January 19, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 5937

Arab Media Reactions To Paris Terror Attacks – Part I: Arab Papers, Columnists Claim West Is Now Paying The Price For Supporting Terror

January 19, 2015
Special Dispatch No. 5937

The recent terror wave in Paris, which started with the January 7, 2015 massacre at the premises of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo in revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that the weekly published a few years ago, and continued with the January 8, 2015 murder of a French policewoman and the January 9, 2015 attack on the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, sparked numerous and varied reactions in the Arab and Muslim world.[1] These responses found expression on the social networks,[2] in many press articles, and in official condemnations of the attacks by states and senior officials as well as religious institutions and clerics, first and foremost Al-Azhar and Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.[3]

The Arab states and their leaders were quick to condemn the murderous attack at the Charlie Hebdo weekly, terming it a cowardly and criminal terrorist act that was antithetical to Islam.[4] Several responses noted that terror was a global phenomenon that hurts the Arab countries as well and has to be combated. An exception was the response of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, which placed responsibility for the attack on France itself, stating that "Syria had warned time and again of the dangers of supporting terror and that this terror would come back to bite those who supported it"[5] In an interview to the Czech newspaper Literarni Noviny, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad did condemn the murder of innocents, but added, addressing France and the Arab countries: "We have been saying, you shouldn't support terrorism and provide it with a political umbrella, because this will reflect on your countries and your people. They didn't listen to us... This incident brought European policies to account, because they are responsible for what happened in our region, for what happened in France yesterday, and maybe what happened earlier in other European countries."[6]

The Arab press likewise dealt extensively with the terror onslaught in Paris, publishing hundreds of articles that referred to the attacks in various ways. Many condemned the attacks, renounced them and claimed that they did not represent the world's Muslims or their religion. Other articles, both in newspapers identified with the pro-Syrian camp and those identified with the Gulf states, condemned the attacks but at the same time held France itself responsible for them, and some even stressed that the Muslims did not have to apologize for them.[7] They claimed that France had brought the attacks upon itself, either by its foreign policy, which "supports terror" or by its "racist" domestic policy towards the Muslim minority. Many articles condemned the Charlie Hebdo shooting but simultaneously condemned the weekly for "insulting the Prophet." Some claimed that it had deliberately provoked the Muslims and was therefore partially responsible for the attack.

Some Arab writers also wondered why the world was so shocked by the Paris attacks and hastened to condemn them, while it had for years remained indifferent to the terror and atrocities in Syria and in other Arab countries. There were also those who claimed that the attacks were a Western, French, Jewish or Israeli conspiracy intended to supply the West with a pretext to initiate a war against Muslims.

On the other hand, several liberal writers called upon the Arab and Muslim public to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack unreservedly and without excuses, emphasizing that even an insult to Islam's Prophet and religion did not justify such an action, and that any attempt to justify it by this pretext or any another was a crime as heinous as the massacre itself. Some liberal writers called upon Muslims to protest against terror just as they demonstrated against the insults to the Prophet, and to fight Islamic extremism by preventing extremist discourse in the Arab school curricula, mosques and media.

Another prominent theme in many articles was concern that the terror attacks would intensify Islamophobia worldwide, and especially in Europe, and would provoke harsh treatment of European Muslims that would make their lives difficult.

Is should be noted that, while the Charlie Hebdo shooting sparked extensive condemnations in the Arab and Muslim world and its press, the attack on the kosher supermarket hardly elicited a response from the Arab countries and their leaders, and the Arab press also dedicated few specific comments to it and to its anti-Semitic character.

The following is the first part of a series of MEMRI articles on responses in the Arab media to the attacks in Paris.

Part I: Arab Papers, Columnists Claim West Is Now Paying The Price For Supporting Terror

A prominent argument that recurred in Arab press articles following the Charlie Hebdo attack was that the West had supported and was still supporting terror organizations, and was now paying the price for this folly.

This argument featured prominently in the Syrian press and in the pro-Syrian and pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which accused the U.S., France and the West in general of supporting terrorist organizations in Syria. Al-Akhbar even argued in a series of articles that France was enabling Saudi Arabia to spread radicalism and Islamist terror. A few articles in the Saudi, Egyptian and Gulf press likewise argued that the West was guilty of fomenting and supporting terror. Some of these articles elaborated that, for decades, the West had legitimized certain terrorist groups on the grounds that they were legitimate opposition to the Arab regimes, alluding to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The following are excerpts from some of the articles:

