113 Kasr al Aini St., 11511, American University Cairo, Egypt
S. Abdallah Schleifer, most recently Washington D.C. bureau chief for Al Arabiya News Channel (2006-2007), is a veteran journalist who has covered the Middle East for American ( NBC News, The New York Times) and Arab media for more than 40 years Since returning from the states, Schleifer now serves as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and as Senior Fellow of the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research (which he founded and served as first director) at the American University in Cairo. Schleifer served for two decades as a Distinguished Lecturer in Mass Communication at the American University prior to retirement from full-time teaching in FLL 2005. At the time Schleifer was awarded the title Professor Emeritus. Schleifer is also the executive producer of the award winning documentary, “Control Room;” an Adjunct Scholar at The Middle East Institute in Washington; a Senior Fellow at both the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and the Royal Aal al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan, and a former Visiting Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.
Born in New York, Schleifer graduated in 1956 from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Political Science. He received his MA from the American University in Beirut in Islamic Political Thought in 1980. Schleifer worked for Young & Rubicam Inc., the international advertising agency upon graduation from Penn. During this time Schleifer, as a member of the 7th Regiment, New York National Guard, did six-months active duty with the US Army (Infantry), serving as a Platoon Guide during his advanced infantry training.
The following year Schleifer left Young & Rubicam to become a freelance writer and regular contributor of literary journalism and social criticism to The Village Voice, Dissent, Monthly Review, The Nation, Film Culture and Studies on the Left. He also published poetry in a number of "little magazines" in the early sixties. He visited Cuba on three occasions for extended periods of time, where he wrote occasional articles on the Cuban Revolution and was an eyewitness to its Stalinization. He also interviewed the exiled American black militant Robert F. Williams in Havana for Pacifica Radio and went on to edit the transcript of the four interview and write an introduction for publication as Williams’ Negroes with Guns, a book of some significance for the more radical wing of 1960s civil rights movement. Schleifer also served as founding editor of Kulchur , a quarterly journal of literary and social criticism reflecting the perspective of the Beat Generation and New York/Black Mountain poet and participated in the experimental film movement in New York and Havana during the early sixties. In 1965, after a year living in Morocco, and prior to returning permanently to the Middle East, Schleifer --whose birth name is Marc D. Schleifer -- accepted Islam and was given the name Sulayman Abdallah Schleifer .
Schleifer’s first job as a journalist in the Middle East was in Arab Jerusalem in the fall of 1965 where he served as managing editor of Jordan's English-language daily newspaper The Jerusalem Star/ Palestine News. Before joining NBC in 1970, Schleifer also served as a Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique and a special correspondent (stringer) for The New York Times in Jordan and the occupied territories in the wake of the June 1967 Arab Israeli War. A frequent contributor of articles on mass media as well as Arab and Islamic affairs to scholarly and specialist journals, Schleifer's controversial book The Fall of Jerusalem - an eyewitness account of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War- became an underground classic in academic and intellectual circles in the nineteen seventies, and according to Dr. Michael Hudson it remains, as such, on the reading lists at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown, which Hudson directs, as well as at other American universities.
Schleifer served as NBC News Radio and TV producer/reporter in the Middle East from 1968 to 1983. Initially based in Beirut, Schleifer was the NBC News Cairo bureau chief from 1974 to 1983. During that time he conducted or produced numerous television interviews with Arab and Islamic heads of state, as well as with leading political, cultural, and religious personalities throughout the region. He covered every major conflict in the region, all Arab and Islamic summits, the Indo-Pakistani War, the rise and fall of the Palestinian fedayeen, Egypt's post-war political and economic "Open Door" policies, the rise of Islamist movements in the region, and the oil development boom in Arabia. During this time Schleifer served two terms as chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Cairo and for the past two decades has remained as an honorary chairman.
