A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Globalization of Al-jazeera?

Al-jazeera has been, and continues to be, largely a propoganda arm for Islamic Fundamentalists and Arab dictators. Just check out their lovely editorial cartoons (animated, no less!) at the bottom of their home page to get a lively dose of AJ's opinion of the West and the American Satan. But please, please, please, let us not flush any Qu'rans.

And yet.

Right next to the link to those lovely cartoons is a link to this article, by Soumayya Ghannoushi, who is a researcher in the history of ideas at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. She is also a woman, and she berates Al-Qaeda for the damage they have done to the "legitimate complaints" of Palestinians, Iraqis and other downtrodden muslims and arabs. What are the odds that even five years ago the major pan-Arab news agency would feature an anti-Al-qaeda editorial on its website, let alone one authored by a woman?

Yes, I know it is also an anti-Western, "you guys had it coming" blatheration that gets most of the facts completely wrong, and puts all of the blame for Al-qaeda's actions on the West. And yet. It's a muslim woman openly berating the chief muslim/arab terrorist organization on the chief arab/muslim news agency's web site. Money quote is the concluding quote:

But the mindless killing of the innocent in Madrid, or New York is the wrong answer to these real grievances. These are illegitimate responses to legitimate causes. Just as occupation is morally and politically deplorable, so, too, is this blind aggression masquerading as Jihad.
Why? Given Al-jazeera's track record, would you have expected them to run anything negative about Al-qaeda, or that puts even a smidgen of the blame on the actual terrorists rather than on the U.S., Israel, and Britain? I wouldn't have.

So why?

My best guess is globalization-- Al-jazeera is feeling the need to reach out to a broader demographic than can be found in Syria and Iran and the like. They need to reach average, normal Muslims and Arabs who don't really give a rat's ass about the Al-qaeda jihad, and who think that blowing up tanker trucks near a mosque might not be all that good of an idea.

There's also the question of legitimacy. The Arab world, the Muslim world, wants a news agency that the rest of the world finds legitimate. And being wholly in favor of the London or Madrid bombings, or covering only people who think that everyone in the twin towers on 9/11 had it coming doesn't get you legimacy. It keeps you on the fringes. If Al-jazeera wants to be seen as an actual news agency, rather than a propoganda arm, it must move towards the center.

Now, given that it started as far from the center as, well, these guys, there's a lot of wiggle room there. They can move a long way toward the center and still be well away from actually being centrist-- though given the leanings of the BBC and various other news agencies, the trip to where many Western news sources currently reside might not be that long a trip after all.

Still it's interesting. And slightly encouraging.

Of course, what is also interesting, and not at all encouraging, is that Soumayya Ghannoushi, a woman who clearly despises Israel and thinks that Bush's "fundamentalism" is equivalent to Al-qaeda's is a faculty member at the University of London. She is researching (maybe teaching-- it's hard to tell from the tagline) at a London university and she espouses the following:
The causes al-Qaida extremists speak for are certainly just causes. The sanctioning of genocide and occupation in Palestine, slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Iraq through exposure to depleted Uranium and years of barbaric sanctions first, then through bombing and shelling without bothering to count the dead, brutal invasion of the country, destruction of its infrastructure and humiliation of its people undoubtedly rank among modern history’s bloodiest crimes and darkest tragedies.
Got that? Al-qaeda is right, they're just going about illustrating their correctness in a wrong-headed manner. But I'm sure her personal beliefs and biases won't affect her moderate and balanced presentation of history and culture in her papers or any presentations she might make. Right?



I don't see this as anything other than propaganda. She basically says that al-qaida is justified in their causes and in their disagreement with and anger at the West, but they are just going a bit over the top with their actions; terrorism is starting to affect the way the West is perceiving islam; and that the really big problem is that al-qaida is turning the West into the victim and, in the process, stripping muslims of their victim status which they have used for their moral indignation towards the West for so long.

Two of the most telling sentences amongst her justifications and passive condemnations are, "Thanks to [al-qaida], racism, bigotry and Islamophobia could rear its ugly head unashamedly in broad day light," and "Al-Qaida's mindless acts have turned the aggressor, who colonises, massacres and pillages, into a victim." They're starting to realize that these terrorist acts are creating anger and resentment in the West; the same type of anger and resentment that has been previously used to justify islamic terror attacks. This isn't aljazeera's search for a broader demographic or legitimacy; it is a frightened islam.

I think that it is finally getting through to many in the arab street that the West is getting ticked-off, and that nasty retribution will soon be coming their way, or at least the way of muslims in the West, if muslims worldwide don't start distancing themselves from the terrorists. All the better for their PR campaign if they can soften their image (since they are barely softening their rhetoric) by putting a woman's face on the "we condemn, but understand, the terrorists" op-ed.

Hani Al-Siba’i, the head of London's Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies, when speaking of the July 7th attacks in London, said, "The term civilian does not exist in Islamic religious law. There is no such term as civilians in the western sense. People are either of Dar al Harb [literally, house of hostility, meaning any non-Islamic government] or not." Combine this with Soumayya Ghannoushi's piece, and what you have is: The cause of the terrorists is just and we support it; the West had it coming; the latest victims were just Dar al Harb; but don't take your anger out on us because those criminals have hijacked our religion.

The condemnations on the behalf of islam need to increase, and the justifications for the terrorists need to decrease. If not, many in the West will see their words as nothing more than a hollow attempt to play CYA in order to avoid retribution. If muslims don't do a better job of this, we are only one or two attacks away from the war on terror devolving into nothing more than a feud between islam and the West.

I can't say that I am even slightly encouraged.

Cuncti Islami delenda est.
Condemnation is not enough. Muslims must step up and fight the war on terror. They must police their selves, rooting out the extremists among them and turning them over to responsible law enforcement agencies.

What do these so-called moderates think will happen when an Islamic extremist manages to set off a nuke in the US? The reaction of the American people will not be pretty.

It would be better for them if they confront and eliminate the extreme elements themselves.
The hypocricy is just staggering. The resident London moron, Hani Al-Siba’i, says that the victims were not civilians because they lived under a non-Islamic government, but he forgets that he does too.
If you hate the West so much, go away!!
I also really like the new law that they are trying to pass in Britain, where it will be illegal to "glorify or endorse" terrorism. (This was mentioned in that article.)
Those professors better be careful what they say when that law goes into effect.
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