April 19, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 697

Arab Press Reactions to the Madrid Bombings

April 19, 2004
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 697

The March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid prompted diverse reactions in the Arabic press. Important columnists explicitly condemned the attack and claimed that not only do its perpetrators not represent Islam, but that the attack was a "criminal massacre," a "return to the Stone Age," and the result of incitement and hatred. Others stated that Aznar's fall following the bombings is a victory for and will only encourage of further terrorism, and that it is incumbent upon the European Left to carry out self-criticism because "the leftist organizations in Germany collect donations for … the criminals who are blowing up the headquarters of the U.N. and the humanitarian organizations, the schools, the factories… Even the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala, and Kazimiyya were not spared… This is a conflict between progress and light – and darkness." Another wrote, "We thank Allah that there is a superpower like America that took upon itself the mission of saving the peoples, without caring about Security Council resolutions."

In contrast, some columnists stated that the bombings had "stopped the [U.S.] policy of lies and deception," and that Britain and Italy would be punished in a similar fashion for their policy of lies. The pro-Saddam London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi marked the failure of President Bush's promise that "the world would be safer after the occupation of Iraq and the removal of its regime. He told his allies that the war on terror that he was leading in Afghanistan had succeeded in weakening Al-Qa'ida and turning Afghanistan into a model of well-being, prosperity, and democracy."

As always following terrorist attacks, there were accusations that the Jews/Zionists were behind the bombings, as well as a demand for the Arab security services "to discover the hidden Zionist fingers planning many terror operations in order to entangle the Arabs and Muslims in the international arena. Isn't one of the most important missions of these apparatuses to protect the security of the Arab citizen?"

The following are excerpts from articles reacting to the Madrid bombings:

Condemning the Attack

Adli Sadeq, the deputy to Palestinian Minister for Foreign Affairs Nabil Sha'ath, wrote in his daily column in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "An announcement attributed to the so-called Abu Hafs Al-Masri [Brigades] stated that the explosions were aimed at settling accounts with 'Crusader Spain,' and implicitly states that the killing of innocents in Palestine and Afghanistan permits the killing of innocents in Spain. Such talk has no connection either to Islam, or to politics, human ethics, or courage, because those who kill innocents in Palestine and Afghanistan do not kill them in the name of all train passengers… Islam forbids that anyone should be held responsible for the crime of another, and strongly forbids killing anyone, except justly. If it is Al-Qa'ida, and we hope that it is not, then our comment on it is that this is neither the quality of Islam nor its ethics, and we condemn it even more strongly than the Spanish themselves."[1]

Sadeq began his column with a criticism of the editor of the London pro-Saddam daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, for having published and given credence to an unauthenticated faxed announcement of responsibility for the Madrid bombings by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri group[2] and then for having appeared on television to give his view on the matter and on the significance of this group.

'The Explosions Cannot Be Seen as an Islamic Act'

In the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, Jordanian Islamist activist Bassam Al-'Amoush wrote: "The destruction of the Twin Towers in New York cannot possibly be a service to Islam, a deed in the name of Islam, or Jihad for the sake of Allah… The explosions in Nairobi and Dar Al-Salaam cannot be seen as an Islamic act, as a way of propagating Islam [da'wa], as an act of Jihad, as beneficial, or [as an act] whose perpetrator is a Shahid [martyr].

"Anyone who calls the explosions in Riyadh Jihad for the sake of Allah is an ignoramus. Could any Muslim mind in the world possibly be able to recognize the criminal massacre in Madrid as Jihad and martyrdom?… The peoples of the world must know that Islam is a religion of love, peace, moderation, dialogue, and coexistence, that [Islam] does not seek bloodshed or the murder of women, children, and the elderly… [True Islam] is an Islam of freedom of thought, [as the Qur'anic verse states]: 'There is no coercion in religion.' Islam [is a religion of] coexistence…"[3]

