(Un)Civil War of Words: Media and Politics in the Arab World (Praeger Security International)

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In the framework of a plural democracy, two related concepts need to be defined: the plural society and the consociational government. These concepts will be first defined; then, the Lebanese case will be fitted into these definitions. Pluralism in democratic political theory is generally used to describe societies composed of different groups with competing interests. Divisions could be societal as well as structural, as in the structure of the government, where decision making is decentralized. Held points out that, it is "the existence of diverse competitive interests [which provides] the basis of democratic equilibrium and the favorable development of public policy.

This question necessitates a distinction between the pluralistic society and the plural society. In a pluralistic society, "overlapping group memberships" and "cross-cutting" cleavages severely limit the ability of groups to maximize their interests at the expense of others and cause instability. These propositions advanced by theorists such as Arthur Bentley, David Truman, and Seymour Martin Lipset, state that cross-pressures resulting from memberships in different groups with dissimilar interests produce moderate attitudes. Smith, who makes the distinction between the plural and the pluralistic society, maintains that, although 27 Paul H.

Such scholars, including Robert Dahl and David Truman were influenced by the Madisonian heritage in American democratic theory and utilitarian concepts of the competitive pursuit of interest satisfaction. Knopf, Knopf, ; Arthur F. A good example would be Anglo-American political systems, which Gabriel Almond describes as "characterized by a homogeneous, secular political culture… There is a sharing of political ends and means. The great majority of the actors in the political system accept as the ultimate goals of the political system some combination of the values of freedom, mass welfare, and security.

There are groups which stress one value at the expense of the others; there are times when one value is stressed by all groups; but by and large the tendency is for all these values to be shared, and for no one of them to be completely repressed. For example, one of the models that Christian et al. In such a democracy, the media are often segmented and partisan, with each group having their own media outlet for mobilization, advocacy and recruitment. In Hallin and Mancini's words, "social divisions [in the United States] have not been expressed in distinct political ideologies or political party systems organized around 31 Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth A.

The American political party system is organized around two catchall, centrist parties, both committed to a liberal political culture that is essentially taken for granted. Furnivall describes it, lacks "a common social demand. According to Leo Kuper, the plural society refers to "the many new states that achieved independence after World War II and now seek to transform from state to nation the medley of peoples inherited in arbitrary combinations from the colonial powers. Kuper explains that the term generally denotes "societies characterized by certain conditions of cultural diversity and social cleavage Smith, who refined the concept, maintains that plural societies are heterogeneous to the point that the different segments composing them, which have internally homogenous cultural traditions, are incompatible.

While members of these segments mix socially, they are incapable of cultural unity since they have basically contradictory core institutions, such as kinship, religion, education, and other elements of social structure. The first to introduce the concept of the plural society was J.

Furnivall, a British economist and administrator, whose work in Burma and Java in the s led him to develop the concept. His accounts say that people there mixed but did not combine. As he puts it, "Each group holds by its own religion, its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways. As individuals they meet, but only in the marketplace, in buying and selling. There is a plural society, with different sections of the community living side by side, but separately within the same political unit. The plural society is also associated with the concept of the "nonnational state," where more than one society exists within the same political unit, but do not agree on their national entity.

The fact that cleavages are not likely to cross-cut but reinforce one another implies that immobilism, conflict, and civil war— in extreme cases— are likely to result. However, Lijphart maintains that a homogenous political culture is not the only determinant of stability. It may be achieved through a power sharing formula by the leaders of the different segments. This is what he refers to as Consociational Democracy. This political arrangement can be devised to rule such societies to prevent conflict without necessarily resulting in social integration.

Hans Daadler explains that "patterns of inter-elite accommodation, therefore, form an independent variable that may impede and reverse the centrifugal forces at the level of the masses. Also, sub-groups must be allowed a degree of cultural autonomy to arrange their own affairs. There should also be mutual vetoes on vital matters that are of high importance to the subgroups. It was also considered by some to be non-democratic, not only because it limits rule to an elite of leaders, but also because it might exacerbate rather than ameliorates inter-communal tensions by institutionalizing ethnic differences.

