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memri
September 14, 2004 No.
784

Arab Columnists Criticize Double Standard in Reactions to Abduction of French Journalists

The August 2004 abduction of two French journalists in Iraq has sparked a strong reaction in the Arab and Muslim world. Many prominent figures have called for their immediate release – particularly in light of France's policy regarding Iraq – and many clerics have issued fatwas to this effect. In a similar vein, the Arab press has actively called for their release, with numerous articles published along these lines.

Some Arab columnists, on the other hand, are claiming that France's "neutrality" has not granted French subjects immunity from terrorists in Iraq, and some even suggest that it has contributed to anarchy and terrorism. In addition, there has been criticism in the press of the double standard adopted by Arabs and Muslims – mass mobilization for the release of French journalists, but disregard of the abduction and murder of other nationals. The following are some excerpts of these views:

'[This] is a Lesson for Those Who Think They Can Be Neutral in the War on Terror'

In his column in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Ahmad Al-Rab'i wrote: "The abduction of the French journalists is a lesson for those who think they can be neutral in the war on terror, or for those who think that it is possible to arrive at a truce with international terror by means of spineless political positions towards terrorism.

"France thought that the terror in Iraq would not reach it because it opposed the war and tried to set itself apart from the American position. As a result, international terror treats [France] like every other [country]. International terror is democratic. It strikes everyone without asking whether the casualties are Muslim or Christian, or supporters or opponents of America. International terror does not differentiate among the civilians of Fallujah, Riyadh, San'aa, Algeria, New York, and Nairobi. There is no differentiation between American and French. The only aim of international terror is to kill." [1]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 'sformer editor, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, wrote: "The French thought their position against the war in Iraq and what followed it would be appreciated by the extremists in the region, and would protect [France] from the evil of our terrorists. This thought was a great mistake on their part… As long as there are remnants of anarchy and terror, no one will find refuge from the war in Iraq, whether or not their forces are there…

"Here the 'neutral' countries err in understanding the new developments in the Arab arena by thinking they can remain neutral. This is because the terror groups' true aspiration is to kill the captives in the name of Allah. Neutrality remains something unacceptable today, because these are groups that want to enter Paradise with the greatest quantity of victims' blood, and who are not interested in political or financial negotiations…" [2]

In an article posted on the progressive website www.elaph.com, columnist 'Aziz Al‑Hajj wrote: "Those who claim that there is a 'Crusader war of the West against Islam' are in fact themselves waging 'holy war' against the Western democracies and against democracy and civilization everywhere… France, which deluded itself that it would be spared from the depraved hands of the terrorists because it opposes the war of liberation in Iraq, today faces the truth: The war on terror must be international, and all democratic countries and the United Nations must fight terrorist countries such as Saddam's regime…" [3]

'Chirac … Bears Part of the Responsibility for the Abduction of His Citizens'

In an article titled "O Iraq, Hast Thou Not Heard Our Grievances?" columnist Rashid Al-Hayun wrote in Al-Baghdad, the organ of the party of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi: "The news of the abduction of the French journalists was among the most painful news about Iraq, and it is the result of [ French President Jacques ] Chirac's opposition to helping the Iraqi government stabilize its internal security…

"It is true that the [French] journalists are not to blame. But Chirac, who is trying to be viewed as an advocate of international justice … bears part of the responsibility for the abduction of his citizens, because he hastened to oppose every international decision that tried to instill security into Iraqi hearts. Like the forces of terror and like Iran's spiritual leader [ Ali Khamenei ] and [ former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi ] Rafsanjani, Chirac has attempted to shift the dispute with the U.S. to Iraq – and the one to suffer is the Iraqi people." [4]

Columnist Kamel Ghurbal wrote on www.elaph.com: "Today, after the abduction of the French journalists, will Chirac reexamine his position [on Iraq]? Is he aware of the ramifications of his shameful position, with all the centers of terror and incitement rushing energetically to his defense and demanding the release of his citizens? Does he grasp the extent of the disgrace that clings to France following the march organized by the disseminators of terror for the release of the [French] journalists? And all this when the terrorists' killing of 12 innocent people from Nepal has gone unnoticed by all those applauding Chirac and his support of the Arab nation, whose children are being educated at the knees of decapitators and highway robbers.