Columnist Ahmad Al-Rab'i wrote in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "The question is not who carried out the terror operation in Spain, but how a group of human beings – no matter what its belief, religion, or political affiliation – thinks of killing 200 innocent people and wounding over 1,000. Have we gone back to the Stone Age?… What kind of new world is this, in which terror strikes the World Trade Center, Spain, Afghanistan, Algeria, Riyadh, and Bali, and kills innocents? How can the inhabitants of this planet feel safe about their children going to school? How will lovers walk freely in a public park? How will people be able to go to work when every bus, train, or plane is a target for mass killing? This is an operation against life… The entire civilized world – no matter what its ideology and belief – must declare a world war on terror as criminal behavior, against the ideology of terror, and against those who incite to it."[4]

'Terror Attacks are Muslims' Enemy No. 1'

In another article, also in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Rab'i stated that terror attacks are the Muslims' Enemy No. 1: "Those who carried out the crime in Spain do not take into consideration the suffering of the innocents. And if they do not take into consideration the blood and souls, how much more do they not take into consideration how they cause poverty, harm people, and increase [people's] difficulties in obtaining their daily bread. They know that every crisis caused to the Arab immigrants, particularly those from North African countries, will make a large percentage of them return to their countries – and that this means many more economic and social crises in the North African countries, where many families live off the funds sent to them by their relatives in European countries…

"September 11 caused difficulties to the Arabs and Muslims, and to the [Muslim] students and mosques in America; the events of March 11 in Spain will cause difficulties to those in the European countries. This is proof that the black terror is Enemy No. 1 of the Muslims, of their lives, and of their stability, and that its first victims are poor Muslims everywhere."[5]

In his column, former editor of the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, wrote: "For 20 years, the Arabs have warned Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain, and other [countries] about the results of their hosting of political organizations whose philosophy is hatred and whose plan is incitement even against the societies that host them. Unfortunately, the European governments have ignored all these calls, to the point where the largest group of extremist leaders has situated itself and operated in Europe – not in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or other countries that are always happy [to serve as] fertile ground for terror or as a hothouse for terrorist ideology."[6]

Columnist Muhammad Al-Khadhr wrote in the Syrian government daily Al-Ba'ath: "No matter what the identity of the perpetrators of the train crime in the Spanish capital of Madrid, the deed is worthy of political, moral, and legal condemnation. An attack on civilians is an abhorrent crime on all levels and in all societies and countries…" However, he added: "In September 2001, the U.S. launched a war on terror, and President Bush chose to divide the world into two axes – the axis of good and the axis of evil. Has the world become a safer place, as Washington declares every day? The answer does not demand much thought. It is enough to look at the daily newscasts to learn about the intensity of the tragedy and the pain suffered by the peoples, beginning in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, and including the bereaved Spanish families… Therefore, in order to help the victims of terror in the world, there is no escape from a clear international effort in which all will participate, [in order to] advance the values of truth and justice and [in order] to implement the legitimate international resolutions that have not been implemented to date. Thus, the whole world will share in dealing with the most dangerous thing it faces in the third millennium."[7]

The Fall of Aznar's Government is a Victory for Terror

Iraqi columnist 'Aziz Al-Haj wrote in the liberal online newspaper "As an Iraqi, I was saddened by the failure of the party and government of Jose Maria Aznar, who stood with dignity and courage alongside the Iraqi people when he took part in toppling the fascism of Saddam… What hurts is that the socialists hostile to America and the war on the Iraqi Ba'th regime succeeded in misleading some of the Spanish citizens, exploiting the terrible crime as a weapon in the elections against the Aznar government. They claimed that it is the Spanish participation in Iraq that is the reason for the terrorism of the Al-Qa'ida members, who are experts in crime and in mass-murdering civilians. But France, the most sharply opposed to the war in Iraq, has also become the target of attack by Islamist extremists and of their calls for Jihad against it – because it insisted on legislation [against the veil] in its public schools and was accused of war against Islam…

