AL-JAZEERA AND ARAB NEWS: THEIR HISTORY, IMPACT AND INFLUENCE

AL-JAZEERA AND ARAB NEWS


Al-Jazeera is a 24-hour, CNN-like, Arab satellite television station. Based in Doha, Qatar and bankrolled by the Qatari royal family, it is the first broadcaster in the Arab-Muslim world to provide independent, uncensored news. Al-Jazeera means “the Peninsula.” a reference to the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar is an island.

Al-Jazeera is the most popular news service in the Arabic-speaking world—with a global audience of more than 40 million viewers. It covers global events and topics and has influenced world events, most significantly by presenting an Arab-Muslim interpretation and spin on events in the Middle East traditionally viewed through a Western lens. In 2005, Al-Jazeera was voted the world’s 5th most influential brand behind Apple, Google, Nokia and Starbucks in a survey of 200 executives by the online magazine Bandchannel.

Al-Jazeera is watched with particular interest in the Arab-Muslim world, where its viewers include emirs in gilded places, Bedouin goatherds in the middle of the desert and unemployed or underemployed men sitting around in tea shops and cafes. People who live in places where satellite televison is suppressed can pick up Al-Jazeera tapes in markets. Videos first broadcast on the Al-Jazeera are also widely shown on other networks around the world.

Al-Jazeera made a name for itself internationally relaying messages from Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida after September 11th, and covering in the 2001-2002 Afghanistan War from the side of the Taliban and 2003 war in Iraq from the side of the Iraqis, some of the them fighting against the Americans and their Allies. In one survey in 2004, Al-Jazeera was the satellite news service of choice of 62 percent of the viewers in Jordan, 66 percent in Egypt and 44 percent in Saudi Arabia.

Book: “Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Changed the World” by Hugh Miles (Abacus)

Websites and Resources: Arabs: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Who Is an Arab? africa.upenn.edu ; Encyclopædia Britannica article britannica.com ; Arab Cultural Awareness fas.org/irp/agency/army ; Arab Cultural Center arabculturalcenter.org ; 'Face' Among the Arabs, CIA cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence ; Arab American Institute aaiusa.org/arts-and-culture ; Introduction to the Arabic Language al-bab.com/arabic-language ; Wikipedia article on the Arabic language Wikipedia

Television News in the Arab World


Poster for the Syrian show "Search for Saladin"

Television programing in the Middle East has traditionally been government propaganda broken up by Egyptian and American soap operas and dramas. In most Arab and Muslim countries televisions stations are state run. Most state-controlled Arab television stations are dull. They show the heads of state opening hospitals, meeting diplomats and bland or escapist programs

Many Arabs, particularly Arab men, are news junkies. They like to sit around and watch the news on television and get stirred up by what they see. Many men watch television at tea houses, cafes and restaurants. There is coterie of journalists, professors, religious leaders, intellectuals and analyst that regularly appear on the news shows.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, the two most viewed news stations in the Arab world, are funded respectively by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They have been called the "incitement" channels or "death" channels because of their stance on terrorist-related issues and anti-government insurgencies. Other all-news Arab TV news channels, include BBC News Arabic and Sky News Arabia. [Source: Zeina Karam, Associated Press, June 11, 2012]

Arab television stations almost universally take an anti-Israel and anti-Western slant. Images of Israeli aggression and American bombing are shown along with references to The Crusades and the great martyrs of Islamic history. For their part, many Arabs complain that BBC and CNN and other Western televison stations are biased in favor of the West.

Early History of Al-Jazeera

Al-Jazeera was created from a failed effort in 1994 by Saudi Arabia and the BBC to produce an Arabic-language television news station. In 1996 the deal came apart when the BBC demanded editorial independence from the Saudi government, which was angered by broadcasts of executions in Saudi Arabia and an interview with a Saudi dissident in Britain.


The Qatari leader, Sheik Hamad ibn Khalifa al-Thani, hired key staff members of the failed Saudi-BBC venture—editors, reporters, technicians, nearly all of them of Arab descent—and started Al-Jazeera in 1996. He pumped $150 million into the endeavor and gave the network five years to earn enough money to support itself.

Al-Jazeera first broadcast in November 1996. This occurred at a time when the prices of satellite dishes were dropping and governments were easing restrictions on people buying them. The broadcast had a profound effect. For the first time Arab viewers could see programming in their own language that was gathered by independent journalists not government propagandists. The network quickly drew the ire of Arab governments for presenting news critical of their regimes, giving exposure to insurgent movements and addressing controversial subjects like polygamy, women’s rights and apostasy. When Al Jazeera was introduced it could be picked up in 80 million homes.

