Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Talk radio Baghdad

I love talk radio and apparently so do Iraqis.

BAGHDAD -- It is a recent afternoon in Baghdad, and a Sunni and a Shi'ite sheik are chatting in the modest Baghdad studio of Radio Dijla.

Moufaq Al-Alani, the program's 63-year-old host, waits patiently for a caller to express his views on terrorism before politely suggesting that parents and teachers teach young people to respect all Iraqis.

Qasem Al-Joubari, the Sunni sheik, says imams should emphasize that killing civilians is never acceptable for a Muslim. His Shi'ite counterpart, Mahdi El-Mohamedoui, says violence reflects poorly on both Islam and Iraq in the eyes of the world.

An engineer, turning and sliding dials on a bulky soundboard, furiously spins his right hand behind a glass partition to signal a commercial break, and a young staffer hurries into the studio with glasses of sweet black tea.

This is talk radio in Iraq.

"Our country has been usurped by a 'with us or against us' attitude," says Mr. Al-Alani, a reporter for 44 years. "This station is giving all Iraqis a chance to express their viewpoints in a nonconfrontational manner. Our audience prefers this; they want peace."

Radio Dijla is Iraq's first independent radio station with an all-talk format, and it is a huge hit with the public.

A peaceful discussion of ideas. Maybe this whole democracy thing is cathing on over there.