- (Photo: SesameWorkshop.org)
The U.S. Government has a new weapon to fight terrorism: "Sesame Street."
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. is spending $20 million on a Pakistani version of "Sesame Street" that it hopes will fight Islamic radicalism by increasing tolerance.
"One of the key goals of the show in Pakistan is to increase tolerance toward groups like women and ethnic minorities," said Larry Dolan, who was the head education officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan until very recently.
In addition to "increasing tolerance," the U.S. hopes that "Sesame Street" Pakistan will increase primary-level education for the one third of Pakistani children that are not able to go to a school.
The $20 million "Sesame Street" bill is in addition to the more than $10 billion in aid that the U.S. has given Pakistan over the last five years, according to figures from the Center for Global Development.
On the Pakistani version of "Sesame Street," Elmo will be the only traditional character, who will go by the name of "Sim Sim Hamara," which translates to "Our Hamara," the Daily Mail reported.
New characters include "Baily," a singing donkey, and "Haseen O Jameel," a crocodile who lives at the bottom of a well.
Like the American version, the Pakistani "Sesame Street" will carry themes of friendship, respect and valuing diversity, which is of particular importance due to the show's mission of combating the ideas of Islamist extremists, AP reported.
"There are many situations where we coexist peacefully, and that's what we want to focus on," said Imraan Peerzada, the show's head writer.
In order to stress diversity and encourage children to respect different religions, the program will feature holidays celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Hindus, said Peerzada.
Using "Sesame Street" as a sort of social engineering tool is nothing new for the U.S. The Daily Mail reported that the American government has worked with "Sesame Street" producers to create versions in other Muslim countries, such as Indonesia and Bangladesh. The Daily Mail has also published photos of some of the puppets to be featured in Pakistan's "Sesame Street."
The European Commission has also funded "Sesame Street" programming in order to quell radicalism and promote tolerance in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, according to a 2003 article by the Guardian.