MEDIA: Al Jazeera endorses beheadings
Youssef M. Ibrahim

Feysal Al Qassem, the infamous anchorman of Al Jazeera`s television show `Counter Direction,` (or Alti jah Al Muaakess), took a debate on savagery to the limit last week.

Qassem hosted an Egyptian guest who for more than an hour was allowed to advocate, with sickening insistence, the beheading of hostages in Iraq as a legitimate act of resistance to what he called `these American dogs,` regardless of whether the captives – who are of many different nationalities – are military personnel, civilians, aid workers, or spies. They are all mercenaries, the Egyptian man screamed, as Qassem cheered him on.

Truly, he who has no shame is not afraid. Arabism and Islam have nothing to do with such people.

Where does Al Jazeera, and Qassem, think it is taking their Arabic-speaking viewers – young and old – when they broadcast a talk show tantamount to issuing a fatwa, or edict, to murder in the name of Islam and God or Arab nationalism?

Do Qassem and his network appreciate how much damage they are doing to the religion of 1.2 billion Muslims, in addition to polluting the minds of many who watched him dish out this garbage?

Qassem – whose program is already known as vile, loud, and messy – descended further into ignominious behavior.

As the host of this unbelievable conversation, Qassem indulged a so-called political commentator arguing that severing heads is okay in the name of resistance to American occupation and – more important – to teach the Americans “a lesson.”

How about what this teaches Arab children? What will they retain when they hear gratuitous invitations to kill, slash, hate, demean, and ostracize ‘the other,’ including innocent journalists, aid workers, and United Nations officials, men and women who came to help the Arabs of Iraq?

On Qassem`s television show, the guest representing the opposing view, an Iraqi who argued hopelessly that such savagery is inhuman, was at a loss for words. Who would not be?

There is a point at which freedom of expression stops and advocating irresponsible bloody savagery begins. Clearly, Al Jazeera and Qassem have no idea where that point is. Sponsors, mainly the government of Qatar, should pull the plug on him and then apologize to Arabs, Muslims, and the whole civilized world for this smear.

Like it or not, Al Jazeera has a huge following of Arabic-speaking people. This is a public trust. If a satellite channel claims to speak in the name of Arabs, its bosses and sponsors must make sure it does not spit where it eats.

Al Jazeera has also given prime time to the rabid Egyptian so-called religious leader Youssef Al Qaradawi, who issued an edict allowing the killing of Americans in Iraq and wife-beating. The other day ‘Al Itihad,’ the Emirates Arabic daily newspaper, to its credit, denounced him as an `ignorant man` misleading Muslims. Abdel Rahman Al Rashed, the manager of the competing Arabic network Al Arabiya, also to his credit, describes Qaradawi as polluting minds and shaming Muslims.

It is now up to the Qatari government to stop these charades.

Al Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, has condemned as a crime the kidnappings and beheadings of anyone.

What`s worse is that in electronic voting on the issue, a huge majority of Al Jazeera`s viewers encouraged decapitation, with less than 10 percent voting against. The true calamity is that most of those who voted in favor were Arabs and Muslims living in the West with free access to the internet, enjoying the full freedom of Western democracies.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for the ‘New York Times’ and energy editor of the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group.