Later History of Al-Jazeera

In the beginning Al-Jazeera’s programing was regarded as too controversial by potential advertisers but over time it became a powerful force that could not be ignored. Al-Jazeera began to break even financially in the early 2000s. It earns revenues from cable subscriptions, sales of programs and advertisements. By the mid 2000s, Al-Jazeera had become so successful there was talk about placing the name and logo on luxury goods.

Al-Jaazera became famous after September 11th when it broadcast messages from Osama bin Laden. It raised it stature in the Muslim world when it began presenting the Palestinian side of the Israel-Palestinian conflict with lots of blood and guts detail. The fact that United States was outraged by these broadcast only increased the station’s’ popularity and credibility in the Arab world. See Palestinians, Osama bin Laden, Wars Below

Al-Jazeera’s pioneering managing director Muhammad Jassim Ali was given a lot of credit for making Al-Jazeera what it was but was also held responsible for the anti-American slant. He was ousted in 2003. Beginning in 2005, the Qatari government stepped up its effort to privatize Al-Jazeera and find a buyer, buyers or investors to take it over.

Influence of Al-Jazeera

The influence of Al-Jazeera in the Middle East and Arab-Muslim world can not be understated. One news director at Al-Jazeera told U.S. News and World Report, “If anything happens in the Middle East, everyone will turn on Al-Jazeera.” Before that Arabs with satellite dishes had to tune into televison stations in Europe to find out what was going in their own countries. It is also the original source of Middle East news for many Western news broadcasts.

Al-Jazeera “is definitely shaping Arab opinion,”.Muhammad el-Nawawy, an Arab journalism professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, told the Los Angeles Times, “The Arabs have been longing for such a station for a long time.” Hussein Amin, a journalism professor at the University of Cairo told New York Times, “Their impact is huge. They are affecting Arab public opinion to a degree never reached before.”

Al-Jazeera is credited with filling a void for Arabs, who like to discuss and debate political issues. Jon B. Alterman, a Middle East expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re seeing a sea of change in the Arab media thanks to Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera is...forcing other broadcasters to compete. It is breaking down walls of censorship and expanding the realm of what people in the Arab world can talk about.”

Al-Jazeera spawned a number of imitators in the Arab world. The case could be made that it is as important and influential globally as CNN and the BBC. In the Middle East, even people who don’t have satellite television watch broadcasts at tea and coffee houses or their friend’s houses.



Not everyone in the Arab and Muslim world have warm feeling towards Al-Jazeera. Shia don’t like the station because they see it as a mouthpiece for the Sunni world. Arabs are shocked by interviews with Israeli ministers as Americans are by the tapes of Osama bin Laden. Some have said that Al-Jaazera’s reportage from Iraq has had much more affect on democracy, free speech and freedom in the Middle East that the United States’s pre-emptive military campaign in Iraq that was supposed to have had those objectives foremost in mind.

Al-Jazeera Production and Programs

Al-Jazeera operates out of boxlike building, cramped trailers and air-conditioned tents set up in a former parking lot .The studio has everything Western studios have, with the addition of some prayer rooms. In the 2000s the networks had has an annual budget of around $85 million, of which 60 percent was paid by the Qatari government. Among the major companies that had taken out ads at that time were Sony, Nokia, Olympus, Adidas, Jaguar and Hyundai.

Al-Jazeera controversial coverage has put off advertisers as well as governments, meaning the network brings in less money from advertising than one would expect for the large number of viewers it has. It is still largely depends on subsidizes from the Qatari government to keep going.

One of the most popular Al-Jazeera shows in the 2000s was the “The Opposite Direction”. Similar to CNN’s “Crossfire” and MSNBC’s “Hardball”, it featured guests debating and discussing issues of the day. Hosted by Faisal al-Kasim, a Syrian BBC veteran with a Ph.D. in English literature, it tackled controversial issues such as torture, Islamic morality, polygamy and women’s rights. Guests debated, confronted and insulted each other. Viewers called in questions and offered their views. The format seemed quite ordinary in the West but was quite radical in the Middle East.

Islamists have faced off against secularists; women have debated polygamy and Islamic clerics have argued over the content of the Qur’an with reformers. Callers have included Bedouins in tents outfit with satellite dishes and Libyan leader Mommar Kadafi who expressed his views on Arab nationalism. On another occasion, he appeared on the show.

