Among the demands put to Qatar by its Arab rivals are that it shut down Al Jazeera, the media company it owns and sponsors. The editors of such Western publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Economist have rushed to defend the network. Clifford May explains why they’re wrong, citing the observation by the late Arab intellectual Fouad Ajami that Al Jazeera is a “crafty operation” that “day in and day out deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage.”
Among Al Jazeera’s brightest TV stars is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the “spiritual leader” of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has praised Imad Mughniyah, the Hizballah terrorist mastermind behind the 1983 suicide bombings in Beirut, in which 241 U.S. Marines were killed. He once issued a fatwa, a religious opinion, calling for the “abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq.”
Sheikh Qaradawi favors the “spread of Islam until it conquers the entire world and includes both the East and West, [marking] the beginning of the return of the Islamic caliphate.” Hitler, he has said, deserves praise for having “managed to put [Jews] in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the [Muslims].”
Defenders of the network argue that however extreme Al Jazeera Arabic may be, its sister network, Al Jazeera English, is different. [But] consider the . . . exchange on National Public Radio earlier this month between [the interviewer] Kelly McEvers and Giles Trendle, the managing director for Al Jazeera English.
When confronted with evidence that Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language programs promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Trendle replied that “the cultural context and the language is such that [Arabic is] much more expressive and passionate, whereas maybe the English language, we [sic] might be more reserved and stiff-upper-lip.” Reading between the lines, May contends that rather than offering a lame defense, Trendle effectively admitted that “Al Jazeera is Al Jazeera. Its mission is to shape public opinion. Its owners are savvy enough to understand that different audiences will be persuaded by different messages.”