Brussels attacks spark self-criticism in Arab media

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While the usual blame-Israel responses cropped up in some Mideast media circles following the Brussels terrorist attacks, a new and noteworthy trend was seen in Arab media.

Several media outlets put the blame squarely on Muslim and Arab culture for the attacks which killed 35 and wounded more than 300.

A columnist for the Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote that Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) did not have the ability to carry out massive attacks like those in Paris and Brussels, and that they were actually orchestrated by Israel.

Belgian flags seen at a street memorial service in Brussels. /Reuters
Belgian flags seen at a street memorial service in Brussels. /Reuters

The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), however, noted several self-critical articles coming from Arab media.

One, entitled “We Have Failed Indeed,” was written by the editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat. The column blamed Arabs and Muslims for “sowing destruction and fear in the very same European countries that had agreed to take them in after they had fled their failed countries.

“Are we simply part of this world, or are we perhaps an explosive charge implanted in [this world’s] entrails?” asks the author. “Are we a normal neighborhood in the global village, or are we maybe a neighborhood of suicide bombers in [that village]? … Are we part of the world’s present and future, or are we a dark tempest that seeks to send [the world] back to the caves that it abandoned when it chose the path of progress and human dignity?

“A man who came as a refugee or immigrant to a foreign country that took him in and provided him with a roof over his head, an address, social assistance, and medical care – does he have the right to blow himself up on its streets because it did not embrace his character, his interpretation, and his mode of thinking and way of life?… Have we have the right to continue delving into historical sources in order to rely on past wrongs done to us and use this to justify the slaughter of innocents in a country whence we fled because of a tyrant or a civil war [in our own countries]? Who gave us the right to dictate to others the nature of their regimes, their values, and their lifestyle?

“We have failed indeed. For decades and centuries, we have been gripped by negligence. We feared, and we closed ourselves off… And thus our institutions rotted away – if they ever existed at all. The schools, the universities, and our educational curricula rotted away. Children graduate from our schools with sick imaginations and inflexible emotions…

“The world is seeking the best way to evade the throngs of refugees that we are sending, and the waves of suicide [terrorists] that are arriving from our territory and culture. The world treats us today as the source of peril to its security, progress, democracy and stability. The only solution remaining to us is to acknowledge this comprehensive and resounding failure, this terrible collapse. We must start from scratch, like a city devastated by a deadly earthquake. Continuing to hide behind lies and fallacies will [only] prolong our stay in the caves. We cannot progress to the future with our antiquated concepts and tattered garments. We cannot board the train without paying the fare [exacted] for our stagnation, our delusions, and our inflexible perceptions.”

The second article, by Tareq Masarwa in the official Jordanian daily Al-Rai. Masarwa, was critical of the way in which some Arabs attempt to justify terrorist attacks by claiming that European countries are racist and marginalize Muslims.

“We hear these same excuses here. [But] why aren’t there millions of terrorists in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, since they too are poor and grew up in the outskirts of big cities?! … Europe gives the immigrant the opportunity for a free education, and thousands of Jordanians have attended French and German universities for free… and had an easy time becoming citizens of those countries…

“It is shameful that we demand that the world treat us justly as we drive away our sons by killing them, imprisoning them, or failing to provide them with proper education, healthcare, and employment, and with a dignified life. The sight of people flocking to Europe’s borders, including Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, Afghans, and Iranians, is heartbreaking, especially when they are carrying their children or pushing them in front of them – but all we do is curse the Europeans as racists who hate Muslims and foreigners, and consider it our right to murder them in their airports, trains, and theaters…

“Terrorism is a crime, and justifying it is an even worse crime. What is happening in the cities of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia is terrorism, and we are responsible for its formation, its arming, and its funding. It is pointless to justify the murder of Europeans and Americans out of a desire to justify our own crimes.”

The third article was carried by the Bahraini daily Al-Ayyam and also put the blame on the Muslim world: “What are we doing here in our countries, or in Western countries in Europe and America, while these terrible blows of terrorism land on us and them, one after the other? … In fact, we do not know how to act against these terrorists. Is it sufficient that after each of these terrorist actions, which take place in merciless rapid succession and are all perpetrated by young Muslims… that we say ‘they aren’t Muslims’ and ‘they do not represent true Islam’ and are misguided apostates? And will the world be satisfied with [this]?

“Is it normal that while terrorism succeeds in recruiting hundreds and even thousands of Muslims, we are satisfied to persuade ourselves that their numbers ‘are still negligible’ compared to the global Muslim population? Must the number of terrorists swell to tens or hundreds of thousands before we realize … that this means that we must stop, convene, and give intellectuals the freedom to examine the reasons [for this] and the freedom to publish the results of their studies?…

“Unfortunately, the Muslims do not yet unanimously condemn ISIS. Some Muslims praise them [ISIS members], think the media wrongs them, and join them at the first opportunity, and even carry out the first suicide mission they are offered anywhere in the world!

“One reason for the immaturity of Muslim young people in Britain, France, and the U.S. is that the leadership of the religious institutions, and all religious activity, still remain in the hands of Arab, Pakistani and other activists and leaders who have fled to the West [and continue to] support political Islam parties. These leaders may not [themselves] carry out terrorist attacks, but they also do not truly take a stand against the terrorist religious culture. Moreover, most of their writings, ideas, and strategic positions regarding an Islamic system and the caliphate state share [this religious culture]…”