Good news: the launch of Meedan, “an Arabic-English forum using Machine Translation with expert corrections”.
According to a report at the Guardian, the new site will “steer clear of controversial subjects”, which is the diametric opposite of Memri’s approach of seeking out what can be misinterpreted, and duly misinterpreting.
See also MideastWire, and Brian Whitaker’s review of it here.
The following debate on Al Jazeera (21st February 2006) created a storm around the world, in its edited and subtitled form provided by MEMRI. In a follow-up article (7/3/2006), MEMRI boasted over a million hits for the video on their site, as well as repeating and underlining their claim that “During the interview, Dr.Ibrahim Al-Khouli accused Sultan of being a ‘heretic‘ for attacking current aspects of Islamic society.”
MEMRI Transcript #1050:
Arab-American Psychiatrist Wafa Sultan: There is No Clash of Civilizations but a Clash between the Mentality of the Middle Ages and That of the 21st Century
The ‘Aqoul blog criticised the translation and the way the debate was edited. Referring to the full Al Jazeera Arabic transcript, “Meph” published a full translation, which we reproduce here:
Transcript Translation: al-Jazeera – The Opposite Direction (26/02/2006)
See their extensive discussions before: Fatwas and Wafa Sultan
With: Wafa Sultan: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – The Full Sultan Jazeera Transcript
And after: On MEMRI & Translations[…]
See also their subsequent posts about MEMRI:
MEMRI Mendacity, brief thoughts
Debating the merits of MEMRI[…]
Related: WAFA SULTAN: Reformist or opportunist?
The following article by Brian Whitaker appeared in the TBS Journal of Spring 2005, following his earlier Guardian article and debate with MEMRI’s president. As well as criticising MEMRI’s partiality and selection techniques, he highlights the Bin Laden State-gate incident (see also: Juan Cole, Marc Lynch et al) and its implications.
Maybe Bin Ladin was indeed talking about American states, but maybe not. If he had meant American states, he could easily have said so. Short of asking him, there is no way of knowing his real intention. Other translations rightly preserved the ambiguity of the original Arabic and MEMRI was wrong to jump to conclusions. It was also a clever bit of election propaganda on MEMRI’s part, implying that Bin Ladin wanted Americans to vote for Kerry. The idea was taken up by Fox News on November 1, when John Gibson, anchorman for its evening news program, The Big Story, told viewers, “Over the weekend we finally got a good translation (i.e. from MEMRI) of Usama bin Ladin’s tape, which suddenly appeared on the air on Friday. Back on Friday, it sounded like gibberish. Now, it’s a bit more clear. Usama was trying to make a deal with Americans, along these lines: If you vote against Bush, we will not attack you. So, if Ohio votes for Kerry, Usama will not attack. If Florida votes for Bush, Usama will attack.”
Viewers would have little trouble interpreting the message there: a vote for Kerry was a vote for Bin Ladin, and all right-thinking Americans should vote for Bush.
Arabsats Get the MEMRI Treatment
By Brian Whitaker
Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, published the following article at his blog on 2/11/2004: Bin Laden’s Audio Threat to States. It was reproduced on AntiWar.com, prompting a lawsuit threat from MEMRI’s founder and president, Col. Yigal Carmon.
Islamophobia Watch has criticised MEMRI many times, including with specific charges of distortion and mistranslation or, more frequently, for its biased selections and omissions. The vast majority of these have been in reference to the leading Islamic scholar Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, especially following his visit to the UK in July 2004, during which he was greeted by London Mayor Ken Livingstone. Below are links to articles at Islamophobia Watch referring to MEMRI and Qaradawi, presented chronologically.
“What they’re trying to do is to pretend that the effect of the conflict is the cause of the conflict.” (Ali Abunimah)
What follows is an edited transcript from a debate between Yigal Carmon of MEMRI and Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada. It took place on Q&A with Zain Verjee, CNN, 29 July 2002. The transcript was originally prepared by CNN and has words missing.
The following article by Brian Whitaker appeared in the Guardian on 28 September 2005. This article discusses MEMRI briefly, following a more in-depth critique (Selective Memri) by the same writer three years earlier, a subsequent debate between him and MEMRI president Yigal Carmon, and another article in the TBS Journal in Spring 2005.
A new online translation service provides the west with an English-language digest of the Arabic press, writes Brian Whitaker