Yufuf al-Qaradawi is the star of a popular Al-Jazeera ask-the cleric show. Another popular show “Islamic Law and Life” gave viewers tips on how to apply sharia to their daily lives.


Al Jazeera English Doha newsroom


Al-Jazeera and Qatar

Al-Jazeera has helped give Qatar an importance and influence that far outweighs its size. However, the Qatari government has taken a lot of heat from other Arab countries and the U.S. for the views that have been expressed on Al-Jazeera. A number of Arab countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar over things said on Al-Jazeera. In September 2002, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Qatar over criticism of Saudi Arabia’s founder Ibn Saud.

The emir of Qatar told National Geographic, ‘What a headache. It has caused me no end of problems, I must admit. But those same people who protested against it are following it too. For a headache, I use aspirin and I can live with it.” Even so he has refused to interfere with the editorial content of the networks’ broadcast or muck with its independent status.

Although the Qatari government subjects Al-Jazeera to no official censorship, critics of the televison station have accused Al-Jazeera of not subjecting Qatar to same scrutiny it does other countries. One diplomat told the New Yorker, “It is still a crime to insult the Emir. But nowhere does it say you can’t insult Hosni Mubarak or King Fahd.” The United States has often complained directly to the Qatari government over the coverage on Al-Jazeera and put pressure on the government t privatize the station

Al-Jazeera Double Standard During Arab Spring?

At the height of the Arab Spring protests in the early 2010s, David D. Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times, “Al Jazeera is under intense scrutiny in the Middle East over its varying coverage of the Arab Spring revolts...Al Jazeera played an early and influential role in covering — some would say encouraging — the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt...It was even more aggressive in its focus on the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and the struggles of what it called “freedom fighters” in Libya, where Qatar came to play a major role in supporting the rebellion.

But some people now cite what they see as a double standard in the network’s sensational coverage of the unrest in Syria on the one hand, and its relatively negligible coverage of the strife in Bahrain, Qatar’s Persian Gulf neighbor.” [Source: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, September 20, 2011]


Al Jazeera cafeteria


Thomas Erdbrink wrote in the Washington Post, “For months, Qatar-based al-Jazeera provided intense coverage of the uprisings that have rocked the Middle East, often almost cheering along the protesters. But when tanks from Saudi Arabia rolled in to quell anti-government demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain in March, the Arabic-language news network’s reporting was only sporadic and markedly neutral, critics say. That contrasting approach has brought fresh attention to al-Jazeera’s close ties to the Qatari government, which owns the influential network, and prompted charges that the broadcaster is serving as an instrument of Qatar’s ambitious foreign policy. [Source: Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post May 14, 2011 =]

“As the unrest moved closer to home, critics say, the limits of al-Jazeera’s independence were exposed: Although it supported uprisings against some longtime Arab regimes, the network, and its owner, clearly drew the line when another Persian Gulf monarchy was threatened. “In other Arab countries, the channel was clearly on the side of the uprisings,” said Joseph Massad, an associate professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia University. But in Bahrain, “it pretended to be impartial while pushing the line of the Bahraini regime.”“ =

Al-Jazeera’s “voice thundered loudly in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 1, when jubilant crowds watched President Hosni Mubarak on fabric hung as a makeshift screen to display al-Jazeera’s broadcast. As pressure mounted on Mubarak, Egyptian authorities blocked the network’s satellite transmissions, prompting al-Jazeera to switch frequencies. The network continued its enthusiastic reporting, prompting Egypt’s security forces to accuse it of “inciting the people” and to crack down hard against its reporters. But on the streets of Cairo, young people spray-painted the broadcaster’s name on walls, and the station’s journalists, many of them Egyptian, became revolutionary heroes. =

“The war in Libya, and the involvement of Qatari fighter jets, marked a turning point for al-Jazeera, said Massad, who monitors its broadcasts. Qatar was the only Arab state to actively join in NATO operations; al-Jazeera Arabic’s presenters called Libyan rebels killed in the conflict “martyrs,” and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi were labeled “mercenaries.” “Al-Jazeera Arabic changed from the most important Arab media voice against U.S. and European policies in the region to a champion and an apologist for such intervention,” Massad said. =