However, the study does not examine whether consociationalism is appropriate or inappropriate for Lebanon. It is only concerned with studying the media within their present plural and consociational setting. Daadler, "The Consociational Democracy Theme," First, the segments dividing the society and their sizes must be exactly identifiable: the 18 Lebanese sects divided between Christians and Muslims are identifiable and their sizes, despite the absence of an updated census, known.

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Moreover, each geographic region in Lebanon has a predominance of one or more sects. Second, there should be coincidence between "segmental boundaries and the boundaries between the political, social, and economic organizations:" social and cultural boundaries among the sects, for example, are evident in personal status laws, where sects—not the state— regulate personal status issues, like marriage and divorce, and where religious marriage takes precedence over civil marriage. This makes inter-sectarian marriages rare and complicated.

Other social boundaries are evident in the education system, where the majority of private schools are run by religious institutions attended by students of the same religion or sect. Third, since party and segmental loyalties should coincide, "there should be little or no change in the voting support of the different parties from election to election:"48 the Lebanese sects are known to affiliate with political parties with diverging agendas and to owe loyalty to sectarian leaders, exhibiting a patron-client relationship. Followers of sect leaders regularly vote for the same leaders from election to election.

In almost every publication on Lebanon, the Lebanese society, with its predominantly Maronite, Shiite, and Sunni communities,49 is described as "plural" in which "religious sects have had rather separate histories and different outside affiliations in the past and present;"50 a society characterized by "overlapping sectarian, ideological, economic, regional, and cultural 48 Arend Lijphart, "Consociational Theory: Problems and Prospects: A Reply," Comparative Politics 13, no. The three sects mentioned are the largest ones. More details will be provided in chapter 2.

Aspects of the plural society manifest themselves through what is known in the Lebanese sociological dictionary as "social sectarianism" or "confessional pluralism. Fawaz argues that, "Social sectarianism in Lebanon is instrumental in steering the socialization process, in general, and the political process, in particular, in the direction of social fragmentation.

Many Lebanese seem to have a sixth sense for [guessing] others' sects based on dress, hometown, and other factors. The "mosaic" nature of the Lebanese society, as Barakat explains, is characterized by a lack of consensus on the fundamentals. Particularly, the Christians and Muslims of Lebanon do not agree on their national identity: whether Lebanon is actually Lebanese or Arab. Even during post-war periods of relative stability, sectarian and political tensions have persisted, not only between Christian and Muslims, but also among sects within these two communities.

In Khalaf's words, "The political blocs and fronts are so absorbed with parochial and personalistic rivalries that they fail to serve the larger national purpose of mobilizing the population for the broader aims of society. One recent example concerns legalizing civil marriage in Lebanon. This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more. In-depth analysis delivered weekly - Subscribe to our newsletter, featuring our editors' top picks from the past week. Sign in Subscribe. Subscribe Login Sign up.

Foreign Policy. As we have seen in the case of Dream TV, the government does not always resort to direct censorship. Dissent can backfire against the business interests of media entrepreneurs, if not against their channels directly. Additionally, the close association between these business elites and government makes state control prevalent in the private Egyptian media sector. Ever since the Nasserist period, civil society institutions such as the press, radio, and television have had close associations with the regime, and, arguably, have acted as its instruments in numerous cases.

Print Media Government regulation of the print media follows a pattern similar to that of television. In the case of the print media, the government uses similar means. These cannot be understood outside the political context of press—government relations. As I argued in the introduction, the Arab media is inherently political. They are not civil society institutions that balance against regime power, the media are an extension of the regime.

Therefore, this section will be devoted to describing a political context that spanned the history of three regimes: those of Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. On the eve of the revolution there were six major newspapers in Egypt. Some of these papers continued and others were shut down for political reasons.

They included Al-Ahram, established in and owned by Salim and Bishara Taqla Lebanese and Al-Muqatam, an evening newspaper established in and shut down in Two other newspapers were publishing on the eve of the revolution, Al-Akhbar —present , owned by Mustapha and Ali Amin, and Al-Zaman, established in and closed in , owned by another non-Egyptian, Edgar Jallad. Out of these six major papers only two remain in operation today, Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar. The Press Law of entrusted the main government institution, the National Union—and later Arab Socialist Union ASU —with licensing regulation and the appointment of newspaper editors and head administrators of their publishing houses.

