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Pakistan and India - Peace Through Sesame Street

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    Pakistan and India - Peace Through Sesame Street

    Alright...alot of us grew up watching Sesame Street every morning. Alot of us grew up watching Jim Henson's Muppets.

    The Globe and Mail recently (yesterday) featured an article regarding the use of Sesame Street in Israel to bridge an understanding between Jews and Muslims. The program features Muppet characters who are both Jewish and Muslim. The Muslim characters eat Hummus and Falafels, while the Jewish characters promote their culture. The idea is to get the new generation of Muslims and Jews to bridge a new understanding. The idea is to create a more tolerant atmosphere in a war ravaged part of the world. Well the strategy seems to be working. Although neither side is forgetting the past (with many Israelis failing to recognize anything harmful was ever done in the past), there seems to be a general consensus amongst the younger generation, regarding the need for greater dialogue and understanding.

    Could a similar program be utilized in India and Pakistan - with Hindus and Muslims? Would it have any positive impacts? I'm wondering if the media can play a role in mediating peaceful dialogue or at least understanding, between the younger generations of our countries, to avoid the potential of costly war in the future? What type of charcters could we incorporate in our Hindu-meets-Muslim Sesame Street?


    Dear Achtung, I think it will be a wonderful idea to have such a TV program in India and Pakistan. Although I am not a Sesame Street Kid, but my kids are, and this program is the “only” reason for my financial contribution (only a little, as that’s all we can afford) to Public Television. Sesame Street has made a significant difference in my kids’ lives. Learning ABCs through social meanings is a far greater gift Mr. Hanson could give to our kids than just learning ABCs. By the way, my favorite has always been “Earnie”, I call him “Stupid Genius”. Bert may look goofy, but a goofy literate is way more preferred over a literate goofy.

    In terms of characters for Indo-Pak show, I think a Devout Hindu (called Brahmin) and a Devout Muslim (Ahmad) can be a duo like Earnie and Bert. A Tall Sikh can be a “Big Bird”, with Saffron Turban, a Kashmiri Character (Count), plus many more to reflect the heterogeneous composition of our region.

    Let me ask you a question. Will you be willing to look into what is involved in having such a program? If your answer is yes, I will gladly assist you to find ways to make headway. CTW headquarters are in NYC, and I will gladly make inquiries.


      With regards to the muppet shows in Israel, the fact is there are still new jewish settlements being built in Palestinian quarters so no amount of tv shows can whitewash that fact. Most Palestinians are now living in Jordan, their homes in Palestine having been taken by American and European jewish immigrants. Kermit the frog or Miss Piggy can't change that fact.

      As for India and Pakistan, why not settle the differences between the two countries by sitting down and talking? Isn't that what our politicians are there for? When Hitler was gassing the jews would a cartoon showing friendship between Nazis and jews have made things better or worse? We don't need to be told how to make friends with Indians on an individual level. We need to see the Indians prepared to talk about settling the Kashmir dispute once and for all so that everyone can live in a better atmosphere.

      I say settle the differences first as they affect real lives, and real people are suffering the consequences. Once this is done, hopefully we can have a real dialogue between the countries and you can have your muppets, puppets and whatever.


        Dear Mr. Xtreme, the problem is that to many in this world Kashmir is an internal issue of India. Can you think of any reason why it shouldn’t be? Same goes for internal issues of Pakistan. I agree that Muppets don’t solve geo-political problems, but the inherently ignorant and utterly stupid leadership of our nation has failed (time and again) to solve even the minutest of our concerns. I will take Miss Piggy over Pig Musharraf any day.

        Pakistan should let Pakhtoons decide whether or not they want to be part of Pakistan before dreaming to have Kashmir.



          I don't really want to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Kashmir issue here as there is a politics forum specifically for those topics and I have a feeling it won't take too much for Kashmirigirl to boot our sorry butts into that direction.

          My point is I don't think problems should be glossed over by puppet shows. 50 years down the line we are still getting Schindler's List from the jewish lobby in Hollywood. By your logic we should have had muppet shows back then, starring Adolf the Happy Chappy* and Hymie Goldberg the gas sniffing jew*.

          Has Sesame street got any genial Iraqi generals appearing yet?


          *the above characters are purely fictional and are in no way meant to represent any lindividual whether live or deceased.


            I think the idea is a good one.
            Perhaps not to deal with a mature audience but at least to correct the problems that may be manifesting themselves during childhood.


              >>>”50 years down the line we are still getting Schindler's List from the jewish lobby in Hollywood.<<<”

              and what is wrong with that? It was the most terrible part of history of human kind. No one should ever forget that. Just so you know that Oscar Schlinder was a “German”. Because you are so eager to shove your Kuran down everyone’s throat and completely get sucked up to your Muslim brotherhood philosophy and find anything anti-Semitic or non-Islamic to prove your convoluting and ill logic. Statements like you have made make sense only to those who share your hatred of “peace”.