Syrian Writer: Attack Was Result Of Western Support For Terrorism In Syria

Ahmed Hamada, writing in the official Syrian daily Al-Thawra, placed blame for the attack on Western governments, whom he claims stoke terrorism in the Arab world, and specifically in Syria: "Before the shooting of the French journalists, there were mass protests in several European capitals expressing fury and protest at their governments who support terrorism and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq... Despite all this opposition to Western policy within the European societies themselves, Western governments, chiefly the U.S. and France, still refuse to relinquish their agenda that supports terrorism and its takfiri organizations, and openly state that they will not halt their aid to terrorist groups and will not dry out their sources of funding... The clear paradox is that many Western governments occasionally state that the U.S.-led international [anti-ISIS] coalition cannot eliminate terrorism... and [therefore] must coordinate with regional governments to reduce this phenomenon in order to eliminate it. However, the U.S. and France insist on operating on their own and do everything that contradicts international law, general international perceptions, and UN resolutions. Hence we see an increase of the factors that stoke the crises in the world, especially in the Arab region and in particular in Syria."[8]

The Lebanese 'Al Akhbar': France Brought The Attack Upon Itself; We Have No Need To Apologize Or Assist It

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar published particularly scathing articles in response to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. These articles accused France of bringing terror upon itself with its foreign and domestic policy. Some articles referred to France's good ties with Saudi Arabia and accused it of allowing the Saudis to build an infrastructure for dissemination radical Islam on French soil.

 In an article titled "Everything Carries A Price", Ibrahim Al-Amin, Al-Akbar board chairman, condemned the attack but opined that France had actually brought it upon itself. Hinting at France's current support for the Syrian opposition, Al-Amin accused it of persevering in the imperialist crimes that it has been committing for centuries, and remarked that "everything carries a price". Al-Amin claimed that the Muslims and Arabs must not express regret: "We do not need to flagellate ourselves. We have no obligation to be the first to offer condolences simply because it is one of our people who committed this vile actÔǪ We are not at all obliged to express regretÔǪ nor are we obliged to offer [the West] assistance in any way, as our leaders did following September 11ÔǪ We owe nothing to this imbecilic West... [As a matter of fact] we are the first to pay the price [for the terror]ÔǪ We are slaughtered every day with the knife manufactured by the imperialist West. We are slaughtered under the eye of the West itself. Those committing this crime against us on a daily basis are agents of this West within our [own] countries."[9]

'The French Have Merely Begun Reaping What They Have Sown'

Al-Akhbar columnist 'Amer Mohsen also claimed that the Charlie Hebdo shooting was the result of racist French policy. Mohsen argues that two factors were behind the Paris shooting. The first, he says, is "the racism of the French society and state against immigrants and their children," and the second is the fact that "since the 1970s, France has allowed Saudi funds to freely operate in the field of da'wa [Islamic preaching], to the point that Wahhabi Salafism has nearly monopolized the country's Islamic centers, mosques, and religious education..." He concluded: "Instead of apologizing, we must tell the French that this is their Islam, not ours, and that what happened in France is only the beginning of their reaping what they have sown, not the end."[10]

The French Tricoleur after the Charlie Hebdo attack (Al-Sharq, Qatar, January 8, 2015)

France Terror A Product Of Its Involvement In Wars In The Region, Its Ties To Gulf States

Al-Akhbar columnist Sami Kleib argued that France's foreign policy had triggered the terrorist act. He claimed that France's "its abandonment of its role as mediator, the aversion [it showed] to the Muslim Brotherhood,  its reservations regarding Turkey's joining the EU, its ever-increasing closeness to Israeli policy, its pressure to delay the signing of an agreement with Iran, and now its participation in the international antiterrorism coalition have all earned France new enemies... France cannot claim today that it stands with the peoples against the oppression of tyrannical rulers..."[11]

Yet another Al-Akhbar columnist, Jean 'Aziz, also pointed an accusing finger at both the West and the Gulf states, hinting at Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE: "For decades, and especially recently, the capitalist West and the oppressive regimes of the Islamic oil countries have been living in a state of denial... out of desire to ensure their common interests. The West denies what it knows full well: that the danger of Islamic terrorism afflicting it is the direct result of these regimes... Concurrently, the oppressive regimes in the Islamic oil countries deny that terrorism is the result of their own thinking, approach, and policy, and refuse to admit that the culture of killing the 'other' originates in their constant existential need to justify their tyranny...

"What is the price of this game? [The price is] a number of victims periodically [killed] at the hands of 'grudge-bearers', 'imbeciles', or those who have strayed from the correct path. Western regimes can bear this price, and could even try to [turn it] into a new investment: a war on terror, trade in weapons, and a window [of opportunity] for wartime markets. The satanic cycle is complete: The rulers of the Islamic oil countries produce money and blood, the money goes to Western coffers, and the blood is recycled by weapons manufacturing..."[12]

