A young Arab-American high school student who meandered is way into and around Baghdad for a high school journalism project will return home this weekend.
Using allowance from his parents, Farris Hassan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, snuck out of his house to fly to the Middle East. He was inspired by a concept he learned about in one of his classes: immersion journalism. It means that journalists who live more like their subjects can write with more insight.
His first flirtation with immersion, according to the article, was when he “hung out at a local mosque” in Florida, before taking his trip. The teen “spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men.” I laughed when it quoted his teacher as saying this was “dangerous and irresponsible” — he discussed politics with Muslims, my gosh!
He wandered around Baghdad trying to get his story. Because he speaks no Arabic, he used a phrasebook to order food. Naturally, he drew crowds whenever he tried speaking. His alarmed parents had the embassy and military on the lookout for him. He walked in to an AP office, shocking the staff so badly, one editor quipped, “I would have been less surprised if little green men had walked in.”
All the reports about this seemed to stress how dangerous is was for him to go to Iraq, with all the hostage-taking going on. They cite the danger being from the insurgents. Hassan’s parents, however, are Iraqi. He looks like an Iraqi. If he’s just walking around, I’d say at least as much of the danger comes from the Occupation forces — which has still killed more Iraqis than the insurgents have. The media misses this obvious point.
What bothers me most about the way this story is covered is that it makes Iraq seem like a cesspool of alien hostility — and, this innocent and idealistic kid was lucky to survive a venture there. I mean come one, most people are just going to be curious about him when he can’t speak Arabic, but go on with their daily worries. Yet, the media make it seem like he is alive by some miracle, because Iraq is just full of savages.
His essay to his teachers, which he sent in before reaching Iraq, said:
There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction.
Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will.
This is very well-written, but mere repetition of Bush’s empty arguments — much like the work of Fouad Ajami. Hassan is only 16 years old, so I’m not sure what Ajami’s excuse is.