May 9, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 503

An Arab Intellectual in Qatar: 'Arab Media's Conduct During the War is Indicative of a Deeper Malaise'

May 9, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 503

Sheikh 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari is dean of the Faculty of Shar'iah (Islamic Law) at Qatar University and is known for his liberal positions. In various articles published after September 11, he called for reform of the Arab education system.[1] In an article recently published by the Saudi English daily Arab News,[2]he criticized the role of the Arab media in the war in Iraq. The following are excerpts from the article:

'The Arab Media Succeeded in Deceiving the People'

"The Iraqi people brought down the statue of the tyrant who had oppressed them for 35 years. Millions saw the wretched end to one of the most loathsome and bloody regimes in modern history. With the fall of the regime and the statue, other things fell as well. The great analysts and strategic experts had exaggerated the bloody and oppressive regime and greatly overestimated its strengths."

"So now that the first breath of freedom has been seen, where are all the things the Arab media promised us before the war? Where are the decisive moments and the invading forces buried under Baghdad's walls? Where are the inner-city wars and the street-by-street battles?"

"The Arab media succeeded in deceiving the people. On the whole, the deception was worse than in 1967. Fatwas succeeded — 'Rise up for Jihad!' — in burying some misguided volunteers and suicide bombers. The misguided Fatwas did nothing but confirm those who were already miserable in their misery while those responsible for the Fatwas continued to enjoy life. What are the masses now saying in their happiness to see an end to the tyrant whose photograph they rip apart and beat with their sandals? Only yesterday, they fell in line, actively demonstrating in the street with his photograph, repeating 'Here we are, ready to sacrifice ourselves with our souls and blood for you!' And he led them into defeat!"

"For how long will we be cursed by attaching ourselves emotionally to defeated heroes? Why has it been written about us that we are a nation which does not learn from our defeats? And within one generation, there are other nations who have suffered defeat once and have risen from its ashes."

'Why Did the Arab Media Consent to Align Itself With the Iraqi Regime?'

"The question is: Why did the Arab media consent to align itself with the Iraqi regime while at the same time pretending that it was with the people?"

"It is my view that the answer was stated by the director of one of the satellite channels: 'It is competition. In such circumstances, either we win the viewers or others win them.' Thus he summarized the way of most of those in the Arab media. Their aim is to win the street at any price. The street is emotional and has little confidence in the Americans. It can be won by fanning the flames of its emotions and encouraging its feelings with dreams of a great Arab victory and a great American defeat."

"To a large extent, the Arab media was characterized by selectivity, and it was decidedly on the side of the Iraqi regime. Our intellectuals took over the line and constantly repeated it. Our media then devoted special programs to disseminating and repeating the falsehoods of Sahaf. Their biased point of view was imposed on listeners. Our media attempted to increase the degree of hatred against the coalition by concentrating on the degree of the destruction and the number of civilian victims, without making clear that this was because the regime positioned its forces and tanks in civilian areas. The army of Saddam of which they were so proud because it was the only army which could protect civilians in fact used the civilians to protect itself."

"It was the Arab media itself which claimed that the aims of the war were to destroy Iraq, put an end to its capabilities, and, in the end, to occupy it. It did not for a moment consider the role of Iraq's ruler in the destruction and ruin of the country over a period of more than thirty years. It did not consider how he had destroyed the country's environment, education, health, and legal systems. He also set oil wells on fire and destroyed bridges, and he transformed the cities, especially in the south, into wretchedness, deprived even of clean drinking water."

"The Arab media attacked the Iraqi opposition and imposed a collective boycott [on them] while satellite stations played host to everyone but the Iraqis who were, after all, the ones most concerned."

'The Kuwaiti Media was the Sole Exception to this Rule'

"The Kuwaiti media was the sole exception to this rule. Not one satellite channel had the courage to transmit scenes of [the] welcome [of] the coalition troops in the liberated cities. Instead, the satellite stations made a great fuss over what they called the crimes of the coalition and ignored the crimes of the regime. The correspondents continued to impose their political points of view on viewers. Not one of the satellite stations, except Kuwait, had the courage to show a tape of the chemical strike against Halabja. It was the same with the air attack of the 1991 uprising in which holy places were hit and hundreds of Shi'ites were killed and tortured. More than 250,000 Iraqi citizens were killed in the uprising..."

'The Aim of the Arab Satellite Stations was to Suggest that the Allies Were 'Savage' in Their Treatment of Civilians'

"The aim of the Arab satellite stations was to suggest that the allies were 'savage' in their treatment of civilians. Furthermore, respectable newspapers were not considered to be devout if they did not cover the sorrowful and tragic accident of the journalists who were killed by the coalition forces — in order, they said, to silence Arab satellite stations. Again, the question: Is it possible for the Arab media to be objective?"

"In my view, it is not possible because the Arab media is controlled by the prevailing general atmosphere and by people who have been fed on the slogans of incitement and inflammatory propaganda for more than half a century. They are captives of those who fed them and brought them up, those who controlled their mentality in which long-standing imaginary ideas, fables, and superstitions were planted."

"This is a deeply rooted aspect of the Arab mind, firmly established in Arab psychology and mentality. The same idea was expressed in an outstanding article, 'We are the Nation of Defeated Heroes.' It is a very delicate analysis of the reasons for the defeats of the Arabs. But the deeper question again arises."

'How Did the Idea of the 'Conspiring Other' Become Entrenched in Our Minds and Mentalities?'

"We are forever listening apprehensively to 'the other,' to him who wishes us evil. Others have had similar problems, but they have risen up and rebuilt themselves because they were able to rid themselves of the fear of 'the other.'"

"It was no wonder then when we called defeat victory in 1956 and 1967 as well as in the Mother of all Battles and Qadisiyya."

"There are still those who justify and philosophize about media partiality. They claim that it is partiality for the honor and dignity of the community. [Have] not honor and dignity been rendered miserable if the dignity of man has not been preserved? There are those who say it was to raise morale, but this is faulty reasoning: It is not necessary to raise morale by trickery and deception of the masses.""The musings of a simple Iraqi from a liberated area caught my attention. He said: 'The Arabs left us and did not liberate us. Why are they attacking the coalition which wants to liberate us?' Why is this simple fact not realized by our men of culture, our intellectuals, our men of the media and our religious leaders, the men who call for participation in 'Jihad?'"

[1]For more on 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari , see MEMRI Dean of Islamic Law, Qatar University: The fight against terrorism must begin with curricular, educational, and media reform in the Arab world, "Dean of Islamic Law, Qatar University: The fight against terrorism must begin with curricular, educational, and media reform in the Arab world,", Dean of Shari'a and Law at Qatar University in Support of the U.S., the War on Terror, and Curricular Reform Part I, "Dean of Shari'a and Law at Qatar University in Support of the U.S., the War on Terror, and Curricular Reform Part I,", and Dean of Shari'a and Law at Qatar University in Support of the U.S., the War on Terror, and Curricular Reform Part II, "Dean of Shari'a and Law at Qatar University in Support of the U.S., the War on Terror, and Curricular Reform Part II,".

[2]Arab News, April 21, 2003.

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