“As the unrest moved closer to Qatar, the situation became more uncomfortable for the government, and, critics charge, the network’s independence suffered. There was little coverage when protesters took to the streets in Oman and Saudi Arabia, close allies of the emirate, several analysts said. But the events on the tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, a strategic partner to Qatar, best illustrate al-Jazeera Arabic’s dilemma in covering the uprisings. Al-Jazeera Arabic failed to report on intensifying demands by mainly Shia protesters for the end of the Sunni monarchy in early March, critics say, and the network also neglected several large demonstrations that ultimately led to a military intervention by Saudi Arabia. Massad accuses Al-Jazeera of engaging in a “media blackout” of the uprising in Bahrain and of demonstrations in Saudi Arabia and Oman. The contrast shows that the Qatari government supports uprisings against republics in the Arab world, he said, but not against monarchies in the gulf.” =

Al-Jazeera English-Language and Sports Channels

Al-Jazeera opened an English-language website in March 2003. In 2005, it launched Al-Jazeera live, a C-SPAN-like channel that broadcasts parliament session from Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon live.

In June 2004, Al-Jazeera launched the Al-Jazeera sports channel. Among the first things it showed was extensive coverage of the French Open tennis tournament. The station vowed to stay out of politics. In an effort to respect the sensibilities of its Muslim audience it also promised not to show women’s volleyball. The same year it also started up separate channels for children’s programs and documentaries.

In 2006, Al-Jazeera launched a 24-hour English-language station called Al Jazeera English. Backed by the Emir of Qatar, the station initially employed 250 people, had reporters all over the globe and was given a good-size budget. The managing director, Nagel Parsons, was British. It started out by broadcasting live four hours each from Washington, London and Malaysia and 12 hours from Doha. For a while the American anchor on Al Jazeera English was David Marash, a former ABC “Nightline” correspondent.

In 2013, The cable news channel Al Jazeera America debuted with great fanfare in 2013 after its parent company paid Al Gore and his partners $500 million for Current TV. It promised to cover American news soberly and seriously but was shut down after only three years in April, 2016. In a memo to the channel’s staff, Al Jazeera America’s chief executive, Al Anstey, said the “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable.” [Source: John Koblin, New York Times, January 13, 2016]


Al Jazeera English newsroom


CNN reported that as many as 700 staffers lost their jobs The New York Times reported: The newsroom was hit with turmoil in 2015 “when staff members complained bitterly of a culture of fear. There was an exodus of top executives, along with a pair of lawsuits from former employees that included complaints about sexism and anti-Semitism at the news channel.” [Source: Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic, January 13, 2016]

Al-Arabiya

Al-Arabiya is Al-Jazeera’s main rival. Based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, it is funded largely by Saudi Arabian money and was launched in February 2003 just before the United States invaded Iraq. Al-Arabiya means “The Arab.” Many of its employees worked for Middle Eastern stations but left them because they regarded the stations as too Islamist.

Al-Arabiya is a private company with $300 million annual budget owned by Sheik Walid al-Ibriham, a Saudi businessman and brother-in-law of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. He also owns the Middle East Broadcasting Center, Al-Arabiya’s parent company, which has investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. Lebanon and United Arab Emirates.

Sheik Walid initial aim was to make Al-Arabiya the Arabic-language equivalent of CNN, with Al-Jazeera being the equivalent of the more conservatively-opinionated Fox News. A great deal of money was spent on futurist sets and graphics to give the station a snazzy look. Al-Arabiya refused to be a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden or the Pentagon. Its managing editor Al Rashed studied and spent seven years in the United States and openly criticized Muslim extremists.

In a survey in 2004, about 39 percent of satellite television viewers in the Middle East watched Al-Arabiya daily, compared to slightly over 30 percent for Al-Jazeera, but in Saudi Arabia, the largest advertising market in the region, the two station were running neck and neck. Advertising on Al-Arabiya costs about $5,000 per minute.

Al-Arabiya Coverage


Al-Arabiya competed with Al-Jazeera to get the goriest and most graphic footage of the violence in Iraq and the Palestinian territories but has made an effort to cover the conflict in Iraq from both sides, in the process being shot at by both sides. “Wild” Wael Essam covered the battle in Fallujah from both sides and was held captive by both sides. His editors initially refused to let him go to Falluja so he went their on his own during his vacation and “embedded” himself with insurgents there.

As of December 2005, eight Al-Arabiya employees had been killed in Iraq. Three were killed by American troops—one reporter by a missile fired from a helicopter where a crowd was celebrating around a destroyed Bradley fighting vehicle and a reporter and cameraman by gun fire near the site of a rocket attack on a Baghdad hotel. More were killed by insurgents. In October 2003, a suicide bomber exploded outside Al-Arabiya’s offices in Iraq, killing five employees and injuring more than a dozen.