During the Nasser years, the state was not only creating laws to hamper the freedom of the press, it also resorted to crude means of censorship. A new institution, the Ministry of Information, was created to ensure government control of the press through systematic censorship. That office would contact the papers daily to enquire about the main stories and give them instructions concerning which were to be headlined and which played down. In , Sadat announced that three manabir32 quasi-political parties would be permitted.

Each of the three manabir began operating through its own newspaper: the centrist Misr, the rightist Al-Ahrar, and the leftist Al-Ahaly. Misr was virtually another mouthpiece for the government and Al-Ahrar offered little criticism. The only critical voice was the leftist Al-Ahaly, which came under government fire from day one.

Today the government enjoys a host of institutional structures and legal privileges that allows it to block unfavorable speech and to punish its critics. Institutional Instruments of Control Two major institutions are entrusted with the issues of ownership and regulation of Egyptian media.

The current system of press ownership and regulation was established in Apart from owning the national press, the Shura Council manages the press by appointing the chairmen of the 32 Un Civil War of Words board and the editors-in-chief of the national newspapers. The Shura Council owns the national press, which consists of the newspapers and magazines owned by and published by government-owned publishing houses. Article 8 of this law gives the power to form or dissolve this body to the president of the republic. The Higher Press Council is the government body responsible for licensing and regulating the press in Egypt.

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No one may publish a newspaper without obtaining a license from the Higher Press Council. In practice, however, it is rare that someone can publish a paper under this law. Partly this is due to the enormous financial requirements imposed by Law An individual——anyone other than parties, trade unions, and syndicates——must first form a stock company and must possess capital of , Egyptian pounds to publish a daily paper, or , Egyptian pounds to publish a weekly.

No single family member may possess more than Egyptian pounds worth of the capital value. Moreover, it can be difficult to find a printer, as a lot of printers are afraid to publish irregular publications. The Higher Press Council is the government body that regulates the press in Egypt. However, licensed political parties are permitted to publish a newspaper without meeting these capital requirements. Obtaining a political party license, then, is an important prerequisite for publishing a newspaper. Political parties receive their licenses from the Political Parties Committee, a committee of cabinet officials chaired, like the Higher Press Council, by the president of the Shura Council.

Since its inception in , the Political Parties Committee has approved only three out of sixty-six applications for party licensing. National Press on the Eve of the Satellite Era 33 Furthermore, according to the rules set forth by the Higher Press Council, no journalist is permitted to practice journalism without a license from the council. The Supreme Press Council also assigns newsprint to newspapers, sets prices, determines the amount of advertising, and grants permission for journalists to work for non-Egyptian media or overseas. This is in addition to powers supposed to be in the hands of the publishing houses themselves.

In reality, however, the state remains the main player, dictating the general guidelines for newspapers through its control over the Shura Council, and by default the Higher Press Council, not to mention the fact that all editors-in-chiefs of newspapers and magazines are essentially presidential appointees who act as PRs for the office of the president. Legal Instruments Egyptian law contains very weak guarantees of freedom of expression.


(Un)Civil War of Words

Under the continuing state of emergency, the government maintains broad powers of censorship. Even the constitution appears not to provide for complete freedom for the press. This becomes obvious if one examines the guarantees and limitations on press freedom in Article 48 of the Egyptian Constitution: Freedom of the press and of printing, publishing and the information media is guaranteed. Administrative censorship, cautioning, suspension or prohibition of the publication of newspapers is not permissible.

By way of exception, during a state of emergency or a time of war a limited censorship may be imposed on the newspapers, publications, and the information media in matters related to public safety or in the interests of national security, as provided by law. Although many Egyptians are proud of the constitutional provisions that guarantee limited press freedom, the fact that Egypt has been ruled by emergency law for nearly fifty years effectively nullifies them.