Schleifer left NBC News to join the AUC faculty in the fall of 1983 and also served in his first year at AUC as an Honorary Senior Fulbright Fellow. He was described at the time of his AUC appointment by the late NBC News President Reuven Frank as, "The most competent Cairo bureau chief we ever had and clearly our most encyclopedic expert on the Middle East." Tom Pettit, NBC News Executive Vice President at that time, said: "Abdallah Schleifer has been a scholar in reporter's clothing, even though he's probably covered more wars, revolutions, hijackings, assassinations and general chaos in his region than anyone else I know."
More recently, Les Crystal, the President of NBC News at time Schleifer stepped down as bureau chief, has written: “For NBC News he was our reliable eyes and ears in Amman, Beirut and Cairo for more than 15 years…I depended on his guidance and insights. With him as our bureau chief in Cairo we never missed a story And thanks to him I believe we always got it right. He translated the turbulent developments in the Arab world with clarity and sensitivity.”
When Schleifer joined AUC he was charged with the mission to establish a TV news training center. The result, The Adham Center, which has been publicly hailed by voices as diverse as: Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, managing director of Al Arabiya news channel; Muhammed Jasim Al- Ali, former managing director of Al Jazeera; Saleh Negm, the first news director at Al Jazeera and then Al Arabiya and now news director of the BBC Arabic TV Service; Joe Foote, former director of the Walter Cronkite Center for Journalism; Peter Einstein, former CEO of Showtime Arabia; Sheikh Saleh Kamal, President of ART -- the largest Arab satellite network; Muhamed Gohar, CEO of Video Cairo Sat; Hassan Hamid, former chairman of Egyptian Radio and Television;Al Hayat, Shawq al Awsat, Egypt Today, Middle East Broadcast and Satellite magazine, Digital Studio magazine and other trade magazines -- as the outstanding training center for television journalism in the Middle East and competitive to equivalent centers in the United States.
Schleifer also served as founding director of AUC’s Sony Gallery for Photography, and as the first publisher and senior editor of the electronic journal Transnational Broadcasting Studies (www.tbsjournal.com ), produced at AUC in cooperation with St. Antony’s College, Oxford. The journal was recently re-designed and re-branded as Arab Media and Society (www.arabmediasociety.com). Schleifer still serves on the editorial board of the new quarterly journal.
At the same time Schleifer managed to maintain an active relationship with the broadcasting industry in general and TV journalism in particular. Retained by NBC as a consultant after stepping down as bureau chief, Schleifer secured and served as a special NBC field producer of the first-ever American coverage of the Hajj in the summer of 1984. In 1988 Schleifer was retained by CNN International as their Cairo representative with the task of securing access for CNN in Egypt. As a result CNN was transmitted in 1990 for the first time in the Arab world by the Egyptian private sector "wireless cable" company Cable Network Egypt (CNE). Currently CNE is the platform for the Nilesat pay TV bouquets in Egypt. Schleifer served on the board of directors of CNE for more than a decade.
In the summer of 1990, Schleifer again served as a special field producer for NBC News in Saudi Arabia, covering Desert Shield, the build-up of US and Allied forces in response to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait.
In January l991, on the eve of the air war, Schleifer returned to Saudi Arabia as executive director of the World Muslim News Service (WMNS), an ad hoc news organization he created for the Saudis, providing TV, print, and photo coverage of the Gulf War to international news organizations.
From 1997-8, while on sabbatical leave from AUC for the academic year, Schleifer signed on for a one-year reorganizing stint as managing director of ART Broadcast and Production Center outside of Rome. While there he reported directly to ART's chairman, Sheikh Saleh Kamel.
Professional & Academic Associations
Schleifer serves on the board of trustees of the Islamic Texts Society and Fons Vitae Publishing, educational and publishing foundations in England and America devoted to Islamic and interfaith studies. He served for many years as a member of the Advisory Board of the World Media Association which is headquartered in Washington D.C., and participated as a speaker at several World Media Conferences held by the WMA over more than two decades. Schleifer is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia where he has frequently led seminars or spoken at FPRI luncheons and he was commissioned by the FPRI to give the 11th Annual Templeton Lecture on Religion and World Affairs in 2006.