"Zapatero, Aznar's replacement, calls on Bush and Blair to [carry out] self-criticism because of the war in Iraq – while the ones who should be called on to carry out self-criticism for ignoring the suffering of the Iraqi people and for justifying the terrorist crimes in Iraq is [actually] the European Left… The leftist organizations in Germany, the ally of France, collect donations for the self-styled uprising gangs in Iraq – that is, for the criminals who are blowing up the headquarters of the U.N. and the humanitarian organizations, the schools, the factories, and the Iraqi security forces. Even the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala, and Kazimiyya were not spared these barbarous attacks, not to mention the friendly coalition forces that saved Iraq from the most criminal and blood-drenched regime in the history of mankind…

"Do all these Western thinkers care about the emotions of the majority of Iraqis, whose joy at the fall of Saddam the whole world saw? What did France, Russia, Germany, and all the European Left do to support the Iraqi struggle against the tyranny of Saddam and for the sake of toppling it?… How can the European Left maintain positions that match [those] of the most extreme Islamists, Iran, and the propagandists of pan-Arabism among the supporters of the crumbling Ba'th regime? [How can the European Left] maintain positions that in effect serve the gangs of murder and destruction throughout Iraq?

"The war on world terror must unite the nations of the world, the democratic countries, and the international bodies. This bestial cancer is a sudden danger with which humanity and civilization is coping. Any negligence or weakness in facing it encourages the beast of prey to kill more people and spill additional rivers of innocent blood. This is a conflict between progress and light – and darkness."[8]

'We Thank Allah There is a Superpower Like America'

In a similar vein, Iraqi columnist Abd Al-Khaliq Hussein wrote, also on "There is no doubt that the defeat of Jose Maria Aznar's conservative Spanish Partido Popular should be considered a victory for terror. The terrorists doubtless distributed sweets among themselves as they did after the Ashoura murders in Iraq…

"It is known that the Spanish Socialist Party opposed the war on Saddam Hussein and showed indifference to the suffering of the Iraqi people, like the rest of the forces of the Left in the world. This was in order to anger America even if its deeds are for the good of the catastrophe-struck peoples. The Left's position stands in contradiction to its pretensions of defending human rights and oppressed peoples…

"The excuse [of the Left] is that the war against Saddam was not legitimate because the decision was not made in the [U.N.] Security Council… A U.N. resolution is more important to them than annihilation by a hangman gripped by lust for murder and genocide. We thank Allah that there is a superpower like America that took upon itself the mission of saving the peoples, without caring about Security Council resolutions. Otherwise the peoples of the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and East Timor would expect annihilation by hangmen gripped by lust for mass murder, such as Milosevic, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and other hangmen…

"These declarations [by the European Left] emanate from the fact that they do not sense the danger of Islamic terror that threatens the security of the nations, democracy, and civilization in the world. The Spanish Socialist Party victory will encourage the terrorists to continue [to perpetrate] additional criminal operations, and thus to extort the West and its democratic parties so they meet the terrorist demands, until these democratic regimes surrender to the will of the terrorists. This is the toppling of Western democracy. But will this be enough for the Islamists?

"It was already noted in another article that the Al-Qaida organization attacked American institutions before America launched the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, even before George Bush rose to power. The false claim that this wave of terror is the result of the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is nothing but a feeble excuse for the continuation of terrorist operations against the Western countries…"[9]

The Attack Proves U.S. Policy is Wrong

In the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, columnist Tareq Masarawa wrote: "It is only natural that a people living like the Spanish people will stop the policy of lies and deception, and will set a clear border between war on terror and war on peoples; between the gangs of bin Laden and his fundamentalist perceptions, and the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples; between the defense of civilization and culture, and occupation, plunder, and murder…