Emergency law has been in place continuously since , except between May and October The president must ratify any judgment of these courts for it to become final. He therefore exercises a veto over any state security court decision. He may also order a retrial, even if the defendant was acquitted in the first trial. Egyptian lawyers consider the emergency law as the greatest obstacle to freedom of the press and expression in general. Speaking of freedom or liberty of any sort is a mockery. A court may seize an offending publications or dissolve any association found to violate these provisions.

Article prohibit journalists from insulting the president. This kind of crime could lead to the arrest of a journalist and the closure of the newspaper. The Penal Code authorizes the confiscation of written material if it is used to commit or incite certain crimes such as obscenity or intention to overthrow the government. However, the confiscation must follow due process. If the police suspect that such a crime has been committed through the press, they may seize the offending publication and take it to the niyaba public prosecution , who makes the decision to confiscate.

The historical evolution of state—media relations in Egypt explains the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that governs media outlets throughout the Arab world. In Egypt, government control over media outlets relaxes and tightens according to the domestic political climate. This is characteristic of the semi-authoritarian nature of most Arab regimes. Today, with U. Nonetheless, the relaxation of the rules on the surface does not change the underlying realities that continue to govern the Arab press.

People who work for nongovernmental media function in an atmosphere of fear that makes them practice self-censorship. Although the state at times may choose not to employ harsh punishments against dissident journalists, the long history of intimidation has created enough fear that the exercise of self-censorship has become well-established. Below are some examples of how the Egyptian government uses repressive means to silence its opponents in the media arena. The most recent case was that of Abdul Halim Qandil, editor-in-chief of a newspaper, and a spokesman for the Kifaya movement.

It is not enough to take down pictures of Gamal Mubarak from Al-Tahrir square, what is needed is to block his appearances in newspapers and television. I answered that it is part of my job as a journalist to inform the public.

(Un)Civil War of Words: Media and Politics in the Arab World

By the end of the meeting, I was left with the impression that I could be recalled at any time and that next time they would not limit the investigation to this issue but they would bring up my whole file and review my whole career as a journalist. The ethno-religious polarization and protests that the story provoked caused the government to employ its press regulation instruments to stop the resulting political turbulence.

Editor-in-chief of Al-Ahrar, Salah Qabadaya, and four other journalists from the paper were sentenced to six months in jail on grounds of slandering the chair of the governmentowned Egypt Air company. By the late s, the government was able to consolidate an environment of fear inside the media arena. This was the product of over ten years of confrontation with dissenting journalists.

For example, two days after I was interrogated, Al-Ahram published the same news item. Throughout the rest of this book we find that variations on the Egyptian model have been employed by other states and political actors to exert control over their own media outlets. The ambiguity of the boundaries of media control by the Egyptian state is the same type of ambiguity employed by the owners of pan-Arab satellite channels to distance themselves from clear censorship mechanisms in exerting control over their own media outlets.

The difference, however, is that questions of ownership and control in the Egyptian context are open secrets, while the same questions seem unresolved in the case of pan-Arab satellite media like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. The Egyptian model may help us to understand how other states have been able to utilize its methods and remold some of their features to fit their own interests and needs. In Qatar, home to Al-Jazeera, and Saudi Arabia, the owner of Al-Arabiya, government—media relations, ownership, laws, and methods of control are not much different from those in Egypt.

Reading Egyptian laws and restrictions, one would imagine that government discourse would dominate society and that the views of government are hegemonic. The reality is that the discourse of politics in Egypt is fragmented and if one wants to select a dominant discourse for the last 20 years, it would be that of the Islamists.

The main reason for this is that control of modern media does not mean control of discourse. In a divided society like Egypt part pre-modern and part modern trusted communication happens in traditional institutions like the mosque or the souq. Face-to-face communication is more trusted than abstract communication from the newspapers, radio, or television.

Radio and television lie on behalf of the ruling regime. A glaring example of this was in June when Radio Sawt Al-Arab told the Egyptians that their army was shooting down Israeli planes like flies and that the Israelis were defeated. A few days later, the Egyptians learned that their own army had been defeated. They did not know this just from the BBC or foreign media; they were told this by the returning soldiers face-to-face communication. Ali Gomaa. Anyone who watches Egyptian television would notice the high number of religious talk shows and television series.