              Sesame Street is not here to fix the problems of the (Islamic) world, it is a show that educates young minds about the right and the wrong. And about living in harmony with your multicultural neighbors. The only thing I wish for this program to include is a Homosexual character. I hope some day.



                > alot of us grew up watching Sesame Street every morning. Alot
                > of us grew up watching Jim Henson's Muppets.

                You mean most of the ppl here are ABCD/CBCD ??

                ps: I grew up watching 'kaliaaN' and 'khuda kee basti'.


                  >and what is wrong with that? It was the most terrible part of history of human kind. No one should ever forget that

                  and yet you are so ready to forget what is going on right now in this day and age. I made my point, and I didn't shove any 'korans' or muslim brotherhoods down anybody's throat. try not too get carried away and put words in my mouth NYA, this is a serious topic and I am willing to hear your point of view but you have to convince me of the logic and the principles behind your thinking. I don't think of the Kashmiris as any less tan you think of the jews so think about what I said.


                    Thanks for your responses, this topic is getting a bit political, but still the underlying theme is the role of children's educational media in the peace process.

                    NY Ahmadi, I 'think' there's a lot to be done before we could go to CTW headquarters and make inquiries. A lot of it has to do with some of Mr. Extremes post.

                    Mr. Extreme: You made a number of excellent points:

                    Point Number 1: It would be impossible to build 'peace' on the grounds of a 'muppet' show alone.

                    [i] But one of the main themes in the article in the Globe, was that 'peace is a process and not an event'. Perhaps a show like this one could facilitate that process. Of course you make the excellent point that we need to initiate the process, through discussions at a larger scale, before a show like this one can have any positive impacts. But I think you will agree, that the differences will not be settled through one-time dialogue, or even continuous dialogue alone, the 'process' needs to be facilitated on many levels and educating children is one of them. Having positive Muslim, Hindu and Sikh role models is nothing to shy away from - having them get along is something to be celebrated.

                    Point Number 2: Problems as large as those affecting the international relations of Pakistan and India should not be glossed over by puppet shows.

                    I agree they shouldn't. But I don't think they have to be, with the initiation of a TV show, which teaches us to respect each other. The Qur'an has been teaching us this for a long time. The show wouldn't deal with politics directly (although the implications would be there), it would foster an understanding between two communities on an individual to individual basis. We were brought up with our parent's luggage, their stories of hatred and distrust. We can turn that around on some level, perhaps, from the grassroots. One of the problems I see with a TV show like this is the fact that children will receive a contradictory education, on one level they will be taught to respect differences, and on the other (in schools, in religious class-rooms, through interactions with peers, etc) they will be taught that differences are something to despise.

                    Point Number 3: Muzna makes the point that this is a good idea for educating our younger generation, but maybe not suitable for a mature audience.

                    I agree. What are the images children in Pakistan and India see today, in popular culture and in the news, they are taught that an enemy lives across the border. This of course results in a variety of reactions, the most common of which is intolerance. As long as we teach our next generations to be distrustful and intolerant, there won't be any room for negotiations for peace. If India, for example, initiated their own Sesame Street, which kept politics out of the picture and taught respect regardless of differences, it would be the new generation which would demand peace.

                    Point Number 4: Devuchka makes the point that not all children grew up on Sesame Street, in fact they may hate Sesame Street and would rather watch indigenous programs like 'khaliaan' or "Khuda ki basti".

                    Well Sesame Street was just an example, you could use all sorts of shows to serve the same purpose. Dev...I don't know how many foreign born Pakistani's/Indians are on this forum - I'm one of them J

                    Point 6: Mr. Exteme argues that media depictions (like Hollywood's Schindler list) do not do justice to real struggles and in fact distort the truth.

                    I agree with Mr. Extreme, regarding Jewish distortion of history - if indeed Jews are concerned about remembering the past, they should complete the history of their ancestors. Yes there forefathers were killed in Germany, indiscriminately, but the cycle of death did not end with Hitler, it continued on to Palestine and that part of history is not taught in school books or in Hollywood films. We only get half the truth.

                    I'm not totally sold on this idea myself, I think these are great points. I think there has to be a larger framework for the peace process, initiated at all levels, from the top to the bottom. There has to be an acknowledgement that there will be winners and losers. There has to be willingness to compromise. There has to be willingness to accommodate other viewpoints. Ironically these are things taught on Sesame Street. If a process for peace is ever seriously initiated by the two countries than, in order for it succeed, there will have to be some focus on the larger picture, including the manner in which we raise our children and the attitudes we instill in them. Perhaps at that time, it would be a good idea to engage the media and create positive images of both Hindus and Muslims.

                    In Germany the 'de-Nazification' program continues to this day. Germans have been working hard to teach their children tolerance. Maybe Pakistanis and Indians can institute a similar program to dispel myths.

