and supporting terrorist groups around the world. Outgoing U.S. president, Barack Obama made the case against Saudi Arabia in a 90-page long article summarizing his views in The Atlantic. Last summer, German intelligence officials also accused Saudi Arabia of building Islamic centers in the West that promote Wahhabism. The incoming U.S. administration will likely take a harsh stance against Saudi Arabian leaders as well.
|CNN, U.S. media|
|Ajel; Iraqi media|
|Alarabiyya; Saudi Media|
|Nile24; Egyptian media|
|Nahrain; Iraqi media|
|RussiaToday, Russian media|
|ShafaqNews; Iranian media|
|ShafaqNews Iranian media|
|SkyIraq, Iarqi media|
|al-Sharq al-Awasat coverage|
|8 years in prison for tweeting
in support of a demonstration
1. Promoting atheistic thought in any form; or raising doubt about the principles of the religion upon which this country is founded.2. Renouncing the pledge of allegiance (bay`ah) offered to the rulers of this country; or paying allegiance to a party, organization, association, movement, or a person in this country or outside.3. Fighting or encouraging others to fight in zones of conflict in a foreign country; or issuing religious edicts [fatwas] in support of fighting in outside wars.4. Showing support for any of these parties, organizations, associations, movements, or groups; or showing sympathies towards them, or promoting their activities and attending their meetings inside or outside the kingdom; this applies to showing support through any and all means of communication including television, radio, print media, social media—visual, aural, written—and the Internet; or sharing and re-sharing of such content; or using the logos and symbols that express sympathies to these entities.5. Donating to these entities or providing any kind of support—financial or moral—to groups and organizations that are terrorists or extremists; or sheltering anyone inside or outside the kingdom who belongs or supports these entities individuals and groups.6. Communicating or establishing connections with these movements and groups, or persons who are enemies of the kingdom.7. Having loyalty to any foreign country or having connection to any foreign country; or establishing connections with any foreign country in order to destabilize the kingdom or break the unity of its people.8. Aiming to break the fabric of society and national unity; or calling for, promoting, enticing, or participating in sit-ins, demonstrations, or gatherings; or issuing statements in the name of a groups or association in any form that will risk the unity and stability of the kingdom.9. Attending meetings, conferences, or colloquium that are held inside or outside the kingdom where ideas that may risk the security and stability of the kingdom are promoted or that could result in civil strife [fitna].10. Criticizing other countries and its leaders.11. Inciting other countries or organizations to criticize or act against the interests of the kingdom.
a. are fearful of Iran and they are worried that Iran would use the Saudi Shi’as to destabilize the kingdom.
b. are fearful of the Muslim Brotherhood and countries that support the Muslim Brotherhood (Qatar).
c. are fearful of dissent and social change.
d. are fearful of disloyalty: they fear that Saudi citizens would join the Muslim Brotherhood, non-citizens would fall under the influence of their original countries, and Shi`as would fall under the influence of Iran.
e. are fearful that the takfiris now fighting in Syria and Iraq will return home better trained and hardened and overthrow them.
f. are fearful of the uncontrollable nature of the means of communication
g. are fearful of the “privatization” of religious authority: anyone with a twitter account and large following can be a mufti and no one cares to listen to the official one anymore.
But the story also fit a comfortable media narrative: The attackers were Muslims who declared religious motivations. One of the assailants called the crime revenge for the killing of Muslims by Western military forces (Reuters, 5/22/13).
Bill O’Reilly (O’Reilly Factor, 6/5/13) invited Tommy Robinson, the leader of British hate group the English Defence League, onto his Fox News show. Robinson faced little challenge as he smeared Muslims, saying politicians are “constantly pandering to Islam and they’re constantly worried about what the Islamic community would do and how they will react to anything.”
The association of Islam with violence is not restricted to right-wing media. “For a self-described ‘religion of peace,’ Islam does claim a lot of lives,” wrote liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (9/22/12) in a piece attempting to explain Muslim violence. On CNN (5/5/10), Anderson Cooper telegraphed a similar message when he asked HBO star Bill Maher: “Why is Islam the one religion that so many in America and in the West censor themselves when talking about or making fun of? Is it just fear?” This was a softball for Maher, a commentator known for anti-Muslim bigotry (FAIR Blog, 3/9/12), who responded that Muslims are “violent” and “threaten us.”