Historical television series dramatizing the life of the Prophet and his companions are major forms of entertainment. Thus, at the level of producers, writers, and content, Islamic discourse has been dominant. Media in the Arab world are part and parcel of politics. Television, radio, and the newspapers are sites of conflict between governments and their opponents at home. However, when it comes to foreign policy, the media is an extension of the regime. Reporters in Egypt do not question the policy of the regime.

Instead, they become its advocates. It was also obvious in Saudi media attacks on Nasser. Sawt Al-Arab was the most transparent example of media performing this function. Do the media laws in Saudi Arabia and Qatar follow the Egyptian example?

(Un)Civil War of Words

Have the Islamists hijacked the media in the Gulf States in the same way the Islamists of Egypt penetrated the Egyptian media? These are the questions that the following chapters will try to answer. West conflict, which one might infer from the level of apparent anti-Americanism in Arab media programming. More importantly, it is driven by intra-regional conflicts, including rivalries between state actors, such as Egypt vs.

Saudi Arabia, and more recently Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar and Syria vs. Lebanon, or even Morocco vs. It is also susceptible to influence by political conflict within the state, as the case of Lebanon demonstrates in Chapter 3. This chapter presents an example of such rivalries, namely that between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which pronounces itself in a less-than-subtle battle between the Qatari-government-owned Al-Jazeera and Saudi-sponsored media like Al-Arabiya.

Media institutions are natural products of the societies in which they take form. When media institutions, laws, and practices do not reflect the societies in which they are produced, they appear like children that do not resemble their parents; doubts about their legitimacy abound. If we look at the Arab world, we find authoritarian regimes like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, semi-authoritarian regimes like Egypt and Kuwait, semi-democratic but feudal regimes like Lebanon, and outright totalitarian regimes such as Syria.

Is it possible or even justifiable to call Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera free and independent news channels? Are these channels legitimate expressions of their own societies? These are the questions that I try to answer in this chapter. My analysis is based on watching Al-Jazeera since its inception in , and visiting its headquarters in Doha in I have interviewed many of the journalists who work there.

I will also discuss the financial relationship between the two channels and the political regimes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya do not make commercial sense. They are losing enterprises. This being so, why do Saudi Arabia and Qatar spend all this money on them? Cleary, we cannot hope to understand these channels without understanding the motives of the states and regimes that finance them.

To understand these motives we need to place them in the context of the historical evolution of the Arab media as instruments of power for Arab governments. From Sawt Al-Arab to Al-Jazeera to Star Wars As newly independent Arab states in the s and s tried to define themselves in the postcolonial era, the main role of their media became the consolidation of national identity, mobilizing people in support of the new regimes, and fashioning their own brands of Arab nationalism. The postcolonial media were used to legitimize the rule of the new indigenous regimes.

The definition of Arab identity and Arab nationalism was essentially a battlefield between various centers of power. For example, Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted an Arab identity fashioned after his own revolution and dominated by Egypt. Finally, the Gulf monarchies led by Saudi Arabia wanted to define Arab identity with an Islamic color. This battle over the definition of Arab identity was in a sense a manifestation of an Arab Cold War that was brewing underneath the surface. From the very beginning media were transnational by nature: whatever the differences in spoken Arabic, a common educated tongue made it easy to spread ideas among elites.

It set the context for the development of media in the Middle East to the present day. At a time Arab Media and Interstate Conflict 41 when illiteracy was common and information was passed on orally, radio was the perfect tool for reaching and influencing the masses. He used the state-owned radio station to promote his policies both domestically and across the region. Sawt Al-Arab is often remembered as an influential weapon that galvanized the Arab masses, arousing Arab nationalist sentiments both in Egypt and throughout the Arab countries.

It marked the real beginning of media politics in the Arab world. First, the regime used it to gain legitimacy among the Egyptian public and to mobilize support for his revolution. He also used it to rally the Arabs in support of his brand of Arab nationalism. The conservative regimes of the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, were often the target of these attacks.