                    Achtung (thinking..maybe I'm getting soft)

                    The Israel-Palestinian peace process should be renamed, the "anything-but-peace process". Edward Said


                      >>Maybe Pakistanis and Indians can institute a similar program to dispel myths.

                      ok just a few thoughts...and trying not to allow this to get political. Every country needs a big dark enemy for the populace to fear...It helps unify the nation, gives the society and common foe..and well helps politicians. After the cold war I remember the concern about who would be the next one and it looks like muslim extremist are it.

                      Why would pakistan or India need to help dispel myths?

                      anyways..mupputs is a cute idea...but I think...satellite TV i.e. TV asia and zee TV are doing more for unifying the nations then ANYTHING else.


                        I think the idea is more like a provisional effort in essence than anything else. It does not warrant any immediate results and should not be looked upon that way either. The audience are children, not the adults. It may be a bridge of understanding for next generation, but not for this one. It simply can't be.

                        It seems like a sideward effort, along the way with others like peace talks. We can dwell on what happened in the past and what's happening now or we can spare some attention to what is going to happen in the future as well. Why not have things going on corellatively? Seems to me that the objective is not to dwell in the past and continue to fight but rather build an atmosophere of tolerance and compromise. If that's so then it's a pretty good effort. Quite ingenious as well.

                        On the point of media distortion, it's a valid point in many cases and there are a lot of examples of it. But on the other hand, you can't simply reject an idea based on biased judgement out of other examples until you actually see the practical output of it. Being cautious about it on such grounds is quite sensible but opposing it right off the bat is not.

                        Also, it is probably not a matter of being sold on the idea right away. You have to wait to see what results or trends it brings out and then decide.


                          I agree with you totally in that every nation needs an enemy to unite the nation. It happens in virtualy every country.
                          We had it here with the Falklands War...enemy being Argentina. After this, we return to our default enemy...France.

                          Achtung..A good idea re: muppet show.
                          It would definately work in India...bringing the Hindus and Muslims (children) together.

                          BUT, as Pakistani children do not rub shoulder to shoulder with children of other
                          faiths, the message would be lost on them.

                          In England, schools take a great part in dispelling myths about other cultures.
                          They teach the children about Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc. and make all children
                          visit the local temples, mandirs,etc.
                          This has not only helped the white kids understand the culture, but our kids too.

                          Self imposed segregation of Hindus and Muslims is being questioned more and more by the newer generations (without giving up their own cultural identities, I hasten to add.

                          Every little bit helps, I guess!

                          Kashmirigirl...right again! Zee T.v. actually educates the adults and has been doing so for years.


                            Lot of Hindi films have always talked of religious harmany. From good old dys of "padosi" by Gajanan jagirdar (Jagirdar was saved in a riot due to role of muslim neighbor. He was caught in Muslim Busti. But people ended up concratulating him on playing muslim convincingly.) 'Amar Akbar Anthony', 'Zanzeer' would be exapmples. Mainstream Hindi cinema has always shown Muslim in positive light. Maybe 'chacha' played by AK Hungal in Sholay or what was that Ashok Kumar's film, where he plays a Muslim doctor. A trustworthy pathan, helping Sikh, wierd but kind parsis (in fact that has become stereotype) have always been parts of films. several examples could be there. Sometimes dramatically like Nana Patekar shouting 'ye raha khoon. bata yeh hindu ka hain ya musalman ka'.

                            Whatever vulgarity and other things Hindi cinema can be accused of, though sex and violence has been used by mainstream cinema to make money, unlike politicians, they have not used communalism to make money. They have always glorified communal harmony, family values, elliminating caste and such stuff.

                            In Pakistan, non-Muslims are not there any longer (around 1-2%) in society. I grew up with many Muslim friends. Have been a family friend in one case. Not many Pakistani Muslims will be knowing a single Hindu. Naturally, their parts are not there in films either, in positive or negative light, since they are not there. Again if they make film on pre-partition days, they will have problem. (If they show Hindus and Muslims coexisting peacefully, question would be 'why pakistan?', and if they show hindus in a bad light that will not be good for remaining few minorities.)


                              Achutng u started a very interesting topic. Peace is a term which is used very lightly and without 'meaning' most of the times. But having said that i always remain a optimist. I am only 33 years old and though feel it is highly unlikely that the Kashmir dispute and in turn problems with India, will be resolved during my life time but do believe that it will be sometime in future and my great grand children will see the dipute resolved.

                              The only chance I see of this happening in my lifetime is the following:

                              'Pakistan forget about Kashmir and concentrate on other economic and social problems in the country we already have'.

                              I am sure this sound a bit extraordinary but u have to ask and see in deep in your heart wouldnt we all be better off if we forget about Kashmir and concentrate in the well being of our country men.