Sesame Street Goes to Pakistan: The Newest Diplomatic Tool?

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Sesame Street characters celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sesame Street, February 4, 2010.

John Lamparski / WireImage

Elmo and the Muppet clan are packing their bags and heading abroad. We hope their Urdu is up to par.

Financial assistance can only be so effective. Children’s television transcends borders – but can it win over hearts and minds? The U.S. is attempting to switch up its educational methods abroad, particularly in Pakistan, by sending its favorite kids’ show to South Asia. It’s the newest weapon in the fight against terrorism.

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The furry Muppets will trade 123 Sesame Street and Mr. Hooper’s Store for some local flavoring – they’ll live in a dhaba, a traditional Pakistani village with teacarts roaming the streets and simple homes dotting the landscape.

The star of the show will be neither an oversized bird nor a blue junk-food lover, but rather a six-year-old Muppet child named Rani, the child of a local farmer sporting pigtails and a distinct curiosity about the world. But Elmo is also poised for a starring role in the Pakistani version.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding the transplant to the tune of $20 million. “The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning,” said Faizaan Peerzada, a collaborator on the Pakistani version of the show. “This is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time.” Their main messages will be of acceptance and empowerment, to sway youngsters away from religious extremism and promote growth.

Because truly, how can al-Qaeda prevail when kids are staring at the adorable face of Elmo on television?

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