The Media Jihad: Aljazeera and Islamic Terrorism
14 May, 2006
Aljazeera started broadcasting in 1996 in the Gulf state of Qatar. In spite of its popularity it was almost unknown outside the Arab world until the terrorist attack of 9/11. Nowadays, Aljazeera has a rating that competes with the BBC and CNN. It is expanding fast and recently it started an English language service. This Television Station was established on the order of Sheikh Hamad Al Thani soon after he seized power in 1995. It is interesting to know that this Emir came to power by ousting his own father Sheikh Khalifa Al Thani while the latter was on a trip abroad. As a result, Sheikh Khalifa was prevented from returning to his country, and since then he lived in exile, while his son appointed himself as the ruler of the country.
Until the introduction of this satellite television broadcasting, the Arabs relied on the state owned media for information. The government controlled local radio stations were used extensively to indoctrinate the gullible listeners. Ordinary Arabs were aware that the information they receive from their local radios may not be accurate, but their options were very limited. The alternative was to listen to the Israeli radio or the BBC, which although more accurate, were seen as enemy propaganda that should be treated with caution. Television broadcasting slowly replaced the radio broadcasting as the most influential media tool, but again it was owned by the state. Because of high illiteracy, coupled with the lack of reading habit among the Arabs, the newspapers, subjected to government censorship have far less influence on ordinary Arabs. They would rather prefer the passive and doleful way to watch the news by spending the evenings in front of their television sets.
Satellite television broadcasting in the Arabic countries started in the early 1990s, again by state-owned and state-controlled television channels. Not surprisingly, such channels followed the usual style adopted by the terrestrial ones. To the viewers, that only meant more variety of boring channels. Few privately owned channels such as the MBC and ART, both London based Saudi owned channels, dominated the market but they focused more on drama and music.
Aljazeera came on air in 1996 as all-news Arabic language channel. Many of its staff came from the BBC with which it has a strong tie. From the outset, Aljazeera aimed, by portraying itself as different from the others, to draw the attention of the Arab audience. This meant presenting controversial views and hosting controversial personalities. They discussed internal Arab politics that were seen to be too sensitive to many Arab states. Such broadcasting style was more than welcome by the Arab audience who are not used to seeing on television internal and intra-Arab politics being discussed in the open. This frequently led to condemnation by various Arab states and strained their diplomatic ties with the government of Qatar, which added even more to the joy of the audience who thought that at last the age of free and professional journalism has arrived in the Arab world.
However, it was not always good news for Aljazeera. The audience soon realized that while the Qatari government defends Aljazeera in the name of freedom of speech and professional journalism, the fact remains that Al jazeera has never been critical of anything to do with Qatar itself. And it just happened that this tiny Gulf state is filled with controversies and intersting news stories. Examples are: the way Sheikh Hamad came to power by turning against his own father; the total absence of democratic life and the fact that Qatar hosts the largest American military base ouside America are all interesting stories to the Arab audience but were never mentioned.
However, Qatar was not the only state that was beyond the reach of Al jazeera's critical discussions. There was an even more controversial regime that was not allowed to be touched. It was the erstwhile Iraqi regime.
The truth is: Aljazeera was infiltrated by the Iraqi faction of the Baath party who controlled the channel. The issue of sanctions on Iraq became the most important and the most frequently discussed subject in Aljazeera broadcasting, displacing even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The death of Iraqi children was an exaggerated non-stop talk. The fact that from the outset the sanctions on Iraq excluded food and medicines was completely ignored as well as the fact that under the sanctions Saddam was busy building the most lavish palaces Iraq has known.
During the mid 1990s, Saddam's regime was suffering from many significant humiliations. The regime lost the support it enjoyed earlier from King Hussein of Jordan who distanced himself from the Iraqi dictator. Soon Saddam's two sons-in -law, accompanied by their wives, defected to Jordan and were briefed by the Americans as they both held key positions in the army. Saddam later killed the two men but that did not help the image of his regime. That incident was preceded and followed by many other defections of Iraqi officials. In the midst of these events the introduction of Aljazeera couldn't be at a better time.