"The Spanish Socialists and their young president constituted an example, for their country, for Europe, and for the entire world, of wise and brave policy, and they have restored to Europe its true face. We are certain that the man [i.e. Zapatero] will fight terror, but he will not serve the occupation of Iraq and the continuation of the occupation of Palestine. We are certain that he will be a good neighbor to the Arabs and Muslims of Morocco, because he believes that terror has no religion, no nation, and no race! We are certain that Spain's return to the fold of Europe will reinforce Germany's and France's moderate and determined policy…

"Terror is now coming to London and Rome, so the English and the Italians say. The punishment for the policy of lies will be similar. It is not logical that most [residents of England and Italy] oppose the wars while their politicians go to war [on pretexts] of lies, and it is not logical that [the aggressor] will not pay the price of his own aggression!"[10]

Columnist Ghassan Shirbil wrote in the London daily Al-Hayat: "There is no doubt that the results of the elections in Spain constitute a defeat for the Bush administration. The new [Spanish] prime minister hastened to depict the war in Iraq as a 'disaster' by pointing out that perhaps the Spanish forces that joined to the 'coalition' would leave Iraq after power was transferred to the Iraqis at the end of June. The reality is that the Spanish units deployed in Iraq do not play a significant military role that is hard to compensate for. The significance of the Spanish participation stems from the U.S.'s desire to involve the European allies in its Iraqi adventure, particularly in light of the French and German opposition…

"[Also], if it is proven that Al-Qa'ida was behind the explosions in Madrid, Spain has paid the price for its participation in the American adventure in Iraq, and this is a heavy price. But making civilians a target in this way heralds [also] a considerable price that will be paid by the Arab and Muslim exile communities, if this incident repeats itself and the Europeans sense that a few bombers are trying to expropriate decision-making and influence over their own foreign policy."[11]

'The War on Terror, on which the U.S. has Spent Nearly $100 Billion, has Not Achieved the Desired Objective'

In an editorial, the pro-Saddam London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote: "President Bush promised that the world would be safer after the occupation of Iraq and the removal of its regime. He told his allies that the war on terror that he was leading in Afghanistan had succeeded in weakening Al-Qa'ida and turning Afghanistan into a model of well-being, prosperity, and democracy. But these days are proving the total opposite. Since the occupation of Iraq, violent operations have proliferated within Iraq and outside it. The celebrants of the Ashoura holiday [suffered] a massacre the like of which has never been seen in modern Iraq. We also witnessed attacks in Istanbul and recent [attacks] in the Madrid train stations.

"The war on terror, on which the U.S. has spent nearly $100 billion, has not achieved the desired objective, because the American administration settled for military and security solutions and did not try even to look for the political roots of this phenomenon [of terror], particularly in the Arab region. As long as the American administration continues to support Israeli state terrorism, and as long as the Arab region continues to be ruled by corrupt family dictatorships supported by the West, the extremist groups – whether they are from the Left or are extremist Islamic [groups] – will find a suitable environment for recruiting angry and confused young men and pushing them towards violent and blood-soaked operations.

"It is to be hoped that the explosions in Madrid will open the eyes of the coalition countries that the U.S. is leading in Afghanistan and in Iraq and that they will recognize the need for a thorough reexamination of this matter, and the need to begin to take a serious look at the dangers and to act to correct them. Corrective operations will be carried out in two parallel lines – a just resolution of the Palestinian problem, and support for democratic trends and elections, human rights, and an independent judiciary system."[12]

'Many Terror Operations in the U.S. & Europe Have Been Falsely Attributed to Al-Qa'ida, or to Arab Immigrants'

In the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, columnist Salameh Ahmad Salameh wrote: "The horrific explosions that took place in Spain recently reopen the international terror portfolio, in order to prove that the American perception prevailing in the world in recent years – i.e. that terror has a single source and a single problem, the Al-Qa'ida organization, Islam, and the Muslims – was mistaken, misleading, and far from reality…

