"What really scares me is that their role as victims may just suit the Muslims." I like this statement by the Swiss intellectual of Egyptian origin Tariq Ramadan, at a time when I see this immense rush by many Arabs to believe that Al-Jazeera Channel in Doha was really going to be bombed by the Americans. This belief comes not only from those whom we call the Arab street, or the general public, or in the language of past times, the rabble, but from people who have status and an important position, particularly in the media and the press sector.
This statement by a Muslim professor with controversial yet enlightening ideas, and the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, which was quoted by Lenhart Lehman the German journalist as identified by the electronic bulletin Qantarah, is a brief and indicative expression, revealing the origin of the disease and the source of this huge obsession among some Arabs and Muslims regarding conspiracy theories and the belief that the world is lurking in wait to pounce on us. As if the world has no worries other than cooking up plans, policies, and moves in order to realize one objective only: To eliminate Islam, the Muslims, and the Arabs.
First of all, who says that the Al-Jazeera is the only channel expressing the culture and views of the Arabs and Muslims on the events that are happening around them? If we consider Iraq, for example, it inaccurate to say that the average Iraqi sees the method and coverage by Al-Jazeera as a haven of information and sufficient enlightenment, granting him the ability to view events in an exact manner — of course, as seen from his perspective.
And furthermore, who said that the journalists who are falling in Iraq, either by being killed or taken prisoner, are only being killed or imprisoned by Americans in Iraq, whether deliberately or by default? The Baath Party and Al-Zarqawi groups have not failed to kill either. They are the ones who opened fire on the Al-Arabiyah correspondent in Baghdad, Jawad Kazim. They also blew up the headquarters of Al-Arabiyah Channel TV in Baghdad, as I was told by the director of the channel, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed.
Talking of Al- Arabiyah and Al-Rashid, according to a poll conducted by a respectable and neutral research company commissioned by media institutions, Ipsos-stat, the channel with the largest number of viewers in Iraq is the local Iraqi channel. This is followed immediately by Al-Arabiyah. Then, in sixth place comes Al-Jazeera , which claims that it was going to be shelled because it defends the Iraqis themselves!
I have heard directly from Iraqis about their objections to the style of Al-Jazeera ”s coverage of the Iraqi cause. They said they consider it to be "a party" to the problem, not a side that is neutral or anywhere near neutral. Thus, the claim that Bush”s (alleged) intention to shell the Al-Jazeera Channel in Doha and that he wanted "to kill scores of men and women (and would have) were it not for Blair who dissuaded Bush from his criminal intention," according to the well-known journalist Jihad Al Khazen, ends up being nonsense. Let us review the issue that Mr. Al-Khazen believes is the truth: Bush was going to raid Doha, the capital of Qatar, the country that hosts the largest US military base in the region, the country from which the strategic battle against Iraq was waged, the country that held news conferences and gave media briefings on a daily basis during the day to day events of the war that toppled Saddam, the Gulf country that has warm relations with Israel, and the country that does not hide its vibrant relations with the United States. What else should we add?
This country has leaders who make decisions relating to domestic and foreign policies that we respect. We respect the independence of their choice, not necessarily the content of their choices. However, once again, we have great difficulties accepting these bizarre imaginings. Bush was going to raid Doha on a dark, black night and shell Al-Jazeera headquarters!?
The idea is really "a silly joke." However, there are those who do not see the matter this way. They see the news item about George Bush”s intention to raid the Al-Jazeera Channel Television station based in his ally”s country, Qatar, as a "completely accurate" report, and (believe) that Al-Jazeera Channel has acquired a medal because Bush intended to shell it, as Mr. Al-Khazen says in his article, which was published in Al-Hayat newspaper on 26 November.
Mr. Al-Khazen wants to believe the story. He wants to believe it because it is anti- Bush. Al-Khazen sees Bush as the only fundamental enemy of the Arabs and no other, not terrorism, nor the fundamentalist culture, nor the chauvinistic speeches of the kind made by Al-Jazeera”s satellite heroes. He does not see this culture as a reason for real concern, although he may touch upon these matters just to absolve himself of them. We find him writing long articles about the neo-conservatives, and then we are surprised that it is the material for a new book by him, though he is not known for writing and publishing many books.
