October 4, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 281

Terror in America (12): The Egyptian Government, Opposition, and Independent Press All Celebrate the Terrorists Attacks on the U.S.

October 4, 2001
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 281

Columnists from the government press joined Egypt's opposition press in celebrating the attacks on the U.S .

The Government Press
Egypt's government press displayed unconditional support for President Mubarak's position on the struggle against terrorism, and also leveled criticism at the U.S. for its disregard of Mubarak's past recommendations regarding terrorism. However, most of the columnists focused on America's plans for military reprisal. Columnist Ahmad Ragab, of the daily Al-Akhbar, compared the terror attacks on the U.S. to the expected American military operation: "The U.S. and terrorism suffuse a foul atmosphere throughout the world. The smiles have disappeared from the faces of the peoples, who wait, across the world, for the disaster that either terrorists or the U.S. will visit upon them. The U.S. has become like the terrorists."[1]

In an article in Akhbar Al-Youm, Ragab wrote mockingly: "Even during World War II, American cities did not experience what the cities of Europe did. Because the Americans have lived for decades with a sense of security… they yearned for a sense of fear. So Hollywood made a film in which New York is attacked with an atom bomb; after that, [it produced] a series of films about flying saucers and invaders from outer space. The Americans did not settle for frightening themselves with nuclear wars and star wars; they began to make films about dinosaurs and other extinct creatures invading the streets of American cities… Now, the average American has no need to fear spaceships; all he has to do is lift his head and see a passenger plane in the sky to be deadly afraid."[2]

Columnist Ali Al-Sayyed wrote in Al-Ahram Al-Arabi weekly: "For many long years, America made many peoples in the world cry. It was always [America] that carried out the acts; now, acts are being carried out [against] it. A cook who concocts poison must one day also taste that poison! The world has discovered that the strength of the oppressed is great when the situation becomes unbearable… The city of globalization, with its economic, political, and military symbols, has collapsed, and the theory of globalization will be buried with the establishment of the false coalition!"[3]

Islamist journalist Fahmi Hueidi, writing in the leading government daily, Al-Ahram, criticized President Bush's policy: "The catchphrase 'Either you're with us or you're with terrorism' expresses arrogance and conceit. [The U.S.] sees the world according to American interests; it sees itself as the leader of the free world, civilization, and democracy. Anyone refusing to join it is expelled from its Paradise and has no place except in Hell… The Americans have no right to classify societies in this way. Every group has the right to choose a third way, rejecting both terrorism and the Americans…"[4]

Of particular interest was the report by the government daily Al-Gumhuriya's editor, Samir Ragab, who was in the U.S. when the attacks occurred. Ragab reports his experience in the Huriyati weekly, of which he is also editor. Although he was in New York at the time of the attacks, Ragab did not go to the World Trade Center area, preferring to go to Washington to see the Pentagon in flames. When Ragab reached Connecticut Avenue, an American officer asked to see his I.D. It turned out that the American officer had just returned to the U.S. from Cairo. He told Ragab: "I've never seen security like I saw [in your country]. I returned to my hotel after midnight, without sensing any danger."

In the sudden friendship that sprang up between the Egyptian journalist and the American officer, Ragab asked the officer to allow him to see the Pentagon. "But it's still on fire," said the officer. Ragab replied, "That's why I ask you to help me."

The American officer acceded to his new friend's request "with unexpected nobility," leading him through the empty streets of Washington so that he could see firsthand the "tongues of flame and smoke." "America appeared to me a 'model' of helplessness and incapacity, even in dealing with the fire!" wrote Ragab, adding, "With tears streaming from their eyes, the 'Americans' gathered at a distance of several meters. Every one of them displayed the American flag on his clothing, next to his heart. I approached one and asked, 'How did this happen?' [The man answered] 'That's what we don't understand. None of us thought it was possible to penetrate the Pentagon, the symbol of our military might.'"[5]

The Independent Press
Egypt's privately owned "independent" press also celebrated the terrorist attacks against the U.S: "Millions across the world shouted in joy: America was hit!" wrote Al-Maydan (an independent weekly) columnist Dr. Nabil Farouq. "This call expressed the sentiments of millions across the world, whom the American master had treated with tyranny, arrogance, bullying, conceit, deceit, and bad taste – like every bully whom no one has yet put in his place. True, thousands of innocents became victims… among them Egyptians who had immigrated to the U.S. in search of opportunity and [a better] life; but what can a person do when the neighborhood bully gets [a blow] from behind that shakes his very existence, insults his dignity, and humiliates him? Obviously [the person] is glad, even if it is wrong to rejoice.."[6]