Al-Arabiya has been described as a “terrorist channel” by some militant groups in Iraq ave suggested that name e changed from “The Arab” to “The Hebrew.” When the Al-Arabiya reporters were killed by American troops the station received an enormous number of sympathy calls and e-mails. When its employees were killed in the suicide bomb attack it received only a few terse expressions of support, mostly from other broadcasters.

Al-Arabiya and the United States

Many of the criticisms that have been leveled against Al-Jazeera have also been made against Al-Arabiya. The U.S. government accused Al-Arabiya of “very biased reporting that has the effect of inciting violence against our troops.” Among the inaccuracies reported by Al-Arabiya reported was that the United States carried off all the treasurers in the Iraqi National Museum


Al Arabiya coverage of a snow in Jerusalem

In response to accusations of bias against the United States, the news director for Al-Arabiya said, “Al-Arabiya coverage is meant to be of the highest professional levels, and we think we are objective in displaying all points of view and all sides of the story of Iraq.”

In August 2003, Al-Arabiya was sharply criticized by the U.S. government after the television station aired death threats against the U.S.-formed Iraqi Governing Council A spokesman with the U.S. State Department said the station was involved in the “incitement of murder and terrorism.” In the report in question a masked man said the United States “formed this council to the hurt the resistance and Iraqis...death to the spies and traitors, before the Americans...We kill them first before we kill the Americans.”

Why I Love Al Jazeera

On why he has a soft spot for Al Jazeera, Robert D. Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic: “The Qatar-based Arab TV channel’s eclectic internationalism—a feast of vivid, pathbreaking coverage from all continents—is a rebuke to the dire predictions about the end of foreign news as we know it. Indeed, if Al Jazeera were more widely available in the United States—on nationwide cable, for example, instead of only on the Web and several satellite stations and local cable channels—it would eat steadily into the viewership of The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. Al Jazeera—not Lehrer—is what the internationally minded elite class really yearns for: a visually stunning, deeply reported description of developments in dozens upon dozens of countries simultaneously. [Source: Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, October 2009 <|>]

“Over just a few days in late May, when I actively monitored Al Jazeera (although I watched it almost every evening during a month in Sri Lanka), I was treated to penetrating portraits of Eritrean and Ethiopian involvement in the Somali war, of the struggle of Niger River rebels against the Nigerian government in the oil-rich south of the country, of the floods in Bangladesh, of problems with the South African economy, of the danger that desertification poses to Bedouin life in northern Sudan, of the environmental devastation around the Aral Sea, of Sikh violence in India after an attack on a temple in Austria, of foreign Islamic fighters in the southern Philippines, of microfinancing programs in Kenya, of rigged elections in South Ossetia, of human-rights demonstrations in Guatemala, and of much more. Al Jazeera covered the election campaigns in Lebanon and Iran in more detail than anyone else, as well as the Somali war and the Pakistani army offensive in the Swat Valley. There was, too, an unbiased one-hour documentary about the Gemayel family of Christian politicians and warlords in Lebanon, and a half-hour-long investigation of the displacement of the poor from India’s new economic zones. <|>

“The fact that Doha, Qatar’s capital, is not the headquarters of a great power liberates Al Jazeera to focus equally on the four corners of the Earth rather than on just the flash points of any imperial or post-imperial interest. Outlets such as CNN and the BBC don’t cover foreign news so much as they cover the foreign extensions of Washington’s or London’s collective obsessions. And Al Jazeera, rather than spotlighting people who are loaded with credentials but often have little to say, has the knack of getting people on air who have interesting things to say, like the brilliant, no-name Russian analyst I heard explaining why both Russia and China need the current North Korean regime because it provides a buffer state against free and democratic South Korea. <|>

“Al Jazeera is also endearing because it exudes hustle. It constantly gets scoops. It has had gritty, hands-on coverage across the greater Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut to Iraq, that other channels haven’t matched. Its camera crew, for example, was the first to beam pictures from Mingora, the main town of Swat, enabling Al Jazeera to confirm that the Pakistani military had, in fact, prevailed there over the Taliban. And Al Jazeera also excels at opening your mind. I have spent the past two years reporting from the Indian Ocean region, dealing predominantly with Muslims and indigenous nongovernmental organizations; watching Al Jazeera is the vicarious equivalent of engaging in the kinds of conversations I have been having. One of the multitude of problems I have with Fox News is that even its most analytically brilliant commentators, such as Charles Krauthammer, seem to be scoring points and talking to their own ideological kind rather than engaging in dialogue with others. Watching Fox, you have to wonder whether many of its commentators have ever had a conversation with a real live Muslim abroad. <|>

