September 25, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 274

Terror in America (8): Egypt's Opposition Press: Rejoicing is a National and Religious Obligation; These Were the Best Moments of Our Lives; Bush is a Mouse Leading a Gang of Mice

September 25, 2001
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 274

n general, the Egyptian government-sponsored press has condemned the terrorist attacks committed against the US and in most cases called for change in America's Middle East policy and warned against an ill-considered offensive on terror. These newspapers also criticized the scenes of Arabs rejoicing that were broadcast across the world. One exception in the government press was Al-Akhbar columnist Ahmad Ragab, who has in the past expressed admiration of Hitler. Ragab found it difficult to conceal his satisfaction at the American tragedy: "I know a man of great wealth and terrifying influence, a tyrant who forces everyone to obey him… Suddenly, from out of the darkness, he is thrashed soundly on the backside. He turns around – but sees only ghosts."[1]

Many of Egypt's government papers referred to the "fall" of "the superpower," and to "American and Israeli terror" across the world, but maintained a tone less cheerful than the tone evident in Ragab's column. The opposition papers, however, reflected an entirely different view: Ahmad Murad, a columnist for the Nasserist weekly Al-Arabi, wrote, "In all honesty, and without beating around the bush: I am happy about [what happened to] America; I am happy about the great number of American dead. Let them accuse me of whatever they want. It doesn't matter and it does not lessen the happiness and excitement that overwhelm me. No one can make me take back what I say, no matter what their claims and explanations. All the innocent citizens who were killed are victims of America's barbarism and terror, ranging over half a century… Count up the number killed by American weapons in the world and compare it to the number of those killed in the US; you will find that the number of [American dead] is much less than one percent [of the latter]. I have a right to rejoice; I have a right to be filled with happiness; the Americans are finally tasting the bitterness of death."[2]

Acting Al-Arabi editor, Abd Al-Halim Qandil also insisted on his "rights," saying: "Yes, we have the right to rejoice. This was the first step in a thousand-mile journey towards defeating America by a knockout."[3] Al-Arabi columnist Nur Al-Huda Zaki wrote: "I cannot hide my feelings; I cannot restrain my joy. For the first time in my life, I witness with my own eyes the defeat of American arrogance, tyranny, conceit, and evil. For the first time, I ask myself: has Allah finally answered the prayers of mothers, the pleading of victims in Palestine, Iraq, and Libya?…"

"Should I lie and be hypocritical like the others, condemning the killing of civilians, expressing my sorrow over the American and other victims, or praying and donating blood?! Why do we try to present the arrogant master in the White House with proof of our innocence? Never, throughout history, have we been caught with the blood of innocents dripping from our hands – the blood of the Indians, the slaves, the Vietnamese, the Palestinians, and the Iraqis. I do not want to form an alliance with America, the shame of [what happened in] Iraq is enough for me. I do not want to pray for the Americans or to donate my blood; I do not want to condemn what happened. America is the one who killed them, as it killed us in Iraq, and as it continues to slaughter us in Palestine."[4]

Other Al-Arabi columnists took the same line. "The Americans must now withdraw from the entire world," wrote Muhammad Badr Al-Din, "Oh Americans, you must withdraw… Either you treat the nations and the peoples with respect, or you will die."[5] Badr Al-Din's colleague Said Sh'eib added, "I rejoiced greatly at what happened to the American government, and I was very sorry about the civilian dead. Is this a contradiction? Of course it is a contradiction, but that's the way it was."[6] Maher Zuhdi concluded: "I cannot describe how joyful I felt. Of course, I didn't rejoice over the victims, because we must not gloat over the dead, but I rejoiced because the honor of the US has become a floor rag."[7]

Open expressions of joy were also evident in the Egyptian Liberal Party daily Al-Ahrar. Columnist Salim 'Azzouz wrote: "Oh, yeah, guys, Her Royal Highness America has taken this defeat; she has turned out to be a paper tiger, and the Americans [have turned out to be] no more than a gang of delinquent children. It transpires that Bush…– who treated us like servants in his court – is no head of state, but a mouse leading a gang of mice. At the moment [this] occurred in New York and Washington, he left for parts unknown …"

"Oh yeah, guys, they told us that he who stings America ends up in the grave. They told us that [America] protects the Arab royal families. They told us that [America] can find a black ant on a dark night in the parched desert; that it has the most powerful intelligence apparatus in the world that can detect what happens in our bedrooms – an apparatus that knows what kind of underwear the president of Iraq [wears]… It has been proven that it was all an illusion…"[8]

In another article, Azzouz complained about the social and perhaps even governmental pressure applied on all those who gloated over the US's anguish: "We have been prohibited from showing the happiness and joy that we feel, so as not to hurt the Americans' feelings – although in this case, rejoicing is a national and religious obligation. The US is Israel's protector. When it collapses in the blink of an eye, and we see the heroes as they flee in horror – a prohibition on rejoicing is a decree that the public cannot observe…"[9]

Al-Ahrar editor Sallah Kabdhaya made fun of the incident. "As far as I know," he wrote, "no organization in the world is capable of carrying out what happened. Therefore, we must assume that it [came from] outside the planet Earth… It is known that President Bush Sr. promised, in his election propaganda, to reveal the American government's secret contacts with organizations from outer space if he won the election. He said that the White House safe contained recordings of conversations between US president Eisenhower and spacemen. But Bush did not win, Clinton did; since then the matter has not been mentioned. Perhaps Bush Jr…. angered the spacemen in some way, and they tinkered with his airplanes, sending them to convey this terrible message…"[10]