Al-Maydan editor 'Issam Al-Ghazi added, "President Dubya Bush will continue to struggle between threatening to launch a crusader war and apologizing to the Muslims… Apparently, he doesn't want to understand that he is reaping the thorns sown by himself and all his predecessors in Palestine, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Japan. Behind every act of destruction is a little American demon… America cannot see the fate that awaits it, despite everything that happened on that bloody Tuesday; America is on its way to collapse, like all the empires of oppression throughout history. If only our generation would have the chance to witness that dramatic spectacle..."[7]

The independent Roz Al-Yussef weekly, which usually takes a hard line against Islamic fundamentalism, also jeered at the U.S. Playwright Wahid Hamed wrote: "[It was said that America's] intelligence apparatus knew when the rooster copulated with the hen; it was said that [its intelligence apparatus] knows what color underwear Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wears. It boggles the mind that it did not know what color underwear Mr. Osama bin Laden wears… Just so that no one thinks I am gloating over the U.S.'s misfortune, I hereby declare that I am opposed to killing innocents, and opposed to terror."[8]

The Opposition Press
The Egyptian opposition press continued its open rejoicing at the American disaster. Al-Ahrar (an Islamist opposition daily) columnist Salim Azzouz compared Bush to Hitler: "He declares that anyone who does not support him supports terror, and woe betide anyone who supports terror… This kind of declaration can come only from leaders of Hitler's ilk…"[9]

The next day, Azzouz declared, "If Osama bin Laden is proven to be involved in the attacks on the U.S., I will make a statue of him and set it in my home; I will also hang his picture in my office. Because he has proven to us that the U.S., which we thought was an undefeatable force, can be humiliated."[10]

Said Sh'eib, columnist in the Nasserist weekly Al-Arabi, also became enamoured of bin Laden after seeing him in an interview on Al-Jazeera television. He wrote: "I loved Osama bin Laden's face, because it inspired confidence. I was amazed by his total belief in what he says… I very much admired this man, who chose – and I am not addressing the quality of the choices he makes – to leave a life of luxury, to take up arms against who he considers to be the enemy, and to go down in history as a man who shook the greatest empire in history."[11]

Retired general Sallah A-Din Salim, advisor at the National Center for Middle East Studies, wrote in Al-Ahrar: "Although some were sorry about the killing of innocent Americans in Washington and New York, most of [our] people derived satisfaction from the insult to the American pride, and from the shaking of the faith that the American cowboy, Little Bush, places in the intelligence apparatuses and their agents throughout the world. There was nearly an Egyptian consensus on the matter, except for a few ministers who, in their hypocrisy, rushed to the American Embassy to ostentatiously offer their condolences."[12]

More demonstrations of jubilation appeared in the journal of the Muslim Brotherhood, Afaq Arabiya. Dr. Ahmad Al-Magdoub wrote: "As a lawyer, I say to Suspect No. 1, as the American government calls him: Oh Osama… you are a hero in the full sense of the word. [You possess] all the manly virtues, those [virtues] lacking in the half-men who control the Muslim and Arab resources (i.e. Arab rulers). For this reason, you will continue to live in our hearts and in our minds… Allah's peace, mercy, and blessings upon you; no peace, no mercy, and no blessings on the traitors and cowards who have been blinded to the truth by the pleasures of domination. May you eradicate America and its 'infinite justice'; victory to Islam and the Muslims."[13]

[1] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), September 25, 2001. Some of the quotes are taken from the Egyptian media reports in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

[2] Akhbar Al-Youm (Egypt), September 23, 2001.

[3] Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 22, 2001.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 25, 2001.

[5] Huriyati (Egypt), September 23, 2001.

[6] Al-Maydan (Egypt), September 24, 2001.

[7] Al-Maydan (Egypt), September 24, ?2001.

[8] Roz Al-Yussef (Egypt), September 22, 2001.

[9] Al-Ahrar (Egypt), September 24, 2001.

[10] Al-Ahrar (Egypt) September 24, 2001.

[11] Al-Arabi (Egypt, September 23, 2001.

[12] Al-Akhrar (Egypt), September 25, 2001.

[13] Afaq Arabiya (Egypt), September 26, 2001.

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