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From the November 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 11)

Arab Reaction to the Terrorist Attacks on the United States

Condemnation and Compassion

Muhammad Naji Amayrah, Al-Ra’i (pro-government), Amman, Jordan, Sept. 13, 2001.

The United States has received a grievous assault, aimed below the belt. It was an event more immense than anything imaginable, beyond even the realm of movies or science-fiction novels. Probably the most accurate description came from the mouth of President Bush himself when he called it “a national disaster.”

We—Arabs and Muslims—sympathize greatly with the victims and families of those killed and wounded, and we feel grief and sadness from a humane perspective. However, it is necessary to distinguish between the American people, and their political leadership and its militaristic declarations. This also means we need to distinguish between the methods of the American political leadership and their arrogance in their unparalleled domination of the world, and American citizens who have committed no offense and who fell victims to the events of “Black Tuesday,” as it has been called in the American press.

We must emphasize our strong condemnation of the acts of devastation in New York and Washington, D.C., as loathsome and despicable and accurately describe it as terrorism against civilians. As such, we feel compassion for the American people, regardless of the policies of their government. In a similar manner, there is no doubt that we do not consider the American people “guilty” or responsible for their government’s mistaken and biased policies toward the

With this in mind, we are certain that the American people have not returned similar feelings of sympathy or compassion for Arabs and Muslims, and especially for Palestinians. This is because the Palestinian movement, which Arabs have been involved in against the forces of Israeli occupation, is viewed as “terrorism” and “extremism,” which it is not. It is in fact a struggle for the most basic and legal human rights. It is also necessary to distinguish between those acts of terrorism that carried away thousands of innocent civilians in New York and the national, popular, and human struggle for the sake of freedom and independence in Palestine.

With this in mind, we as Arabs understand the surge of condemnation and loathing for the events in New York City and Washington, D.C., which are also the universal feelings in the Arab nations, whether at the official or popular levels of society. It has been demonstrated, for example, by the rush of proclamations by Palestinian leaders, including organizations that have been labeled “opposition,” such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, and the Demo-cratic Front, to say with resounding unity: “No to terrorism.” Ironically, the disgrace of these tragic events is that a unique opportunity is slipping away for the government of Israel, which has instead been agitating against Arabs and Muslims, Palestinians in particular.

It must be said that whenever we strongly oppose—or rather, reject—the initiatives of American foreign policy toward the Arab world and its issues, this does not mean that we endorse terrorism. Truly, we endure a kind of terrorism nearly every moment at the hands of the Israeli government and its occupation forces.

As for the events in the United States, these difficult and critical moments should enable the American people to unite in a condemnation of the terrorism that befell them, without having these feelings used to justify the various foreign policy positions of their government or without falling into the pitfall of what could be called “malicious rage.” In this time of recovery for the American people, during which they have rightfully become enraged, they should not direct these feelings toward the Arab world and its profound human issues, as they are not keenly aware of the situation.

And whatever political solutions may be enacted to recover from the events of Sept. 11, the American government should be appealed to for restraint and prevention of sentiments that carry people away in a quest for easy solutions or easy goals. This includes viewing Arabs and Muslims in general as culpable.

We don’t think it far-fetched that there are domestic American perpetrators who have cooperated and shared in planning these acts of destruction and suicide planes. We await the results of the ongoing investigation to reveal everything and hope that Americans will be fortified and recover from the horror and shock of these events.

And perhaps this will be a good opportunity to review American foreign policy and to discover the causes of rising enmity toward these policies in different parts of the world, and even within the heartland of America. As we know, there are many groups in American society that endure prejudice and oppression; they may have participated in these terrorist acts because of their circumstances.

Finally, we must comment on the American media, which rushed to accuse organizations as well as Arab and Islamic nations and seem always certain of our involvement without waiting for a fair and impartial outcome of events. This does not serve higher American interests or American relations with the Arab and Islamic world.

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