Al-Jazeera Host: The Muslims Must Not Submit To The Crusader, Terrorist West

Ahmed Mansour, a presenter on the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel, wrote in an article that was published in the Hamas mouthpiece Filastin: "The Muslims' self-degradation and their submission to the Crusader West following the attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in supplication for [the West's] forgiveness and absolution, are a source of sorrow and anguish. This, especially since the West has waged consecutive Crusades against the Muslim world ever since [former U.S. president] George W. Bush announced the anti-Iraq crusade in 2003. It is the West that is perpetrating acts of killing and terror. The French are the terrorists who kill Muslims day and night. French history is suffused with the killing of Algerians during the 130 years of [French colonial] occupation. [For example,] in one massacre [carried out] in a single day in 1945 they killed 45,000 Algerians who came out to demonstrate against them. Furthermore, they used Algeria and its people as a nuclear testing ground. In the same way, the Zionists are waging incessant terror against the people of occupied Palestine, and the Americans and their allies are committing acts of killing and terror in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and in many places worldwide."[13]

Saudi Government Daily: The Terror Striking The West Is Of Western Manufacture

An editorial in the Saudi government daily Makkah also attacked the Western countries, accusing them that they cultivated terror organizations to advance their interests, but now that these organizations are targeting them, they are calling to eliminate them: "The terror whose crimes the West is now condemning is originally of Western manufacture. [The West] cultivated it during the 1980s, when it played a major role on its behalf in the East-West struggle in Afghanistan. But now that this terror has grown stronger, bared its teeth and eroded the status of these [Western] countries, they consider it a vile thing that must be uprooted.

"The early Arab calls to eliminate terror, and especially [the calls of] Saudi Arabia in the previous decades, fell on deaf ears in the West. In fact, many Western countries cultivated multiple terror organizations and their leaders, and used them as a bargaining chip to obtain their interests or to threaten countries that refused to comply with their demands. The numerous terror attacks that the world has witnessed in the first days of 2015 - in Paris, in Turkey, in the [northern Saudi] city of 'Ar'ar on the Iraqi border, in Libya's [port city of] Darnah, and in Iraq and Syria - may perhaps [herald] a new stage in the war on terror This situation may motivate the governments who [until now] employed a double standard in dealing with terror to stand shoulder to shoulder and collaborate in checking this danger that has overtaken vast regions in the Middle East and has begun to threaten the foundations and stability of the world's countries"[14]

Egyptian Government Daily 'Al-Ahram': The West Is Paying Dearly For Legitimizing Terror Movements

An editorial in the government Egyptian daily Al-Ahram took a similar line, accusing the West of supporting and legitimatizing terror organizations for years while ignoring Egypt's calls to combat terror: "The West must now understand that it has made some shameful mistakes for which it is paying dearly today. This, because it opened its arms to several extremist movements and insisted on embracing them, viewing them as oppositions to regimes in the region that could be recruited to serve its interests whenever it wishedÔǪ Following the attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in ParisÔǪ [the West] should have admitted its mistaken policy towards these terror movements that flourished and grew under its wing for decades while it provided them with a cover of legitimacy and supportÔǪ 

"How numerous were the warnings voiced by sensible and reasonable people in the countries of the region regarding the need for a comprehensive struggle to defeat the barbaric monster of terror. Yet some European countries failed to heed them of did not take them seriously. [Instead, these Western countries] accused the region's countries of being hostile to democracy and human rights. This is the place to point out that Egypt repeatedly warned about the danger posed by this phenomenon. It emphasized that the terror would reach everyone and that the West was not immune to it and that terror had no homeland or religion, but was a global phenomenon that must be eliminated by pooling all international efforts. It should also be noted that Cairo charged the world's countries to establish a global alliance against all the terrorist organizations in the region, instead of confining the struggle to a specific organization What occurred in France in recent days will perhaps awaken the West from its deep slumber and [cause it to] abandon its selfishness and realize, before it is too late, the importance of coordination between all the world's countries in the struggle against this terrifying phenomenon that threatens to devastate the entire world."[15]




[1] For Iranian reactions to the attack on the weekly, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5929, "Reactions In Iran To The 'Charlie Hebdo' Massacre," January 13, 2015.

[3], January 8, 2015. On Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's involvement in sparking the protests over the Danish Mohammad cartoons published in 2005, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1089, "Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi Responds to Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad: Whoever is Angered and Does Not Rage in Anger is a Jackass - We are Not a Nation of Jackasses," February 9, 2006.  

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Al-Hayat (London),, January 8, 2015.

[5], January 8, 2015.

[6], January 8, 2015.

[8] Al-Thawra (Syria), January 8, 2015.

[9] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 10, 2015.

[10] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 8, 2015. Pierre Abi-Sa'ab, Al-Akhbar deputy editor, also argued in the same issue of the daily that the attack had occurred on the background of "harsh social, class, cultural, and political oppression that French governments have not adequately addressed, and which they often helped to exacerbate in various ways."

[11] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 8, 2015.

[12] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 8, 2015.

[13], January 13, 2015.

[14] Makkah (Saudi Arabia), January 9, 2015.

[15] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 10, 2015.

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