'Adel Al-Gouhari, a Nasserist writing in Al-Ahrar, differentiated between the American people and the American government: "There is no reason to rejoice at the misfortune of the American people, who have not yet understood that five million Jews are not worth the sacrifice of all these victims... The US's position in the Arab-Zionist conflict causes Arabs to rejoice over every disaster visited upon the American government, though not on its people, because that government has gone too far in its oppression."[11]

All columnists in the pan-Arab opposition weekly Al-Usbu', which strongly criticizes the US under normal circumstances, focused on the attacks. Deputy editor Magdi Shandi wrote: "I considered hiring a professional mourner, so as to adjust myself to the international atmosphere [of] hypocrisy and weeping over the victims of the explosions in America. But I knew that even those [professional mourners] who charge by the hour would refuse, even if I promised $100 for every tear."

"God, what will I do now? How can I write an article without cursing those terrorists who launched a war not only against the US, but against Western culture? How can I refrain from calling them wild, barbaric, Tatars, people who want to turn back [the clock of] civilization and progress to the days when we struck two flints together to make a fire? How can a columnist who thinks America got its just desserts – a punishment that suits [its crime of] sucking the blood of peoples – [how can he] be saved from the guillotine of the hypocrites… The lies inundate you from television screens, as [the hypocrites] express sorrow, donate blood, and place their intelligence systems at the disposal of the cardboard master… America weeps. Let it seek professional mourners by itself. I beseech you, do not participate in this demonstration of sorrow. If you are murdered by a bully, it is a humiliation; if they force you to march in his funeral procession, it is the zenith of humiliation. Pardon us, America; we have no tears left to share in your sorrow."[12]

Al Usbu' columnist Muhammad Mustagab related what he felt as he watched the airliners crash into the World Trade Center: "[Those moments of] exquisite, incandescent hell were the most beautiful and precious moments of my life. The towers, the walls, [symbols] of the [American] regime, were a modern, terrifying monster infiltrated by a brave and stinging hornet… This mythological monster was terrible in its pain, in its screams, and in its fall, that resembled Hell. All the media… broadcast these images for us over and over. The generations of the past, and, with Allah's help, the generations to come, will envy us for having witnessed them."[13]

Another Al-Usbu' columnist, Farouq Abaza, displayed relative restraint in regards to the victims: "No man with human feeling can derive pleasure from the sight of the victims' bodies being torn apart, burned, and crushed under the ruins. Allah has created all human beings to live on this land under an umbrella of peace, love, and beauty. But some fools and idiots distort these lofty values and try to impose their behavior, their sick ideology, and their malignant idiocy… One of these was little Bush, whom cursed fate placed on the throne of the government of the superpower that rules the entire world. He is a tyrant; playing golf at his ranch, he smiles and is filled with joy when news reaches him of the number of Arab victims in Palestine, among them women, children, and the elderly. But Bush was woken from… his dream of false power by this blow, from which, I think, he will never recover."

"What happened in America has never happened before in the history of the human race. Nevertheless, the devil hastened to weep over the ruins, and to call on the world to stand beside the superpower, the symbol of civilization and democracy… Oh Bush, drink from the bitter cup of the blood of your people, so that you will [come to] know that Allah is just!"[14]

Al-Wafd, the daily of Egypt's largest opposition party, was vehement about Arafat, who was filmed donating blood for the attack victims. Al-Wafd editor Magdi Muhanna wrote: "Arafat may, perhaps, impress American public opinion with his theatrics, but I do not think he can convince the Arab viewer. Arafat also lacks credibility when he wraps his face in a veil of sorrow for the American victims… Arafat must stand with his people, and stop making a show of himself."[15]

The Muslim Brotherhood mouthpiece Afaq Arabiya joined in as well, publishing a poem written after the attacks by columnist Wahid Gahshan: "…'Allah Akhbar,' shouted the hero… The arrogance sunk in the filth… In the East, none shed a tear for you, Allah decreed the vengeance against you. If Allah had not wanted it, it would not have happened. Return to the path of righteousness, for the eye of Allah follows you…"[16]

Columnist Ammar Shammakh added, "In the eyes of Muslims, the US is a force of oppression, thus the Muslims see what happened as divine retribution, carried out under the supervision of Allah by unknown soldiers. America practically said to the world: Only I will teach you who is Allah. Allah wanted to teach it a lesson… If not for what happened, if the lion had not been wounded in his den, we would think that our prayers were in vain and we would despair… The Americans thought they could not be defeated… They preferred the apes (i.e. the Jews) to human beings, treating human beings from outside the US cheaply, supporting homosexuals and usury. They have forgotten that in this universe there is a God whose punishment no one escapes… Allah came because they did not expect him, bombing their hearts with horror…"[17]

[1] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), September 17, 2001. Some quotes are taken from daily reports from the Egyptian press in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

[2] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[3] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[4] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[5] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[6] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[7] Al-Arabi (Egypt), September 16, 2001.

[8] Al-Ahrar (Egypt), September 14, 2001.

[9] Al-Ahrar (Egypt), September 17, 2001.

[10] Al-Ahrar (Egypt), September 13, 2001.

[11] Al-Ahrar (Egypt), September 17, 2001.

[12] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), September 17, 2001.

[13] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), September 17, 2001.

[14] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), September 17, 2001.

[15] Al-Wafd (Egypt), September 14, 2001.

[16] Afaq Arabiye (Egypt), September 19, 2001.

[17] Afaq Arabiye (Egypt), September 19, 2001.

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