In 2002, HM King Abdallah II of Jordan and HRH Prince Hamza appointed Schleifer as a Senior Fellow of the Royal Academy of the Royal Aal al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought -- which organizes conferences and publishes the papers of moderate Ulema (religious scholars) and Muslim intellectuals and has played a leading role in mobilizing of Arab and Muslim world opinion against extremism. He was the first American Muslim to be so honored. In 2007 he was appointed Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington and elected to the board of directors of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington.
Schleifer has guest lectured at leading universities in Europe, America, and the Arab world including Al Azhar, Oxford, Cambridge, SOAS, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Georgetown, George Washington, and University of California amongst others. He has also given a wide range of seminars and conferences at the CCAS and the Al Walid Center for Muslim-Christian understanding – both at Georgetown University; at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Haj Research Center at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah , the First World Congress for Middle East Studies in Germany, the Brookings U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, the Arab Thought Forum in Dubai, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington DC) and more recently at the Middle East Institute in Washington, where he was appointed Adjunct Scholar in January 2008.
Writing / Speaking Engagements / TV Appearances
Schleifer, a frequent guest on Egyptian TV talk shows, has published op-ed pieces in newspapers such as Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Cairo Daily Star (now Egypt Daily News),and Arab News. Over the past decade he has been frequently interviewed by and/or appeared via satellite as a guest for CNN, PBS, Al Jazeera English, BBC, Al Arabiya and other European as well as Japanese television news programs. He has also participated as an open-line telephone guest on numerous public affairs radio talk shows originating in Europe, the UK and the USA; including three NPR affiliates. He is frequently quoted on various Arab and Islamic issues in the Arab and Muslim world press as well as such Western publications, as The New York Times, The Economist, New Yorker magazine, TIME, New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, The Washington Times and The Guardian.
He has published and lectured extensively on Islamic art and architecture, particularly on the work of Hassan Fathy. These articles have appeared in such publications as Ekistics, Art and the Islamic World, Ahlan wa Sahlan, the Middle East Times, Egypt Today and Islamica.. Since 9/11 Schleifer has been active in Interfaith activities and has taken the lead within the Anglo-American Muslim communities as well as in guest appearances on Arab TV in challenging the apologists for terrorism anywhere in the world as well as analyzing and denouncing extremist tendencies within Islam. His articles addressing these issues have appeared in Islamica, The American Muslim (online), the Journal of the American Muslim Social Scientists, and Q News and have been widely quoted in online publications. As a result Schleifer was asked to deliver the opening dinner speech at a two day conference organized by the U.K. Foreign Office in February 2007 that brought together leading religious figures from the Muslim world along with high ranking British officials and academics to develop a common platform against extremist thought. More recently Schleifer participated in the Muslim-Christian Dialogue “Loving God and Neighbor” at the Yale Divinity School and will be an advisor to the delegation of Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals that will meet with the Pope in November 2008. Most recently Schleifer was featured in an article on conversion – “The Moment of Truth’ -- in the Religion section of the July 14, 2008 issue of The Economist.
In 2006 Schleifer joined then Saudi Ambassador to Washington, HRH Prince Turki, as a speaker addressing the problem of “extremist rhetoric” in the Muslim world at the Coalition Land Forces Symposium at the US Army Central Command in Atlanta, Georgia. The Symposium was hosted by the U.S. Army Chief of Staff for the chiefs of staff and other high ranking officers from some 20 countries in the Central Command coalition against terrorism, as well as by the commanding general of the Third Army and Central Command. He also served as a panelist , in his capacity as an Al Arabiya bureau chief in discussing the tense relations at the time, between the media and the U.S. Army at a national gathering of U.S. Army Public Affairs Officers in Washington D.C. in 2006.
Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist and author summed it all up when he wrote “We Middle East correspondents are something of a fraternity and Abdallah has always been a credit to our little club. He is intensely independent, honest and a wonderful explainer about both Islam and the Arab world. He has been a great bridge-builder between cultures”