FAIR’s 2008 report, Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation (10/1/08), found violent and dangerous portrayals of Muslims alive and well in centrist and liberal media habitats: The 2006 National Book Critics Circle nominated for an award the flagrantly Islamophobic While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within, while the New York Times gifted new subscribers with the anti-Muslim DVD, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West in 2006.
The best-known focus of the whirlwind of smears by the corporate media would be the Park51 Islamic community center, inaccurately but pervasively described as the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Media portrayed the center as a slap in the face to families of 9/11 victims—and as proof that the Obama administration was failing to protect citizens from Muslim extremists (Extra!, 10/10).
But is Islam, as Kristof, Maher and O’Reilly suggest, really particularly violent? It’s a curious argument to make from the vantage point of the United States, which has in recent years launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lesser military strikes in at least a half-a-dozen other nations—violence that has cost at least hundreds of thousands of lives over the past decade (Iraq Body Count, 3/19/13; FAIR Blog, 6/7/13).
And looking over the last century, the bloodiest in human history, it’s an equally strange argument to make from a Western, Christian-majority nation. As University of Michigan Islam scholar Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 4/23/13) points out, of the more than 100 million war deaths in the 20th century, something less than 2 percent came at the hands of Muslim-majority nations. Most of those dead came in wars where non-Muslim nations played a significant role—such as the Iran/Iraq War, where the United States aided the aggressor Iraq, and the Afghan Civil War, where the Soviet Union was a major military force.
Cole also explains that “murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States,” which is especially violent for a wealthy nation.
According to a Gallup poll (8/2/11; FAIR Blog, 5/3/13), Muslim Americans disapprove of violence against civilians at an exceptionally high rate. When asked if it “is justified for an individual or a small group of people to target and kill civilians,” 89 percent of Muslims said that it is never justified, which was the highest disapproval rate of the six religious and nonreligious groups polled. Muslim Americans also rejected military killing of civilians by a wide margin, while a majority of Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Mormons approved of such killings.
Glenn Greenwald (5/23/13) makes a strong case that the killing of Rigby, a sergeant in the British Army, though political violence, was not terrorism, which is generally defined as political violence targeting civilians. But U.S. coverage of even strictly defined terrorism gives a distorted impression that most of it is linked to Muslims.
In “More Terror, Less Coverage,” Extra! (5/11) showed how a story about an amateurish bomb that fizzled in Times Square in May 2010, planted by a Muslim American, got far more coverage than a much more lethal bomb planted by a white racist in Spokane, Washington, disarmed just hours before its planned detonation during a 2011 Martin Luther King Day parade.
This is par for a media that has an especially hard time reporting domestic terrorism with context or proportionality. Charles Kurzman (Think Progress, 9/10/11), author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, noted in 2011 that since 9/11, Muslim American terrorists “have killed 33 individuals in the United States.” The University of North Carolina terrorism expert put that number in the larger context of U.S. violence: “Over that same period of time, there have been more than 150,000 murders in the United States.” That’s 0.02 percent of homicides since 2001 attributable to Muslim American terrorism.
A 2010 RAND study found that of the “83 terrorist attacks in the United States between 9/11 and the end of 2009, only three…were clearly connected with the jihadist cause” (Extra!, 5/11). Out of the 3 million Muslims living in the United States, around 100 joined jihadist groups during the study period, which according to RAND suggests that American Muslims overwhelmingly do not agree with radical ideology and the violent actions associated with it.
Cole found similar data on Europe. While the European Union’s population is 4.5 percent Muslim (Pew Research Center, 1/11)—“less than 1 percent of terrorist acts in the continent were committed by people from that community” from 2007 to 2009 (Informed Comment, 4/23/13).
To successfully equate Islam with terrorism requires downplaying terrorism perpetrated by non-Muslims. As conservative Fox News commentator Brian Kilmeade (Fox & Friends, 10/15/10) put it, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.” Kilmeade was defending Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who’d been criticized for stating on ABC’s View (10/14/10) that “Muslims killed us on 9/11!” Kilmeade later retracted the comment (Fox & Friends, 10/18/10; Media Matters, 10/18/10), but Michael Goodwin, a columnist for Fox’s sibling publication, the Murdoch-owned New York Post (4/28/13), used the exact same phrase in a recent column on the Boston Marathon bombing.
But more influential than the overt bigotry of the Kilmeades and O’Reillys is the drumbeat of media attention to Muslim-linked violence compared to violence and terrorism linked to other groups.
