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Arabeyes: Just a Pretty Face

Miss South Carolina was asked why a fifth of students in the US couldn't locate their country on a map. This is how she responded:

Her mumbles were the butt of jokes on blogs from the Middle East and here's a quick review:

Mohamed Nanabhay, who lives in Qatar, simply stopped laughing after watching the video for the fifth time.

“After watching this video for the fifth time it stops being funny and starts becoming very worrying …,” he writes.

Of course, we shouldn’t be too worried, though — it’s not like beauty-pageant contestants run the most powerful country on the face of the planet (even if they can’t quite place themselves on a map). Surely American presidents congressmen know a bit more about the region where they are waging war. Right?

Nanabhay goes on to show us how some congressmen don't fare any better than the teen contestant, even when they wage a war on another country.

The chairman of the United States House intelligence committee (which is charged with oversight of the intelligence community) must surely understand all of this complicated geography, history and religious stuff. Well, luckily for us, Jeff Stein decided to interview Congressman Reyes just before he became chairman:

Al-Qaeda is what, I asked: Sunni or Shia?

“Al-Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shi’ite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al-Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi’ite showed up at an al-Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball …

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah …”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said — a little.

“Poquito?!” He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh …”

I apologised for putting him “on the spot a little”. But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on US soil and in the Middle East have been front-page news for a long time now …

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but … it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Alrighty. Well I guess it’s time to start praying that the good folks at the Pentagon have a better sense of the world and don’t mistake Boksburg for Baghdad …

Egyptian D. B. Shobrawy weighs in, entitling his post: You're so Dumb, It Hurts!

“There are things in this world that boggle the mind, things that have no answers and things that entice the mind with curiosity. Among them is the overwhelming ignorance towards geography and world affairs in the U.S. It can be even more mind boggling when someone asks the question, “why dont Americans excel in Geography?” A shortage of maps perhaps? Miss South Carolina, your thoughts?” he notes.

Oooh, you poor fragile little thing! If only America had maps like “the Iraq”. And who will save South Africa?

Palestinian-Jordanian Soul Blossom, who is based in Texas, US, says the joke cracked by Miss Carolina was “priceless.”

“HAHAHA priceless! What was she thinking, or should I say, was she thinking at all?

Bored, I was flipping channels when I stumbled across it. Luckily for me, it was the funny part when the contestants are asked questions and their answers are then evaluated. The ironic thing is, I bet if she were asked to locate the US, she would point at Africa. Does what you see in the video give an idea -even if a vague one- about the US high school educational system? Something to ponder about! Enjoy a good laugh,” she explains.

From Jordan, Naseem Tarawnah, takes the opportunity to poke fun at beauty pageants. He writes:

And to think that once upon a time, American educational institutions were hotbeds for political dissent. Suffice to say, students protesting the war on Iraq in the same manner their grandparent’s did in the 60’s, is, well, way off. To be fair, the US is full of very intelligent and articulate individuals; graduates of some of the best universities in the world in fact. Some of those people even end up becoming President.

In any case, I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be so hard on Mini Miss South Carolina. It is, after all, called a beauty pageant (’drool-in-cup-and-look-hot contest’ came in second) and not a brains and beauty pageant. So I don’t know why they insist on testing the mental capabilities of contestants at these things just to show they’re looking for well-rounded figures (pun intended). Seriously, finding knowledge during one of these contests is as slim as a porn star finding religion at a sci-fi convention.

Ironically, her answer reminded me of practically every single time Bush has ever stood behind a podium and opened his mouth. Maybe the judges should start asking contestants if they have an exit strategy for Iraq.

Anyways, while most of the people living in the Arab world can find their own country on a map (and probably a few others as well), our region has a whole other set of problems when it comes to education.

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