MEMRI: Arab Media Reactions To Paris Terror Attacks – Part I: Arab Papers, Columnists Claim West Now Paying Price For Supporting Terror; Algerian Islamist Politician Ali Belhadj: After Attacks, France Cannot Teach Us About Freedom Of Speech


MEMRI Daily: January 19, 2015

Special Dispatch No. 5937

Arab Media Reactions To Paris Terror Attacks – Part I: Arab Papers, Columnists Claim West Is Now Paying The Price For Supporting Terror

The recent terror wave in Paris, which started with the January 7, 2015 massacre at the premises of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo in revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that the weekly published a few years ago, and continued with the January 8, 2015 murder of a French policewoman and the January 9, 2015 attack on the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, sparked numerous and varied reactions in the Arab and Muslim world. These responses found expression on the social networks, in many press articles, and in official condemnations of the attacks by states and senior officials as well as religious institutions and clerics, first and foremost Al-Azhar and Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

The Arab states and their leaders were quick to condemn the murderous attack at the Charlie Hebdo weekly, terming it a cowardly and criminal terrorist act that was antithetical to Islam. Several responses noted that terror was a global phenomenon that hurts the Arab countries as well and has to be combated. An exception was the response of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, which placed responsibility for the attack on France itself, stating that “Syria had warned time and again of the dangers of supporting terror… and that this terror would come back to bite those who supported it…” In an interview to the Czech newspaper Literarni Noviny, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad did condemn the murder of innocents, but added, addressing France and the Arab countries: “We have been saying, you shouldn’t support terrorism and provide it with a political umbrella, because this will reflect on your countries and your people. They didn’t listen to us… This incident brought European policies to account, because they are responsible for what happened in our region, for what happened in France yesterday, and maybe what happened earlier in other European countries.”

The Arab press likewise dealt extensively with the terror onslaught in Paris, publishing hundreds of articles that referred to the attacks in various ways. Many condemned the attacks, renounced them and claimed that they did not represent the world’s Muslims or their religion. Other articles, both in newspapers identified with the pro-Syrian camp and those identified with the Gulf states, condemned the attacks but at the same time held France itself responsible for them, and some even stressed that the Muslims did not have to apologize for them. They claimed that France had brought the attacks upon itself, either by its foreign policy, which “supports terror” or by its “racist” domestic policy towards the Muslim minority. Many articles condemned the Charlie Hebdo shooting but simultaneously condemned the weekly for “insulting the Prophet.” Some claimed that it had deliberately provoked the Muslims and was therefore partially responsible for the attack.

Some Arab writers also wondered why the world was so shocked by the Paris attacks and hastened to condemn them, while it had for years remained indifferent to the terror and atrocities in Syria and in other Arab countries. There were also those who claimed that the attacks were a Western, French, Jewish or Israeli conspiracy intended to supply the West with a pretext to initiate a war against Muslims.

On the other hand, several liberal writers called upon the Arab and Muslim public to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack unreservedly and without excuses, emphasizing that even an insult to Islam’s Prophet and religion did not justify such an action, and that any attempt to justify it by this pretext or any another was a crime as heinous as the massacre itself. Some liberal writers called upon Muslims to protest against terror just as they demonstrated against the insults to the Prophet, and to fight Islamic extremism by preventing extremist discourse in the Arab school curricula, mosques and media.

Another prominent theme in many articles was concern that the terror attacks would intensify Islamophia worldwide, and especially in Europe, and would provoke harsh treatment of European Muslims that would make their lives difficult.

Is should be noted that, while the Charlie Hebdo shooting sparked extensive condemnations in the Arab and Muslim world and its press, the attack on the kosher supermarket hardly elicited a response from the Arab countries and their leaders, and the Arab press also dedicated few specific comments to it and to its anti-Semitic character.

The following is the first part of a series of MEMRI articles on responses in the Arab media to the attacks in Paris.

Part I: Arab Papers, Columnists Claim West Is Now Paying The Price For Supporting Terror

A prominent argument that recurred in Arab press articles following the Charlie Hebdo attack was that the West had supported and was still supporting terror organizations, and was now paying the price for this folly.

