Arab Media on British Terror

Editor's Note: Jamal Dajani, director of Middle Eastern programming at Link TV, monitored Arab news programming, online newspapers and Web sites from Paris on July 7, the day of the London bombings. He was interviewed by phone and e-mail by Brian Shott, an editor at Pacific News Service.

Is there a single, dominant reaction to the London bombings in Arab news media?

Jamal Dajani: Arab media is condemning these attacks, which, incidentally, happened in areas of London with large Muslim and Arab populations. But the focus is that no place on earth is immune from terrorists, especially ones who are willing to kill or be killed.

Do Arab media take the London attack as a sign that Al Qaeda is shifting the focus of its attacks or its operations to the West?

The name "Al Qaeda" is now used by Islamist terrorists worldwide who have no connection, or a very loose one, to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda. This is clear from monitoring not only the news on satellite TV and the Arab print media, but the so-called Al Qaeda Web sites -- for example, those that showed the beheadings of hostages. The term "Al Qaeda" now is similar to the term "mafia" -- the U.S. mafia, Israeli mafia, Russian mafia and so on.

Before the London attacks, these groups were threatening England as well as Italy, to put pressure on these countries to withdraw from Iraq, similarly to what happened to Spain. This is my own analysis as well as many in the Arab media.

What kind of message, if any, is Arab media sending to Muslims in Europe about their vulnerability in the aftermath of the bombings?

Arab media praised Tony Blair for recognizing how Muslims condemned these horrific terrorist attacks, but they are also concerned about backlashes. Their communities have suffered from the aftermath of 9/11.

The National Association of British Arabs issued a press release to all Arab media on the day of the attacks. They unequivocally condemned the bombing, calling it a "horrific" attack against "this most diverse of cities." They noted that two of the blasts took place in largely Arab and/or Muslim communities, and called on all Londoners to "resist any voices inciting racial or religious hatred."

What kind of questions are Arab journalists and pundits raising in their commentaries or broadcasts?

The common denominator is the fear that the quagmire of Iraq may have sped out of control, beyond Iraq's borders. Many believe that the occupation of Iraq has refueled the hatred toward the United States, Britain and coalition countries.

How should the United States or Britain respond to these attacks, according to Arab commentators?

There's a general consensus here: The sympathy earned by the U.S. after 9/11 was squandered with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, followed by the occupation of Iraq and Baghdad, the ancient capital of the Islamic empire. This generates animosity toward the West. Britain is victimized due to Blair's blunder by following and supporting Bush's policies. As long as the United States and Britain are occupying Iraq, more attacks will happen. It is a matter of time. The terrorists are taking full advantage of the situation.

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