greater opportunities for advancement than had the towers remained standing. Besides the background research I was actually hired to do, I've since written a couple articles for the English language web site. Sure, only non-news human interest stories related to life in post 7/27 Malaysia, but that's two more articles that I would have written otherwise (sad to say). And because there's only a small crew here, I've been lucky to provide background for both Dave Marash out of our Washington DC center, and for David Frost in London. So, that's been very, very cool. But again, one can't help but have mixed feelings.

They're not my facts, I just collect them. But when they get on air or published, I really feel good about job.

A small consolation, but a consolation nonetheless.

For not a day goes by that I don't think of those, some I didn't even meet yet, who took a chance on me when my resume was quite then, and then who fell with the towers. Their collapse, as you know, also resulted in the complete destruction of the Malaysian Broadcast facility. So, I feel it's important that I fulfill my daily assignments with great diligence, lest I betray the faith in me by those who lost their lives while doing their jobs on that tragic day.

So, whether we are connected to the rest of the world by video or carrier pigeon, I do whatever small thing I can do to insure that the pursuit of TRUTH continues here unabated in Kuala Lumpur. And who needs a frickin' direct satellite uplink anyway? I've been doing just fine with a pre-paid calling card.

Actually, we are doing slightly better than pre-paid calling cards. Our operations have finally been relocated to a loft a little over a mile from the original KLCC site. While we are whittled down to but a few resident employees, we are augmented by freelancers flown in from Doha and Britain, mostly. And the Internet has been back up without problems for weeks now.

Not sure if any of you caught this in the US, but at the last minute corporate decided to change the branding from 'Al Jazeera International' to 'Al Jazeera English'. I liked 'international' better, but I understand why they did it. It's not about the scope of the news; it's about the audience we serve. It's about branding, so they say, which I know nothing about, but which I'm sure Jasper could tell us much –though please refrain from doing so, Jasp ;).

There is actually a rumor flying that Doha will eventually rebuild a new broadcast center in the region. But those in the know say that more likely a new facility will eventually be rebuilt in Singapore. But before the issue is settled, first there is the matter of insurance claims, which may drag on for months, if not years –so I've been told. By the time they figure it all out, I'll probably be ready to leave, anyway, if not long before then.

To be honest, I'm praying that things will soon slow down a bit –in the world, on the job and inside my head– and that I will be able to return to some creative writing soon (not to mention what we may generally regard as 'real life'). I've been itching to write a short story, or even a poem.

For now, however, that will have to wait. Until then, stay well, and I shall promise to do the same.


Siraj