By STEVEN STALINSKY | March 14, 2007
"Al-Jazeera Satellite Network, the Greatest Arab Media Organization." — Ikhwanweb.com, the Web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, October 25
Since the war on terror began, many Arab reformists have spoken out against "the culture of hate" that has incited its people to terrorism. The TV network Al-Jazeera is often at the center of this criticism.
Arab reformists who have witnessed first-hand incitement on Al-Jazeera often discuss its connection to the Ikhwan movement, aka the Muslim Brotherhood. This organization is one of the world's leading Islamist groups, based in Egypt and founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna. Today, its ideology influences groups ranging from Hamas to Al Qaeda.
One of the most prolific Arab scholars and columnists, Mamoun Fandy, wrote in the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat about the movement's relationship with Al-Jazeera on January 22. "The Muslim Brotherhood has at its disposal media that transcends borders, from newspapers to satellite channels, which have taken over the minds of millions … throughout the entire Arab world," he wrote.
Calling Al-Jazeera "the Muslim Brotherhood channel," Mr. Fandy discussed the network's activity in the Middle East. "Al-Jazeera … is already propagandizing for the organization. … If you watch a debate program presented on Al-Jazeera … you will be amazed at the supreme effort … to defend the Muslim Brotherhood."
Pierre Akel, founder and editor of a prominent Arabic reformist Web site, Metransparent.com, summed it up on February 9, 2006, "When it comes to satellite television in the region, Al-Jazeera is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood."
A Tunisian intellectual and director of the Netherlands–based Center for Promoting Democracy in the Arab World, Khaled Shawkat, wrote about the connection between Al-Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood in an article for the progressive Arabic Web site Elaph.com on July 29. "Al-Jazeera has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood organization," he wrote.
In an article in Metransparent on December 22, 2004, the Arab reformist Abu Khawla also discussed the Muslim Brotherhood's connection to Al-Jazeera. In addition, he wrote about the channel's religious authority, Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who as a member of the organization left Egypt 45 years ago, seeking asylum in Qatar.
"Arabs turn nowadays to satellite TV channels, especially Al-Jazeera … a tool of communications that is so far completely monopolized by fundamentalists," Mr. Khawla wrote. "In the case of Al-Jazeera, preacher Al-Qaradawi (a leading figure of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood) is one of its most influential founding members.
And fundamentalists are in charge of its news programs and talk shows."
The always eloquent Youssef Ibrahim wrote about Sheik Qaradawi and Al-Jazeera in his New York Sun column on Monday: "One of the most eminent leaders of the Ikhwan movement, who appears weekly on Al-Jazeera's ‘Sharia and Life' program, is Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He has specifically ruled that Americans in Iraq and Israelis everywhere should be targeted by suicide bombers, who will be considered martyrs and heroes." Mr. Ibrahim also noted that Sheik Qaradawi "ranks among the top 10 leaders of the Ikhwan's international ruling councils."
One Arab reformist critical of Al-Jazeera called it "the satellite channel of the masked terrorists," which "makes great efforts day and night to encourage terrorism," according to a September 5, 2004, article on Elaph.com by Abd Al-Khaliq Hussein. The article was highly critical of the channel and its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Sheik Qaradawi's position there.
Many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood use Al-Jazeera for their own platform
. The supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdi Akef, appeared on Al-Jazeera on July 30, 2006, and said: "This American Satan claims to be a messenger of divine guidance. ... I salute all the honorable Americans who stand up to this Satan, who wants to set the entire world on fire, not just the Arab and Islamic nation. I go back to the issue of jihad. Jihad is an individual duty incumbent upon every Muslim."
A member of the General Guidance Council of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdul Al-Munim Abdul Al-Futuh, appeared on Al-Jazeera on April 25, 2004, and said: "We support armed resistance. We, as the Muslim Brotherhood and as the world leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, support the armed resistance in Iraq against the American occupier, 100%. I personally, like all members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and around the world, wish to carry weapons against the American occupation in Iraq." (More examples of this are online at memritv.org.)
Much confusion and controversy surround Al-Jazeera. To understand this network better, we should listen to what Arab reformists who are battling the culture of hate within their society are saying about it.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.