August 2, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 757

Liberal Columnist in Al-Hayat: Do Arabs have the Courage to Reconsider Their Positions Following the 9/11 Commission Report?

August 2, 2004
Special Dispatch No. 757

Sheikh Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, the former Dean of the Faculty of Sharia at the University of Qatar, wrote an article in the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat titled "Following the 9/11 Commission, do the Arabs have the Courage to Reconsider their Position?" In his article he called upon Arabs to recant their conspiracy theories regarding the perpetrators of the attacks, and apologize for spreading these theories. The following are excerpts from the column:[1]

The 9/11 Report Details the Terrorists' Plans

"The 9/11 Commission depicted the full and accurate picture of the attacks, their planning, their perpetration, the perpetrators, and their nationalities. The report clarified that the idea of the attacks was conceived by Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, who admitted that he first discussed the idea of attacking the World Trade Center with commercial planes with his nephew Ramzi Yousef [the architect of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993]. They discussed it again when they planned the Bojenka conspiracy in Manila [Phillipines] in 1995, which aimed at hijacking commercial planes on 10 American targets, including the 4 targets chosen for September 11, American intelligence [CIA] headquarters, the highest tower in California, and nuclear reactors. He presented the plan to Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qa'ida leaders, who at first weren't enthusiastic about it because of its complexity and magnitude, but in April 1999 bin Laden invited him to Kandahar and told him that Al-Qa'ida supported his idea. Bin Laden chose the first four suicide bombers after the original plan was changed.

"The American report also describes how the four trained to fly commercial planes in America and how they established four groups, the first group led by the Egyptian Muhammad Atta, with four hijackers. The second group would be led by Marwan Al-Sheihi, from the Emirates, with four hijackers. The third group, led by the Saudi Hani Hanjur, with four hijackers. The fourth group was led by the Lebanese Ziad Al-Jarrah with three hijackers, totaling 19 hijackers. The report criticizes the CIA, stating that they missed 10 opportunities to discover their activities. It claims that there were flaws in the operation, capabilities, forecasts, and policies of the CIA, and that it needs to undergo major changes. President Bush responded to the recommendations and has begun implementing them."

Will We Now Admit that Arabs were behind the Attacks – or are We 'Incapable of Apologizing?'

"No doubt the Americans are going to draw practical lessons from the report in order to prevent their recurrence of their failings. But what about us? What about the Arabs who are the active element in this conspiracy?

"After September 11, we blamed the Israeli Mossad for planning the attacks. This belief prevailed not only among popular circles. Intellectuals and high-level figures held to this belief, validating it by their allegation that 4,000 Jews didn't come to work at the World Trade Center on that cursed morning, and by the arrest of the Jews who gleefully took pictures of the destruction [of the falling towers].

"Another group among us blamed the American extremist right for planning the attacks in order to provide a justification to attack Afghanistan and spread American hegemony in Central Asia. We are also very happy with the book written by the French crook Thierry Meyssan, 'The Appalling Fraud,' who became a millionaire thanks to our stupidity in translating the book into Arabic and disseminating it. Another group, headed by Muhammad Hassanein Haykal, blamed the Yugoslavian Serbs for carrying out the attack in revenge for America's attacks on them.

"The question must be asked: Are those who blame the Mossad, the American Right, and the Serbs still holding strong to their convictions? What do they say about the American report? Do our religious leaders, especially those who appear so many times on the satellite channels and who have a monopoly on programs on Al-Jazeera, still hold to the conviction that Al-Qa'ida and bin Laden [are] innocent of the September 11 attacks? These leaders used to say that bin Laden is a miserable sheikh who has no capability of planning operations at this high a level of accuracy and planning, and that the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by the Americans themselves in order to prepare for attacks on Muslims and Islam.

"Moreover, one of our religious leaders claims that America is absolutely certain that bin Laden is innocent and he is being blamed because of their Crusader approach that hates Islam and Muslims. Does this sheikh and the others who held these conspiratorial theories and spread them - do they have the courage to apologize for their words, mistakes, and misleading of other people after all the facts have now been clarified, or are they going to continue with their arrogant stubbornness as if this whole matter doesn't relate to them?

"One of the absurdities is that while Al-Qa'ida and its supporters are proud of their deeds, calling them the 'Manhattan Raid,' and even printing advertisements in London in commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, with pictures of the 'magnificent 19' – our religious, cultural, and political elite [are] struggling to deny that [the Arabs] could have had anything to do with it.

"Do we have the courage to criticize ourselves, to admit to our fault, and to apologize as many people do, or is it one of our hidden qualities that we are a people that are incapable of apologizing? Why won't we take the opportunity of the appearance of the 9-11 Commission's report to ponder why destructive violence and a culture of destruction have taken root in our society? Why won't we take this opportunity to reconsider our educational system, our curricula, including the religious, media, and cultural discourse that causes our youth to live in a constant tension with the world?"


[1] Al-Hayat (London), August 2, 2004.

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