In June, two men in upstate New York were arrested and charged with conspiracy to support terrorism after building a weapon that would shoot radiation into “enemies of Israel.” Possible target locations included an Albany Mosque and a Schenectady Islamic center (AP, 6/19/13; CAIR, 6/24/13). According to Nexis, only 24 newspapers and newswires covered the story in the U.S.
Three weeks before the gruesome murder of Lee Rigby in London, Mohammed Saleem, a 75 year-old Muslim man, was stabbed to death while returning from a mosque in Birmingham, 100 miles north of London. The murder is being considered a hate crime by police (Birmingham Mail, 5/25/13). The entire U.S. media coverage of Mohammed Saleem’s murder, according to Nexis, was a single 136-word dispatch (5/1/13) from the UPI wire service.
Egypt’s last two weeks’ incessant events not only gripped the minds and hearts of the Egyptians, but they captured the interest of the national and international media as well.
For many Egyptians, mostly those who filled public squares across the country to demand Mr. Morsi’s removal and early presidential elections, the military’s intervention on July 3 was inevitable to save the most heavily populated Arab country from slipping into a civil war.
By contrast, Egyptian Islamists and other supporters of Mr. Morsi remain steadfast in their rejection of what they call a “military coup”, refusing to acknowledge the military-backed interim president Adli Mansour and his newly-appointed vice president and prime minister as legitimate. Mr. Morsi’s supporters have staged a series of mass rallies in Cairo, demanding the reinstating of the ousted president.
Between the two camps, Egypt’s media outlets have chosen to take sides in the ongoing tragic split. To put it more pointedly, not only the state-owned media avowedly backed the military after Morsi’s ouster, but most of the Egyptian privately-owned TV stations and newspapers as well have embraced the military’s perspective.
It’s no secret to say that Egypt’s media landscape has never been non-partisan. The Muslim Brotherhood’s TV station – Misr 25 – and others run by their Islamist allies, in addition to newspapers like Freedom and Justice, official newspaper of the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were undoubtedly partisan. Additionally, being perpetually accused of aligning with the regime that rules, state-owned newspapers like Al-Ahram did partly side with Mr. Morsi before the 30-June demonstrations. On the flip side, most of Egypt’s privately-owned networks and newspapers were whole-heartedly in the anti-Morsi camp. Their dehumanization and demonization of the Brotherhood’s members and other Islamists, not to mention their disparaging of the pro-Morsi protests, has become engrained.
It all reached a crescendo on July 3 after the “popular” ouster of Morsi by the army’s generals. Under the expediency of restoring national order, the military-led authorities shut down Islamist-run TV stations, including Misr 25, and arrested their managers. Only the Freedom and Justice newspaper “survived” the media crackdown!
With only one tone dominating Egypt’s mainstream media, most of the national media outlets went berserk over what was called the “Republican Guard Massacre”. Last week, more than 50 pro-Morsi protesters were shot to death by the armed forces in clashes between the two sides in front of the Presidential Guards.
The aforementioned outlets not only have failed to acknowledge wrongdoing on the part of the military, but have directed their ire toward the victims, Mr. Morsi’s supporters, as well. By adopting the military’s viewpoint that revolves around accusing the pro-Morsi protesters of trying to raid the military’s facility, many Egyptian media outlets vindicated or even praised the “valiant” actions of the army!
This was further aggravated by some western media, such as The Telegraph, who published footage of an Egyptian photographer who chronicled his own death. The 26-year-old photographer from the Freedom and Justice newspaper was among the victims killed by the armed forces in the Republican Guard massacre’s incident. He had managed to capture the moment in which an army soldier with a rifle on top of a yellow stone building shot him dead! However, this footage was circulated only through different social network sites like Facebook. None of Egypt’s state or privately-owned television channels broadcast this footage!
In this polarized environment, many supporters of Mr. Morsi have resorted to Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel, alongside western networks such as CNN , to cater to their needs of seeing unabated coverage of the pro-Morsi protests, in addition to the dismissal of the opposition rallies.
Previously, Egypt’s state-owned and independent media outlets were drifting into two distinct camps; pro- and anti- Morsi. But, from the moment Mr. Morsi was ousted from the political scene, these two different viewpoints have been steered into one sole anti-Morsi direction. This trend, most probably, will continue for a while, till the Islamist TV stations reopen again, given their popularity, wide audience base and their traditional role as primary source of information for the Islamist camp.