Similarly, the station provoked anti-regime sentiments in Jordan during a power struggle between King Hussein and pro-Nasser elements within his government. Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba also became a target for Sawt Al-Arab when he called on Arabs to accept the division of Palestine into two states in accordance with the UN partition plan. Thus, instead of blaming Nasser for the deteriorating conditions that prevailed in Egypt at that time, media commentators designated the West as the main source of all the ills that had befallen Egyptian society, and by extension Arab society at large.

The station, armed with the cultural products of Egypt, especially the songs of the Arab diva, Umm Kulthum, and the Arab Elvis, Abdul Haleem Hafiz, captured the hearts and minds of Arab youth. It was a fantastic mix of songs, the 42 Un Civil War of Words Quran, and nationalist rhetoric, that represented a serious threat to those who adopted a different worldview from that of Nasser. Israeli armies defeated the Arab armies of four countries in the Six Day War. As Arab armies were experiencing humiliating defeats at the hands of the Israeli army, Sawt Al-Arab continued to report on fictional military victories.

Thus, the remedy proposed was that for the Arabs to thrive and win the battle against their enemies, they had to return to the teachings of God. The media promoted this message: the Israelis won because they were closer to their God. If we are to win, we must emulate them. There was no mention of technological superiority or a better trained army or battle plans. It was all about God. The media of the Arab world at the time promoted symbols of this newly discovered religiosity.

Men were shown on TV dressed in jallabiyas a white Saudi style robe to go to their Friday prayers. These soap opera-like programs narrated the lives of Muslims during the glorious days of Islam.

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They made use of the new atmosphere of piety and the domains of Islam as a symbols of the collectivity. They also had interregional effects. In these shows, the attire approximated to that of the Gulf dress and the Arabic dialect moved away from the previously dominant Cairo dialect and closer to the dialect of the Gulf region, especially that of Saudi Arabia.

We must remember that many workers from all over the Arab world had started to work in the Gulf due to the oil boom. They became familiarized with the habits and customs of the people of the Gulf. These traditional habits and customs were presented as authentically Islamic back home,9 echoing the messages of the historical dramas. Gradually, Islamism started to take hold in most Arab societies. In addition, a mix of Arab nationalism and Islamism came to dominate the airwaves. The Iranian revolution was all about media.

Everything was reported live on TV. The Arabs became more Arab Media and Interstate Conflict 43 enthusiastic about their own brand of Islam when they saw the seat of Islam being moved from the lands of the Arabs to Persian land. Arab Islamism was not, as conventional wisdom has it, supportive of Khomeini. It was instead a response to what was seen as a Persian bid to take away the seat of Islam from its traditional place in Arabia, making Persia the new Islamic center of gravity. The war was still between the traditional regional centers of power: Egypt, Persia, and Arabia.

In the modern-day language of geopolitics, it was a battle for hegemony among Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. On the Arab front, Saudi Arabia asserted its dominance over Egypt, at least in the realm of media and finance. Saudi Arabia, armed with its particular brand of Islam and with oil money, became the center of Arab politics. Islamism as an ideology was further consolidated by the Arab victory over Israel in Islamism as a viable ideology seemed to endure. As a result, throughout the late s and s, petro-dollars dominated the political scene and fashioned a new Arab imagination.

All of these outlets are based in London and are completely or partially owned by members of the Saudi royal family. Governments and ministries of information throughout the Arab world were forced to put giant TV screens in the main squares to assuage their angry publics. Heads of states pleaded with Sheikh Kamel to let them watch the semifinal and final games free of cost.

I was told that Kamel promised President Mubarak that he would give the two final games to Egyptian terrestrial TV free of cost. Of course Kamel would have got something in return. The point 44 Un Civil War of Words here is that Sheikh Saleh Kamel, a Saudi businessman, deals at the level of heads of states because of his media empire.

Sheikh Saleh Kamel is also a proxy for the Saudi ruling elite. His regional influence translates to Saudi regional influence. ART is a group of television and radio channels broadcasting a mix of entertainment, news, and religious shows. He accuses the channel of putting out programming that promotes hatred of non-Muslims. Like most of the other publications and television channels noted above, throughout its 12 years of existence, ART was anything but a profitable venture.