Aljazeera and anti-Americanism
Since its launch in 1995, Aljazeera followed a consistent anti-American policy. Its clever editing and broadcasting made the un-informed and gullible audience think of Aljazeera as an impartial news channel. At the same time it was directing the minds of that simple audience to its mindset of thinking. This mindset is normally an anti American one. Even when America sided with the Muslims of former Yougoslavia and intervened for their protection, the channel could not hide its position vis--vis Milosevic, the Serbian leader who was seen as a friend and ally by the Iraqi dictator. The Iraqi leader awarded Milosevic with the highest Iraqi Medal!
Aljazeera came to be known to the west after the terrorists' attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By then, its alliances with Taliban, Alqaeda and Saddam were difficult to hide. Their reporters were given previliges by those terrorist organizations not given to any one else. Aljazeera's news footages were broadcast everywhere by western channels providing Aljazeera with free worldwide publicity. After the fall of these terror groups, who all went underground, they communicated with the outside world through audio or videotapes sent to Aljazeera, which has become their unofficial mouthpiece. Western Television channels stupidly started a race to sign contracts with Aljazeera, even American and British politicians also joined the race with their desire to appear on this channel to address the Arab people. By doing so they gave Aljazeera a stamp of credibility that added even more to their claim of professionalism and authority. When such response comes from the west, nobody could blame the simple Arab audience to tune to this channel with confidence and believe whatever it says.
After all the hundreds of terrorists operations, costing thousands of innocent victims, Aljazeera still refuses to describe the Islamic terrorists as what they are-terrorists. Aljazeera prefersto call them 'whom some describe as terrorists'. On the other hand, suicide bombers are automatically called martyrs. Aljazeera introduced to the world some previously unknown personalities and made them celebrities. The best known is Sheikh Yusef Al Qardawi who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a leading hate preacher. Most Islamist leaders found Aljazeera a suitable platform for their fascistic cause. By broadcasting special programs and inviting such Islamists guests Aljazeera also plays a major role in propagating Islamic myths such as: the myth of scientific miracles in the Quran. This Islamist propaganda goes unabated as Aljazeera never allows such Quranic claims to be challenged. Many of Aljazeera reporters were members of terrorist organizations and were involved in terrorist activities. For example, Tayseer Alloni was its reporter in Afghanistan and is now serving a jail sentence in Spain for complicity with Islamist terrorist organizations.
Aljazeera built its career by making itself a platform of Islamic extremists and a mouthpiece for Islamist terrorist organizations. If it was left on its own, it would probably shrink to become just another Arabic television channel. But thanks to the west, this channel is now the most influential in shaping the Arab opinion and soon may influence other nation's opinions with its recently introduced English language service.
Terrorists themselves are the victims of a major brainwashing process; they are the products of factories of terror that exist everywhere, inside and outside the Islamic world. Such factories may take the form of television stations, newspapers, magazine publications or Islamic web sites. They all aim to manipulate the minds of their simple audience. Kill a terrorist and these hard working factories will produce a thousand more.
Currently Aljazeera is not on its own. All other Arabic television stations and newspapers have joined the chorus. They all had to face the reality that they must speak the language of Aljazeera to be heard. Nowadays, it is nearly impossible for somebody to appear on an Arabic television or write in a newspaper defending the American policy and be listened to. Even those writers who oppose terrorism do so carefully in order not to offend their audience by questioning those 'basic facts' about the American imperialism.
I am afraid the current wave of Islamic terrorism is the result of a major ongoing media campaign. To combat Islamist terrorism the world must take into consideration this media factor, otherwise we will be hiting the wrong target.
Aljazeera's mission is to continuously charge the Arab masses against America and the west. This is their jihad, which is a well-recognized form of Islamic jihad using word as a weapon. Their best ally in this media jihad is the western media itself who are engaged in a mission of self-flagellation and self-blaming for all the faults in the world including the terror crimes. Muslims who are supportive to terrorist activities do so because they think it is working well and is bringing the west to its knees. Aljazeera proves this to them everyday by presenting to them the eccentric west's response. Aljazeera appeals to its audience by claiming that it is at war to balance the biased and anti-Islamic western media. In a war like this, how can Aljazeera dream of a better enemy?
Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.