“Of course, Al Jazeera has some overt prejudices. In covering the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, for example, it is clearly on the Palestinian side. Tear-jerking features about the sufferings of the Palestinians are not matched with equal coverage of the Israeli human terrain. What you get from Al Jazeera is the developing-world point of view, or, more specifically, that of the emerging developing-world bourgeoisie; and that outlook is inherently pro-Palestinian, as well as deeply hostile to American military power. Overlying Al Jazeera’s pro-Palestinian and anti-Bush sentiment is a breezy, pacifist-trending internationalism. In too many of its reports, the subliminal message appears to be that compromise should be the order of the day. According to Al Jazeera, the politically weak, merely by being so, are automatically in the right. A certain kind of moral equivalency is Al Jazeera’s lifeblood. The history of human suffering seemingly begins and ends with that of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and that of the Iraqis under erstwhile American occupation.” <|>


Al Jazeera Hajj team


Al Jazeera: Another Perspective, or Jihad TV?

Judea Pearl wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “In late 2001, three months before my son, the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped, he interviewed the influential Qatari cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and asked him about suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The sheik replied with a novel twist of logic. “Israeli society in general is armed,” he said, implying that Israeli civilians — including women and children, doctors and journalists — are legitimate targets. [Source: Judea Pearl, International Herald Tribune, January 17, 2007 |~|]

“At the time, it was still surprising to see an authoritative Muslim cleric give religious license to the ideology of terror — granting the faithful permission to elevate their own grievances above the norms of civilized society. Daniel would fall victim to that same ideology when he was abducted and murdered in Pakistan. |~|

“After his death, I discovered that Sheik Qaradawi is the host of a weekly program... on Al Jazeera called “Sharia and Life.” He uses this forum to preach his new morality to millions of Arabic-speaking viewers, including Hamas operatives, Al Qaeda recruits, schoolteachers and impressionable Muslim youths. “We have the ‘children bomb,’ and these human bombs must continue until liberation,” he told his audience in 2002. Consistent with this logic and morality, Sheik Qaradawi later extended his Qur’anic blessing to suicide bombing against American civilians in Iraq.” |~|

“Al Jazeera and its various spinoffs on satellite TV and the Internet are usually credited with having a positive influence on Arab society. True, Al Jazeera’s coverage has placed an emphasis on younger leaders, reformers and successful businessmen who may serve as role models for today’s Arab youth. And it has brought — as the press usually does — a degree of inquisitiveness and openness that could become a useful engine of reform in the region. Westerners have been quick to point out these benefits. A critic for The Times said that “though Al Jazeera English looks at news events through a non-Western prism, it also points to where East and West actually meet.” Time magazine noted, “arguably nothing... has done more than Al Jazeera to open minds and challenge authority in the Middle East.” |~|

“But what should concern Westerners is that the ideology of men like Sheik Qaradawi saturates many of the network’s programs, and is gaining wider acceptance among Muslim youths in the West. In its “straight” news coverage on its Arabic TV broadcasts and Web sites, Al Jazeera’s reports consistently amplify radical Islamist sentiments (although without endorsing violence explicitly). For example, the phrase “war on terror” is invariably preceded by the contemptuous prefix “so-called.” The words “terror” and “insurgency” are rarely uttered with a straight face, usually replaced with “resistance” or “struggle.” The phrase “war in Iraq” is often replaced by “war on Iraq” or “war against Iraq.” A suicide bombing is called a “commando attack” or, occasionally, a “paradise operation.” |~|


Al Jazeera shot of pilgrims gathering around the Kaaba during the Hajj


“Al Jazeera’s Web site can be less subtle. On Dec. 12, after religious leaders and heads of state all over the world condemned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran for staging a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, the headline on the site read, “Ahmadinejad Praised by Participants of the Holocaust Conference in Tehran, but Condemned by Zionists in Europe.” In short, Al Jazeera’s editors choreograph a worldview in which an irreconcilable struggle rages between an evil-meaning Western oppressor and its helpless, righteous Arab victims. Most worrisome, perhaps, it often reports on supposed Western conspiracies behind most Arab hardships or failings, thus fueling the sense of helplessness, humiliation and anger among Muslim youths and helping turn them into potential recruits for terrorist organizations.” |~|

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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