Arabic Forbes reported recently that it was only in that ART was able to balance its books. Hence, an invisible agenda must have guided their costly investment, and as the above discussion illustrates, a glance at the history of media politics in the Arab world suggests that promoting Saudi values, and by default hegemony, was at the top of this agenda. Failing to assert his dominance over the Gulf states through soft power i. Even after the liberation of Kuwait and the imposition of sanctions on Iraq, the invasion and its memory remained a harsh reminder to the small Gulf sheikhdoms of an important reality.

It underscored their vulnerability to the hegemonic ambitions of large regional powers such as Iraq, Iran, and even Saudi Arabia. In their quest for greater security, countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE moved quickly to enhance bilateral defense relations with the United States. However, pure strategic considerations were not the only thing on their minds as they sought to protect themselves against perceived regional threats. Resentment is certainly one of the reactions that this created in the oil-rich Gulf, but, more importantly, this historical episode generated a strong feeling among the ruling elites of the region that something must be done to accommodate if not win the support of Arab public opinion.

This feeling brought about greater investments in satellite media. Such investments were considered to be a way of exerting influence over public opinion, and more specifically, a way of mitigating the wrath of Palestinians and their cause and keeping it away from their own domestic politics. The case of Qatar and its launch of Al-Jazeera illustrates how those security concerns were addressed using satellite media.

The defeat of Saddam Hussein and his eviction from Kuwait in ended the last hope for secular Arab nationalism to dominate the region. Islamism, as an ideology, filled the vacuum. Even Saddam himself took on the image of an Islamist during the war. The defeat of Saddam further consolidated the position of Saudi Arabia in the region in both soft and hard power terms.

Smaller Gulf states felt vulnerable to both Saudi Arabia and Iran and always had the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on their minds. Qatar, in particular, felt it might face a similar invasion like that of Kuwait, but the aggressor this time would be either Iran or Saudi Arabia. The conflict between Iran and Qatar over gas is almost 46 Un Civil War of Words a replica of the conflict between Kuwait and Iraq over oil before the invasion. In the same way that the Iraqis accused Kuwait of draining their oil fields, Iran also accused Qatar of draining its gas fields.

This vulnerability led Qatar to contemplate its security. In the realm of hard power, Qatar looked to the United States as a guarantor of its security against its two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The coup was a source of escalating tension between Qatar and its neighbors in the Gulf during the subsequent years. In the beginning, Saudi and Egyptian newspapers did not support the new regime, claiming it went against Arab values and traditions.

This led to the feeling among the Qatari elite that Saudi Arabia and Egypt were trying to bring the deposed emir back. In , after confrontations between Bedouin on the Qatari—Saudi border, Qatar suspended a border agreement with Saudi Arabia. It was later that same year that Saudi Arabia announced in public its welcoming of the deposed Qatari emir, angering the new regime in Doha even further.

The new regime was vulnerable both militarily and politically. Most of its policies came as a response to these perceived threats on the military, economic, and cultural fronts. The new regime signed bilateral treaties with the United States to guarantee its security in terms of hard power.

On the soft power front, it created a media equivalent of a super-gun under the name of Al-Jazeera to keep Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt on the defensive, or at the very least to respond to attacks appearing in the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian media. The attacks and counterattacks between the Egyptian and Qatari media were vicious. Egypt sent these tapes to Qatar and to Al-Jazeera and threatened to air them in their entirety on an Egyptian satellite channel if Al-Jazeera did not stop its attacks on Egypt.

However, Saudi Arabia remained a thorn in the side of the new Qatari regime. Therefore, it is very difficult to claim that Al-Jazeera is independent. This should not detract from the fact that Al-Jazeera has been known for its willingness to flirt with contentious issues that break longstanding taboos, not to mention its granting of airtime to controversial figures ranging from opposition leaders in Arab countries to Israeli officials. The popularity of Al-Jazeera can be traced to Operation Desert Fox in Iraq in , when, as in the case of the Afghanistan war, Al-Jazeera was the only station covering the event from the scene.

