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Eye on Arab Media: Anger Toward U.S. Widespread Before Anti-Islam Film

Posted: Sep 19, 2012

Editor’s Note: NAM Arab media monitor Jalal Ghazi, who is a Jerusalem-based journalist, culled the Arab media and highlights how journalists and commentators viewed the recent riots and violence that killed four Americans, and the political fallout from the events.

Arab anger toward U.S. widespread before the anti-Islam film

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of London-based Al-Quds Al Arabi wrote that the attack on the American Embassies in Libya and Egypt and the killing of four American officials, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, “is another reminder to the American administration that the United States is still hated amid a broad sector of the Arab and Islamic nations, despite its claims, and sometimes interventions, along with some rebels in the “Arab Spring.”

Atwan believes that the widespread anger goes beyond the anti-Islam film that has sparked riots throughout Arab and Muslim nations. He said no one attacked the Norwegian Embassies when a Norwegian cartoonist depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a degrading way. Rather, people just protested outside Norwegian embassies.

Atwan like many Arab journalists, still remembers unconstitutional practices committed by the United States against Arabs and Muslims in America. He said, “The Administration can’t justify not taking action to stop the film based on the need to respect the role of law and freedom of speech.” He continued, “The FBI violated all laws and norms and created horror among Muslim Americans after the events of September 11, and questioned tens of thousands of them, some of these investigations were humiliating, and degrading in nature.”

Atwan also talked about the bad treatment that Arabs receive at U.S. airports. He said, “Even after 11 years since the September 11 events, most Muslim Americans and visitors from Arab and Muslim countries are still being treated in a discriminatory manner as if every Muslim is a source of suspicion, and they are subjected to interrogation like criminals.” Atwan added, “A lot of Arab visitors, and I am one of them, decided not to visit America, and refused several invitations to give lectures at universities.”

U.S. intervention in the Arab Spring viewed as an attempt to manipulate it

Obama’s decision to stop supporting Arab dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia is not seen as an attempt by the Obama administration to be on the right side of history. Abdel Azem Afandi wrote in the London-based newspaper Elaf, it is rather seen as an attempt to cope with new realities on the ground by creating an alliance with new emerging powers -- the Islamists and even extremist Sunni movements -- as an opposition force against Iran.

He said, “There is an attempt in Washington to change the direction of the Arab Spring though it did not participate in it [its creation]. The United States was always supporting tyrants against their own people.”

He continued, “The U.S. worked to empower Islamist movements both moderate and extremist with the objective of creating a Sunni axis against Shi’ite Iran and its allies.”

Afandi also blames the United States for what he called “The systematic destruction of the Arab societies in Iraq and Libya, which led to the spread of chaos and violence.”

He added, “ The U.S. harvest was great anger against America.”

Still Like most Arab journalists, Afandi does not believe that the killing of American diplomats is justifiable. He said, “The extremist minority has always used violence to undermine the just cause of the majority and its right to peaceful demonstrations. Violence is always condemnable whatever the motives,” he said.

Extremists used opportunity to damage U.S. relations with Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University told Qatar-based Al Jazeera, “If you heard even what happened in Egypt , those who were shouting against the U.S. and mentioning the name Bin Laden; These people might be on the margin but it is quite clear they are connecting all these demonstrations to something [that] stands against U.S. policies.”

Ramadan believes that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood groups in Arab countries that benefited from the Arab Spring has angered Salafi groups such as the Islamic Jihad. He said, there is as an attempt on both sides to show that they are more Islamic than the other. He added, “By putting the Muslim Brotherhood [in Egypt], by putting Al Nahda [the Muslim brotherhood group in Tunisia], and by putting the people [Muslim Brotherhood party] in Libya in a situation where the relationship with the U.S. could be taken as a proof that they are not really protecting the Islamic values…the consequences will be destabilization in the society.”

One of the main organizers of the protests outside at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is Mohamed al-Zawahiri, the younger brother of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri. The younger Al Zawahiri who is a leading figure in the Egyptian Jihad stood and watched as protestors removed the American flag and replaced it with an Islamic one reading, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger."
The Younger Al Zawahiry told Dubai-based Al Arabiya that the ideas of his organization are not exclusive of a small group within the Muslim nation and that the Islamic Jihad represents Islam in general and that it adheres to Islamic principles.

He also told Al Arabia that he is playing a mediation role between Islamist groups in general and the United States, based on a peace initiative that was proposed to the United States on September 10. He added that Bin Laden and his older brother have previously proposed different initiatives to the West but they were rejected.

Meanwhile, Al Arabiya which in large part is financed by Saudi Arabia reported that Google finally has responded to Saudi Arabia requests to stop hosting the “the anti-Islam movie” on the YouTube website. Saudi authorities had ordered Internet providers to stop all Internet links and websites of the movie, and threatened to stop YouTube all together. http://www.alarabiya.net/default.html

Jalal Ghazi was a producer of the Peabody Award–winning program, Mosaic: World News from the Middle East for Link TV (2002-2010) and has written the “Eye on Arab Media” column for New America Media since 2001.

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