Queen Rania takes on stereotypes

Source: BBC

July 25, 2008

Queen Rania of Jordan is seated behind an enormous desk in her office in Amman with three cameras trained on her.

Two of them are ours, the third belongs to her staff, who are about to film the latest edition for her personalised channel - or V-log - on the video-sharing website YouTube.


It is the seventh video she will have posted since she made her online debut in March. Speaking in English, she asks people to suggest stereotypes they have heard about the Arab world so she could "break them down one by one".

King Abdullah's wife may not be the only public figure tapping into the popularity of YouTube - politicians and monarchs worldwide have created sites.

But as a prominent Arab using the internet to try to engage with the west and promote moderate Islam, she stands out from the crowd.

Some stereotypes are just wrong... This (Arab headscarf) is not a symbol of extremist behaviour Queen Rania, speaking on YouTube


"My teenage son is a man of very few words and his response was 'cool', so I guess it's got to be good," she jokes.

YouTubers seem to agree with him: so far over two million people have watched her videos (a combination of posts from her and contributions from various musicians, comedians and local Jordanians).

Channel of communication

By putting herself online, Queen Rania is opening herself to the criticism of millions of people.

"When I first broached the idea of doing YouTube some people looked at me as though I must have completely lost the plot," she confides.

"I do feel that our world is in a bit of a crisis at the moment," she says. "Violence has overtaken dialogue and compassion has lost out to anger. I'm hoping this will become a channel of communication between east and west because I very much think our world is in dire need of that."

Unlike the YouTube sites belonging to the British royal family or the UK government site, which don't allow comments and disable any discussion, Queen Rania's channel actively encourages them.

People have written a plethora of opinions on her page ranging from the adulatory, to the engaging, and the angry.

It's not exactly an online conversation. She can pick and choose which of the comments she responds to.

But she hasn't shied away from the tough issues: the rights of Arab women, honour killings, religion and terrorism have all been addressed.

No mistakes

And as one of the most photographed women on the planet, Queen Rania understands the power of the visual image.

"A lens is something through which you can really reach out to people and get your message across," she says.

It might be one of the reasons why, despite the crowd of cameras, staff and crew engulfing her, she manages to do her piece to camera in one take, with no hesitations, and no mistakes.

Queen Rania plans to end her V-log on 12 August, International Youth Day, but already she says it was move worth taking.

"By putting myself on YouTube I'm really putting myself out there, throwing myself into the thick of things. But it's a gamble worth taking.

"As Muslims we need to stand up and speak out about who we are. If we want to defy stereotypes we have to start defining ourselves and we're not going to do that just by sitting quietly at home expecting people to just get it."

Rania: The YouTube Queen is a Rockhopper TV production.
You can see it on BBC World News on 26 July at 0710, 1510 and 1910, and on 27 July at 0010, 0710, 1510 and 1910. All times GMT.