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Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

London Asharq Al-Awsat-A three-day seminar on terrorism and extremism was held in London last week with the role of the media analyzed on its final day. The participants agreed on the need to confront the inciting media that arouses or justifies violence or terrorism. However, the speakers at the seminar disagreed on methods that need to be pursued to address this issue and attain this goal. The discussion touched on the official Arab media, the sociopolitical reality that it reflects, and ways to develop the media to face up to current and future challenges.

Kuwaiti Information Minister Dr Anas al-Rashid said that it is not possible to talk about the media without getting into the cultural background of each country. He gave examples of types of media that have been historically available and how they evolved in terms of their influence. The minister also talked about the legislative deficiency related to the Arab media and the lack of legislations to hold accountable internet sites, particularly since technology is developing faster than the ability of legislations to catch up with it.

Khalid al-Tarrah, Director of the Kuwaiti Information Office, said at the opening session that the Internet today is a dangerous information medium that is hard to control. Many people use this channel to spread violence and fatwas (Islamic rulings) that justify violence. In addition, the Internet sites are used to explain bomb making techniques and terrorist tools used in terrorist operations. Al-Tarrah noted the mix-up in the media functions between the media that reports on the news and increases knowledge and other media that incites extremism, fanaticism, and terrorism. According to Al-Tarrah, some of the media outlets seek to stand out by violating the professional ethics and misusing the available margin of freedoms.

Al-Tarrah also referred to the shortcomings of the western media and its failure to verify the facts, which leads to confusion.

Kuwaiti parliament member Muhammad al-Busayri noted that modern media outlets have advanced ahead of the print media and now the visual satellite channels and the Internet represent tools of intellectual invasion that can reach all segments of the society. He added: Our media institutions are left behind in the face of this dangerous weapon. He called on the official media that enjoys adequate funding to confront the extremist ideology to demonstrate transparency and freedom and to stop making the glorification of the regime its primary mission. He also called for giving attention to media personnel that seek fame and speak in a provoking manner and whose sole objective is to create a name for them by opposing everything.

Al-Busayri called for conducting frank and in-depth dialogue to confront the ideology of terrorism with ideology and opinions via the media. He added: The problem is that the official media lacked any clear-cut political, social, or educational objective or mission. Therefore, it became without a color, taste, or odor and lost its followers and audience, who looked elsewhere for information available from any source. This issue is now being exploited by the satellite world, which is full of channels.

Abdal Hamid al-Ansari, a professor of Shariah policy at the College of Law in Qatar University, said: Nobody in this world is born with a hatred for life. However, the environment in which people live pushes them toward that direction. One of the most important elements in this environment is the incitement by the media, which has failed since the 1967 defeat. The deception practiced by Ahmad Said (a famous radio presenter working in the Cairo-based Voice of the Arabs who used to announce war communiques during the 1967 war) continues to this day but in different forms. Al-Ansari asked: Are we facing a new Islam that is hostile to the entire world? He also wondered about the method by which young men from various parts of the world are being persuaded to abandon life and its temptations to carry out operations in which they get themselves killed without justification. Answering these questions, Al-Ansari said: After half a century of educational, media, and call work, we have failed to safeguard and protect our sons against this type of extremism. The religious discourse has also failed us. As a result, we now have angry and disgruntled sons who wish to detonate themselves against us.

The speakers disagreed on the function of the media and whether it should reflect the existing reality in the Arab world, including the social and intellectual backwardness, or it should play an enlightening role that corrects and straightens out the existing flaw. Al-Ansari reminded the participants that the Security Council had adopted a resolution incriminating actions that incite terrorism, including support, backing, and sympathy. The problem, he added, is to enforce this resolution on the part of the Arab countries concerned amid a media environment in which some people continue to justify and sympathize with terrorism or denounce it while giving it some justification at best. This justification, according to Al-Ansari, is the gravest sin and is more criminal than committing the terrorist action itself.

For his part, Saudi Shura Council member Khalil al-Khalil said: We must stand with all the countries and institutions that fight terrorism because confronting this extremist ideology is in the interest of everybody.

Al-Khalil noted that the official media had done its role but it is incapable of undertaking the confrontation alone. He expressed disappointment that the specialists had failed to renounce terrorism, a failure that he described as the gravest fault. According to Al-Khalil, the dialogue with extremists should not take place in prisons but in the universities and cultural forums.

Al-Khalil touched on the charities and the mosque pulpits that have been misused and whose goals have been altered or corrupted after local and international extremists controlled them. He added: These extremist have insulted our civilization and religion, aborted and undermined the Islamic awakening, and utilized the latest information technology advances to spread backwardness using their high timing and initiative skills.

According to Khalil Haydar, the Islamic media, as he called it, has a major responsibility and is required to review its religious discourse, the content broadcast to the audience, and how the audience receives the message.

Asharq al-Awsat writer and expert on Islamic extremism Mshari Al-Zaydi, talked about the importance of the media for terrorist organizations, taking Al-Qaeda Organization as an example. He cited the message sent by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which contained references to the use of the media. Al-Zawahiri said that the media represents two-thirds of the battle, Al-Zaydi added, noting that Al-Qaeda has its own media and Internet sites. It also uses the media that is sympathetic to it and its extremist ideology, such as the Sahab Institution, several Internet weblogs, and satellite channels and known newspapers that represent indirect trumpets for Al-Qaeda. Al-Zaydi disagreed with Al-Khalil on the appropriate venue for conducting the dialogue with terrorists. He added that the real dialogue must be conducted away from the media so that it does not deviate from its goals and turn into a publicity event.

Former Kuwaiti parliament member Abd-al-Muhsin al-Du”ayj noted that some media personnel confuse between religiosity and those who use religion to achieve political goals, which is an old technique in our Islamic heritage. Under this technique, he added, people ride the wave of religion to get political power. According to Al-Du”ayj, the real problem with the Arab media is that it is closely linked to the miserable Arab state of affairs that produces a miserable media. However, extremism also exists in the western media discourse, in which some media outlets incite people against Islam and Muslims and call for attacking Islam as a nation and a civilization.

Robert Springborg, Director of the London Middle East Institute at SOAS University , noted that he had sensed a negative tone in the discussion about the Arab media. In his opinion, the Arab media has progressed tremendously in the past few years. He noted that ultimately good media will kick out bad media because in the end survival is for the fittest.

Zuhayr al-Harithi added that the best barrier behind the scene is to find a definition of terrorism that does not confuse between terrorism and legitimate resistance of the occupation. He pointed out that the media is a vehicle for conveying ideas. Therefore, if destructive ideas are allowed to move from one person to another they will also move from one generation to another.

Al-Harithi noted the duality between some countries” policy on one hand and the policy adopted by the media outlets funded by these countries on the other. He also referred to the confusing media terminology and how it is used to serve specific goals. He cited as an example such terms as jihad or martyrdom operations versus suicide or criminal operations.

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role

Antiterrorism Seminar Discusses Media Role