I write today in response to an article by Abdel Hadi al Hakim in Thursday’s edition of Asharq al Awsat next to my own. His commentary was published because we believe in the right to publish and the right to differences in opinion, even if this particular viewpoint represents the essence of extremism.
How can it be otherwise when our honorable writer attacked this newspaper and the Al Arabiyya channel for adopting a “cowardly”, “strange” and “suspicious” position on the issue of terrorism in Iraq, promising events will prove us wrong?
My colleague Abdul Rahman al Rashed is more capable of speaking on behalf of Al Arabiyya, as the satellite channel, under his leadership, continues to adopt an honorable position on terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere, paying the price with casualties amongst his staff, in their war on terrorism and terrorists in Iraq.
I question, however, the writer’s writings on the position of Asharq al Awsat, which shut its offices in Baghdad after receiving threats, proudly proclaimed “Yes for the elections” in an editorial and continues to stand up to extremism in Iraq, without being drawn into sectarian descriptions.
No other Arab newspaper can rival us on our clarity of vision and our editorial policy, which opposes all forms of terrorism and extremism. I refer the writer who attacked me in person in his article to my past advice against writing on the Arab media and attacking my fellow Arab colleagues. I will continue to act on my convictions and advocate the reforming of Arab media.
We are proud to believe, and always have, that neutrality towards terrorism does not exist. We do not call terrorists armed fighters. We do not call suicide missions martyrdom operations. We respond to all extremist discourses and refute them, one by one, in Iraq and elsewhere. Our coverage of the Beslan school crisis clearly showed we stand firmly against extremism everywhere, and not just in the Arab world.
When the writer alleged we were unwilling to confront terrorism inside Saudi Arabia, which newspaper was he reading? We have stood firm against terrorism in the Kingdom, through our news stories, analyses, special reports and pictures, and have devoted ample space in our pages for its coverage. We have gone beyond events and examined the personalities and ideologies of those involved.
We adopted a similar approach to terrorism in Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, and even London, not to forget Iraq. Our view on events in Iraq was clear before other Iraqi groups and Arab governments had the chance to define their positions. Ours was and still is concentrated on protecting Iraqi citizens, regardless of religion or sect.
Which article is the writer referring to? Difference of opinion is acceptable if the alternative point of view is responsible. No Iraqi politician or group will be given immunity from criticism in our pages if the critique is sensible. Similarly, the draft constitution was not protected from criticism, which might have bothered our writer, as he is a member of the committee that prepared it. Moreover, my dear writer, we are a platform with values and self-discipline, but no judges.