Truly, for someone like me who belongs to a younger generation then that of Mr. al-Khazen, who always likes to joke around and chit chat with his readers about his age and flirt with women about it, I am astonished that the long and many years he has spent in the media, both Arabic and English, have led him to believe the story of the Al-Jazeera shelling by the United States in Qatar!
Al-Khazen has many contacts with people who know the facts behind the matter, not the lip service given to the public for local consumption. By reading his most recent editorials, he comes across like a writer most likely to know the name of the last person with whom ministers, princes, and heads of state have met. This is because he only speaks with "official and ranking sources from every Arab country, normally of the foreign minister”s rank." This is according to the text of the article he wrote to which we referred. With the contacts, experience, reading, and the huge archive to which Mr. Al-Khazen refers, I would have expected that having all these contacts would have provided him with the ability to distinguish between confused dreams and reality. However, in past times, the stick was tapped on the ground for the wise man so that fear did not spread far. This is a statement that was made about the famous Arab wise man with the aggressive finger who, at the end of his life, started losing his earlier wisdom and initial presence. He asked one of his aides to strike the stick on the ground if he spoke in an erroneous manner or if he made a slip of the tongue.
I belong to a generation that sees the previous Arab media pictures of Ahmad Said and the articles by Muhammad Hasanayn Haykal "Frankly Speaking," the writer of misleading headlines during the days of the crushing defeat of ”67. In these things, this generation only sees a manifestation of some of the catastrophes of Arab media, the media that trumpets its own self, blows itself out of proportion, and makes itself always right, while the other side is the enemy lurking in the wings. This media has idolized Abdul Nasser and has sung the glories of every Arab president in turn. It is a media that is similar to the contradictions of Jarir and Al-Farazdaq while being developed to fit in with life in this day and age (as well as the language of the newspapers.) Therefore, if some consider that Al-Jazeera has caused a revolution in the Arab media and shaken the dry trees so that the autumn leaves fall, the question then is: Who are those people who were the princes of the media scene before the emergence of Al-Jazeera, who themselves were then the autumn leaves? To these people, the rise of Al-Jazeera was their fall and end. Who are they? And are they a sickness or a cure?
I know the fate of Al-Khazen or others well-known figures in Arab media. We cannot say the same things about all of them. We know the value and effect of people like Ghassan Tuwayni, , or the late Ahmad Baha”-al-Din, on building and developing the course of the Arab media. However, this appreciation does not mean that we believe all sides are capable of departing from the core of the initial thinking, the first enemy, and the first shadow.
At any rate, what is necessary is also essential, namely to remind others of the incontestable facts. Yes, Al-Jazeera has caused a revolution in the Arab media and it manages its media performance very skillfully — and here I am talking as a viewer. It has many aspects for which one can praise it, but it also has many faults. One of the most prominent faults it has is its transformation into a flagrant party in its bias toward the fundamentalist camp and its stoking of the Arab street, which already has open wounds. It has done so without asking itself: Incitement upon incitement, until when? Who will reap the results of this incitement in the Arab world? Will it be the people of the light or the people of the darkness, the people of the future or the people of the past? Especially if we learn that the result of this incitement has been to motivate a young Saudi boy like Ahmad al-Shayi, who nearly died after blowing up the Jordanian Embassy in Iraq. He admitted on the television screens in Saudi Arabia that he was influenced by Al-Jazeera. We all know about the praise Al-Jazeera gets all the time from Al-Qaeda”s fundamentalists: From Abianas al-Shami, Al-Zarqawi”s mufti in Iraq, who praised the Al-Fallujah coverage by ”Brother” Ahmad Mansur, as described by Al-Shami; to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who spoke about Al-Jazeera in a favorable manner in his last message to his friend Al-Zarqawi.
Therefore, in following the Internet forums, I have noticed that most of those who joined the Al-Jazeera solidarity festival were the fundamentalist forums.
Al-Jazeera is a well-known channel that does not need this strange and bizarre story, which Blair described yesterday as being akin to a conspiracy theory, thus mocking the hullabaloo it has caused. According to one of the people who are informed about the report and according to what was published in the newspaper the Sunday Telegraph, the reason for keeping the report secret is because it contained sensitive information about the Al-Fallujah battle, and not because of the story of the bombing of Al-Jazeera.
We do not know what else this story has blown apart. It may have blown apart other matters, apart from the Al-Jazeera Bureau in Doha. It may have blown apart confidence and images, which once upon a time we used to believe were something worthwhile.