"Has Chirac enough courage to stand before everyone, after the crisis is over – and we hope that it ends well – and to announce that he was mistaken with regard to the French people, with regard to the Iraqi people, and with regard to all the peoples who admire civilization and peace? [Will he say] that he erred regarding the heritage of the great French Revolution when he chose [to play a] double game, and to seek to help and applaud barbarians and fascists across the Middle East?…" [5]

'Why … No Similar Condemnation of [Other] Terror Operations?'

Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of the Faculty of Shari'a at the University of Qatar, wrote in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat:"Why have we not seen an expression of solidarity in similar instances of abduction of innocent journalists, workers, and drivers? The number of victims of abductions has reached 51 journalists from 16 countries, and dozens of wretched individuals of various nationalities have died while we did not lift a finger. Why is the Arab world upset about French hostages while 12 workers from Nepal, who were slaughtered in cold blood … found none to aid them? Where was our moral conscience sleeping when our satellite channels aired before our eyes and ears the pictures of slaughter and mutilation of bodies? Why have we heard no similar condemnation of these terror operations? Why this duplicity…?" [6]

Columnist Samir 'Attallah wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "What would happen if the [abducted] journalists were not French or [subjects of] a country expressing solidarity with the Arabs? Would it then be permissible to abduct them? Is it permissible to abduct Koreans, Italians, and Americans and to slaughter them before the camera…? It saddens me to say that the responsibility for this lies not only with several wild barbarians… It is the doing of the government parties, authors, and elected officials who feared and were silent, as if giving legitimacy to a culture of abduction, murder, and beheading and keeping [the heads] in the refrigerator alongside the mangos and the morning milk." [7]

In an article posted on www.elaph.com, Iraqi columnist Salim Rasoul wrote: "We had hoped that the Arabs and Muslims would decisively oppose the terror operations taking place today in Iraq, and would strip them of the title of 'legitimate' … out of concern for the image of Islam and the Muslims in the world, a concern that preceded all the tasks on the political agenda, as well as other tasks. This is particularly true in that the perpetrators of these operations are hiding under the cover of religion, and are slaughtering, burning, and perpetrating anything their sick hearts desire in the name of Allah.

"Does the intervention of all the elements, including Yasser Arafat and the Al-Jazeera TV channel, hint at a connection between them and the abductors? [Does this not hint] that a plan is being carried out with the blessing of these elements, but that its perpetrators have erred in [choosing] the goal and thus [they] have launched a rectification campaign that says: 'Abduct Italians, Nepalese, and others, but not the French or anyone who shares their interests.'

"I reiterate, we are demanding the release of the French journalists. Not for the sake of the government of France, but for the sake of the image of Islam, which is being ever more damaged by irresponsible operations, and for the sake of humanism, as the journalist is not party to what is happening in the political arena. We will not adopt a double standard like those who act recklessly." [8]

'Chirac … Calls Upon Terrorists to Distinguish Between Friend and Foe'

Columnist 'Adnan Fares wrote in the progressive Iraqi weekly Al-Ahali: "France is reminding the terrorists that its two journalists are not members of the government of Iyad Allawi, who has the support of 80% of the Iraqi people, and that they are not experts in rebuilding Iraq, but that they were in Iraq to cover the 'struggles of the resistance for the freedom of Iraq' and to mobilize public opinion within and outside France against the new Iraq.

"The prime minister of democratic France; Hamas's terrorists who murder children and innocents; [ Arab League Secretary-General ] Amr Moussa who protects the official Arab terrorist unity, the despicable ones of the 'free Lebanese government' – the agents of Syria and Iran – and all of Saddam's friends and cronies: [all these] now gaze with a look of rebuke upon the terrorists in Iraq…

"Today, Jacques Chirac's France is a major source of succor for third-world dictatorships and terror organizations. This is in the context of a new plan in its current international policy, which is aimed at serving interests that are far removed from international norms and values… Jacques Chirac does not condemn terror against the Iraqi people, but calls upon terrorists to distinguish between friend [namely, France] and foe." [9]


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 31, 2004.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 1, 2004.

[3] www.elaph.com, August 30, 2004.

[4] As cited by Al-Hayat (London), September 3, 2004. The article can also be found at www.elaph.com, August 31, 2004.

[5] www.elaph.com, September 1, 2004.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), September 9, 2004. Translation by Al-Hayat,

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 1, 2004.

[8] www.elaph.com, September 2, 2004.

[9] Al-Ahali (Iraq), September 8, 2004.