The absence of another all-news channel in the Arab world contributed to the popularity of Al-Jazeera; its only competition was CNN in English. Al-Jazeera has contributed to raising the ceiling of what can and cannot be said on pan-Arab television. However, this does not apply to local television stations inside each country. Yet those who applaud Al-Jazeera for its contribution to free speech fail to mention the extensive blacklist that Al-Jazeera has developed of Arab liberals or independent thinkers who do not bear allegiance to either the Islamist or Arab nationalist causes and who do not toe the official Qatari line.

There is no mention of any crime committed by the Taliban regime. Instead, Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and the Taliban are portrayed as the victims. Although there is a general understanding that Arab heads of state are not to be criticized in the Arab media, Al-Jazeera seems to violate this rule. Such an explanation ignores the political context and the realities that really shape Arab media coverage. Politically Qatar has had to find a counterweight to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Thus it has chosen a special military relationship with the United States to guard against a fate like that of Kuwait in However, Qatar remained culturally a vulnerable state.

Al-Jazeera glorifies Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Bannah; the channel aired a two-part documentary on him in the months of January—February In that interview, Prince Nayef accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being the source of all evil in the region, especially in Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both Wahhabi states, and the Wahhabi official doctrine of Qatar makes it subject to fatwas from Saudi Arabia. To protect itself from Saudi domination in the religious arena, Qatar moved toward adopting elements of popular Islam.

This included embracing Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is an Egyptian and the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he has lived in Qatar for 20 years and has Qatari citizenship. Al-Qaradawi is also the favorite preacher of many members of the radical movements. In fact, in an interview with Al-Jazeera following September 11, he could not bring himself to condemn Bin Laden and his group.

More recently, he was denied entrance to the UAE because of what he preaches. Since , he has served as Peshawar correspondent to many Arab papers. While in Pakistan, he cultivated an impressive network of relations that started with his close associations with Islamist leaders, ranging from Burhanuddin Rabbani to the Taliban. Bin Qina, an Algerian newswoman, joined Al-Jazeera in When she interviewed me in at Al-Jazeera studio in Doha she struck me as a secular woman with Arab nationalist leanings.

One would not expect such a woman to don the veil any time soon. This was big news in the Arab press.

For the past ten years, these stories have made it to the front pages of Arab newspapers because of this trend that developed among celebrity women in the Arab world. Many female movie stars, such as Shams Al-Baroudi, whose profile in the Arab world is close to that of Angelina Jolie in the United States, have decided to wear the hijab and abandon their acting careers.

These include stars such as Shadia, Shahera, and many others. The Islamist takeover of Al-Jazeera was slow, but deliberate.

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Not only did the personnel become Islamists, the content and also the reporting took on an Islamic coloring. Mansour was begging the Arabs to come and defend Fallujah and save its women and children from American barbarism. He went beyond being a reporter to being the jihadist that he was during the Afghan war in the s. Relations between Qatar and Iran have been shaky at times.

For example, in , the Iranian oil minister issued a provocative statement claiming that a third of the natural gas of the North Field was in Iranian waters. More recently, Iranian clerics criticized Qatar for providing the United States with basesupport for its military operations in Iraq. During the invasion of Iraq, Qatar served as headquarters for U. The expansion in U. Hence Qatar, along with its smaller neighbors, was moving toward limiting the role played by Saudi Arabia in the regional security formula, which was becoming less of a U.

Qatar also tied itself to America economically. The country managed to compensate for the fact that it exported almost no oil to the United States by working with American companies such as Exxon Mobil, Occidental, and Pennzoil to develop its natural gas resources. The missing context is that of Saudi—Qatari tension. Bin Laden was first and foremost an enemy of the Saudi state even before he turned his jihad against U.

They should also do so to establish the rule of God on earth. The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen. The underpinning of his message is his break with Saudi Arabia in The fatwas that followed it targeted the Saudi regime.

Al-Qaeda was formed to fight the far enemy as a way of undermining the near enemy. Superficially, it is very surprising that Bin Laden criticizes the American presence in Saudi Arabia, while ignoring American military bases elsewhere in the Gulf region like Qatar, where the U. Central Command was based at the time of the Iraq invasion in