"Many violent operations and terror [operations] that took place in the U.S. and in Europe –the motives of which may have been social and political, from within the societies themselves – have been falsely attributed to Al-Qa'ida, or to some Arab immigrants and refugees so as to be rid of them and to hobble them. These [operations] have also become justification and excuses for [advancing] political and democratic reform in Arab and Muslim countries. This, while most European societies are more in need than ever of domestic reform and compromise with their separatist minorities…"[13]

The editor of the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Hafez Al-Barghouti, wrote: "It may be that the unbalanced American policy regarding the Arab-Muslim region will cause the bloodshed of innocents in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and in European countries. The unilateral decision-making on the part of Washington and the marginalization of the U.N. in international issues will beyond a doubt cause the scales of justice to tip, and cause harm to international legitimacy and to its laws. Therefore, there is a need for the allies of the U.S. to pressure it to reconsider the U.N. and international legitimacy. The farther away this consideration gets, the closer the massacres, explosions, and tragic operations."[14]

The Jews and Zionists were Behind the Attack

Columnist Adnan Zayid Al-Kazimi wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan: "Many investigations are not needed [to learn] who is behind the cowardly terrorist operation in Spain that took the lives of innocents, whose limbs were scattered and whose bodies were torn to pieces, men, women, children, and the elderly… The accusing finger points at the separatist ETA organization… No one has imagined that the one behind this crime is the Zionist crime organization, which has the greatest interest in fanning hatred against the Arabs and Muslims… I claim with certainty that the ones who attribute all evil to the Arabs and the Muslims are the Zionists, those who are closest to carry out such an operation, like the other operations [that they carried out]. Perhaps there will be someone who will attest that he saw the Zionists filming the events from afar, and that there were no Jewish victims [among the victims of the attack], as in September 11 in America…"[15]

Abd Al-Wahhab 'Adas, deputy editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya, accuses "Jewish Zionists" of responsibility for the bombing. He writes: "If you want to know the true agent of any catastrophe or any terrorist act, you should look for the Jewish Zionists... The most recent of their misdeeds were the explosions in Spain; the Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes explained that an Arabic-language videotape was found close to a Madrid mosque, in which Al-Qa'ida's military spokesman announced his organization's responsibility for the attacks, but he [the Spanish minister] himself denied this, saying that the authenticity of this video had not been confirmed…

"Certainly [it was] the Jews. They are the ones who placed all these things to confirm to the world that Arabs and Muslims are behind explosions of this kind… It is the Jews, with their secret, dirty hands, who played the role very skillfully, to harm the Arabs and the Muslims, and to intensify hatred of them… It is actually they who are behind the events of September 11."[16]

Columnist Sa'id Al-Subki wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan: "Since the explosions that took place in Washington and New York in the U.S. on September 11, 2001 and to this day, barely a day has passed without European accusation towards individuals, organizations, and countries, of carrying out or planning terror operations. All the accusations and condemnations harm the existence of the identity of the Arab…

"We reiterate the embarrassing question: What are the reasons for the silence of the Arab intelligence services since September 11 and until today? We continue to ask the meaning of this: Are our security services incapable of acting the same way as the Europeans? Are they incapable of discovering the hidden Zionist fingers planning many terror operations in order to entangle the Arabs and Muslims in the international arena? Isn't one of the most important missions of these apparatuses to protect the security of the Arab citizen?"[17]


[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 13, 2004.

[2] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 166, 'The Alleged Al-Qa'ida Statement of Responsibility for the Madrid Bombings: Translation and Commentary,' .

[3] Al-Rai (Jordan), March 17, 2004.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 13, 2004.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 16, 2004.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 14, 2004.

[7] Al-Ba'th, (Syria), March 13, 2004.

[8], March 17, 2004.

[9], March 16, 2004.

[10] Al-Rai (Jordan), March 18, 2004.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), March 16, 2004.

[12] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 13, 2004.

[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 14, 2004.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 13, 2004.

[15] Al-Watan (Kuwait), March 14, 2004.

[16] Al-Gumhouriyya, (Egypt), March 18, 2004.

[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 19, 2004.

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