This argument featured prominently in the Syrian press and in the pro-Syrian and pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which accused the U.S., France and the West in general of supporting terrorist organizations in Syria. Al-Akhbar even argued in a series of articles that France was enabling Saudi Arabia to spread radicalism and Islamist terror. A few articles in the Saudi, Egyptian and Gulf press likewise argued that the West was guilty of fomenting and supporting terror. Some of these articles elaborated that, for decades, the West had legitimized certain terrorist groups on the grounds that they were legitimate opposition to the Arab regimes, alluding to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The following are excerpts from some of the articles:

Syrian Writer: Attack Was Result Of Western Support For Terrorism In Syria

Ahmed Hamada, writing in the official Syrian daily Al-Thawra, placed blame for the attack on Western governments, whom he claims stoke terrorism in the Arab world, and specifically in Syria: “Before the shooting of the French journalists, there were mass protests in several European capitals expressing fury and protest at their governments who support terrorism and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq… Despite all this opposition to Western policy within the European societies themselves, Western governments, chiefly the U.S. and France, still refuse to relinquish their agenda that supports terrorism and its takfiri organizations, and openly state that they will not halt their aid to terrorist groups and will not dry out their sources of funding… The clear paradox is that many Western governments occasionally state that the U.S.-led international [anti-ISIS] coalition cannot eliminate terrorism… and [therefore] must coordinate with regional governments to reduce this phenomenon in order to eliminate it. However, the U.S. and France insist on operating on their own and do everything that contradicts international law, general international perceptions, and UN resolutions. Hence we see an increase of the factors that stoke the crises in the world, especially in the Arab region and in particular in Syria.”

The Lebanese ‘Al Akhbar’: France Brought The Attack Upon Itself; We Have No Need To Apologize Or Assist It

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar published particularly scathing articles in response to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. These articles accused France of bringing terror upon itself with its foreign and domestic policy. Some articles referred to France’s good ties with Saudia Arabia and accused it of allowing the Saudis to build an infrastructure for dissemination radical Islam on French soil.

In an article titled “Everything Carries A Price”, Ibrahim Al-Amin, Al-Akhbar board chairman, condemned the attack but opined that France had actually brought it upon itself. Hinting at France’s current support for the Syrian opposition, Al-Amin accused it of persevering in the imperialist crimes that it has been committing for centuries, and remarked that “everything carries a price”. Al-Amin claimed that the Muslims and Arabs must not express regret: “We do not need to flagellate ourselves. We have no obligation to be the first to offer condolences simply because it is one of our people who committed this vile act… We are not at all obliged to express regret… nor are we obliged to offer [the West] assistance in any way, as our leaders did following September 11… We owe nothing to this imbecilic West… [As a matter of fact] we are the first to pay the price [for the
terror]… We are slaughtered every day with the knife manufactured by the imperialist West. We are slaughtered under the eye of the West itself. Those committing this crime against us on a daily basis are agents of this West within our [own] countries.”

‘The French Have Merely Begun Reaping What They Have Sown’

Al-Akhbar columnist ‘Amer Mohsen also claimed that the Charlie Hebdo shooting was the result of racist French policy. Mohsen argues that two factors were behind the Paris shooting. The first, he says, is “the racism of the French society and state against immigrants and their children,” and the second is the fact that “since the 1970s, France has allowed Saudi funds to freely operate in the field of da’wa [Islamic preaching], to the point that Wahhabi Salafism has nearly monopolized the country’s Islamic centers, mosques, and religious education…” He concluded: “Instead of apologizing, we must tell the French that this is their Islam, not ours, and that what happened in France is only the beginning of their reaping what they have sown, not the end.”

The French Tricoleur after the Charlie Hebdo attack(Al-Sharq, Qatar, January 8, 2015)

France Terror A Product Of Its Involvement In Wars In The Region, Its Ties To Gulf States

Al-Akhbar columnist Sami Kleib argued that France’s foreign policy had triggered the terrorist act. He claimed that France’s “its abandonment of its role as mediator, the aversion [it showed] to the Muslim Brotherhood, its reservations regarding Turkey’s joining the EU, its ever-increasing closeness to Israeli policy, its pressure to delay the signing of an agreement with Iran, and now its participation in the international antiterrorism coalition have all earned France new enemies… France cannot claim today that it stands with the peoples against the oppression of tyrannical rulers…”

Read The Full Report

MEMRI TV Clip No. 4728

Algerian Islamist Politician Ali Belhadj Following Paris Attacks: France Cannot Give Us A Lesson In Freedom Of Speech

In a recent religious address, Algerian sheikh Ali Belhadj, former vice-president of the Islamic Salvation Front, said in response to the Paris attacks: “France cannot give us lessons in freedom of speech or in tolerance.” He further said: “Do not force the Arab and Muslim countries to apologize or condemn [the attacks] because France killed our forefathers and did not apologize for it.”

Following are excerpts from the address, which was posted on the Internet on January 10, 2014.

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV


Sheik Ali Belhadj: “France cannot give us lessons in freedom of speech or in tolerance. We know each and every one of them, and we can beat them at their own game. It is not for France… The Algerians in France went there because of the circumstances, not out of love for France.

“It was France that colonized our country and killed our forefathers, but the new generation, the sons of the martyrs and of the mujahideen, are still capable of confronting France if it steps out of line.”

View The Clip

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The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

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