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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Arab journalist Ibrahim Khayat
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Leaders in the Arab world have condemned the terrorist attacks in the United States but there has been a more mixed reaction among ordinary people in the region.

In some Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, where US policy is seen as unfairly supportive of Israel, there were scenes of celebration.

Ibrahim Khayat, senior reporter from the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat says these pictures of a minority of Palestinians were misleading and overused by the media.

He points out that many Arabs and Muslims will have died in the US attack and that many more wholeheartedly reject this kind of terrorism.

How has the Arab world responded to these atrocities? What about Arabs and Muslims living in the US? What can be done to ease their fears of revenge attacks?


Transcript:


Newshost:

The first e-mail is from Toronto, Canada: Is Islamic fundamentalism a threat to secular western style democracy?


Ibrahim Khayat:

It is not supposed to be so. Islam divides the world into three areas: the land of Islam, the land of armistice - where you have peace with people, and the land of war. Because there is no state that is calling itself an Islamic state - nobody can pretend that he is fighting to create another Islamic society. So everywhere we have a peaceful relationship with the rest of the world as Moslems talking about them. We have some groups which are extremists.


Newshost:

That was the next point of this e-mail. The questioner asks: Where do Islamic fundamentalists and their political organisations, such as Islamic Jihad, get the financing, moral and political from?


Ibrahim Khayat:

The main provider of finance is Bin Laden himself. He is a millionaire.


Newshost:

So he is the man?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Yes, 200 million dollars at least. I have seen today there was a wire talking about in Tokyo the authorities investigating now the fact that he might have some shares on the stock market there.


Newshost:

So when we are pinpointing him, if he was eliminated would this whole network fall apart? Would we be safe from the sort of terror we have seen?


Ibrahim Khayat:

It is difficult to pretend that extremism will die with one person. I believe the idea is that if we deal with the problem from its source, not the symptoms. Why do these people think they have to be aggressive? It could be cultural the way we can dialogue - we can try to convince them - it could be at some stage using different means to convince them.


Newshost:

So in getting rid of an individual, we have to get rid of a concept or an idea?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Yes. He is a symptom - a second root of the problem. The deep roots are somewhere else.


Newshost:

Sarah Charlesworth, Nottingham, UK asks: I think all efforts should be and have to be towards building a just and peaceful world. We never see the full picture or anything near the full picture in the media. Do you think that the media is trying to steer people towards wanting revenge?


Ibrahim Khayat:

The media have to sell - they are commercial entities most of them - the BBC is not. But mainly the other media, most of the time, they have to say because the readership or the viewers want this then we have to follow suite. A lot of media as well are owned by groups of lobbies or interests and these people have their agenda as well. But nowadays, being emotional - this sells, it is like being sensationalist.


Newshost:

Is your newspaper reporting it the same as we are reporting it?


Ibrahim Khayat:

No.


Newshost:

What is the difference?


Ibrahim Khayat:

The difference is that we are trying at least to explain it - our readership don't buy the newspaper because it is sensational.


Newshost:

In a nutshell what would be the key difference between the way you are reporting this story and the way we are reporting it.


Ibrahim Khayat:

If there are big commercial entities then we cannot compare ourselves with them - we probably have a few hundred thousand issues every day where some others have millions and they have to keep up with the market demands etc. and then they have to increase things especially to benefit from such an opportunity to sell. We feel that because the Arabs are targeted - everybody is saying - Bin Laden, he is Arab, is he Saudi - his mother could be Palestinian - everybody is trying to concoct this story - given the collective imagination is influenced not only by today but by the stereotyping before.


Newshost:

Maria, Tampa, USA asks: I know that all Arabs can't be bad however, how are Americans supposed to feel when the ignorant, bitter, envious people in Iraq say that Americans deserved this and when we see Arab children on television celebrating our grief thus supporting terrorism?


Ibrahim Khayat:

I would say that the celebrating happened in the first few hours, it didn't happen after that. There are two things people should understand that in the Arab world or in the Third World there are two things when we talk about the United States: you have America and you have the Americans. The Americans are the people and America is the administration. This administration has a foreign policy that sells weapons that are killing people.


Newshost:

Peter, Nairobi, Kenya asks: Why do the Americans suspect Osama Bin Laden?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Because he is a terrorist and he is an evil person. He could be responsible for this crime now - probably he is not. But there are two things: if he is responsible then the administration is going to follow him and prosecute him - but even without this, he has to be prosecuted because he is an evil man. He has been attacking and he has been declaring many times that the American civilians are a normal target. You cannot target civilians like this to defend any cause in the world.


Newshost:

His network is enormous.


Ibrahim Khayat:

From what you could have read or seen from what has been published, he doesn't put people in his confidence to tell them how many. Some estimates say 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 - you can never tell - they are just estimates. It is like sometimes you see if you want to target somebody you make him big then it will be easier after that to go after him to say he is a big threat.


Newshost:

Would he have given the order saying - hit the World Trade Center?


Ibrahim Khayat:

He did it before in 1993.


Newshost:

Would he have sent out a general order saying let's do a very big thing against America and just let his commanders get on with it? Or would it be his imagination that dictated what happened?


Ibrahim Khayat:

He is a terrorist - he might have done it. I am not sure. He is an evil man with this tragedy or without it - let's be clear about it. But the idea is everybody is innocent - Arabs, Muslims, fundamentalists - whoever they are - until proven guilty. We cannot condemn people only because we are emotional - especially the media - they are going for an easy ride. They have to find stories - he is ready, he has been doing so many idiocies all the time this Bin Laden and so many crimes and then they put everything on his account. Through him without making the difference - not talking about that this guy is not representing the Islamic world or the Arabic world - the journalists and media people have to be extremely careful when they are portraying this person not to condemn through him Islam or the Arab people.


Newshost:

Robert from New York asks: The countries, Arabic or otherwise, who support these murderers must be punished. True followers of Islam know that Allah does not urge his people to be violence against innocents. Is that a correct statement?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Yes. To be violent towards anybody - innocents - Islam is to preach peace. But the idea is that Arabic countries are supporting Bin Laden. I don't know if he has more information than the CIA but the only country which is welcoming Bin Laden is Afghanistan. He is banned from the Arab world - all his guys that have been caught in the Arab world, they have been put in jail and some of them have been sent to the United States to be put in jail.


Newshost:

So you feel the noose will close around him?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Four years ago Mr Mubarak, the Egyptian president, called for a world summit on terrorism - Mr Clinton was there. The Arab world is suffering from terrorism - from Bin Laden. If there is a British person who has committed crimes here or there it doesn't mean that all the British are bad people.


Newshost:

Alistair from Rochester, USA asks: instead of dwelling on what recognition the Palestinians have received, don't you feel this time could be better spent educating those ignorant to this matter or to the turmoil that is caused this horrid attack i.e. get to the get the grassroots of the problem? In many countries the good that is done or the lessons that should be learnt are overshadowed by the more exciting newscasts. If we spent as much time helping as we did trashing those in power, do you feel these problems or the resolutions of the political conflict we face could be resolved?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Is it about Palestinians or is it about the whole world?


Newshost:

She talking Palestinians at the beginning.


Ibrahim Khayat:

I believe the Palestinians - probably 2,000 guys went to the demonstration - they felt happy for the first hours. But after that in the Palestinian territory they were giving blood to be sent to the victims in New York and nobody is mentioning that. They keep repeating this video shot when they say them being happy. For them it was America not the Americans who were targeted - it was like a military operation for them. But when they saw that there were civilian victims - nobody was feeling any kind of feeling but real sorry for the victims.


Newshost:

How does that relate then to the suicide bombers that are being sent into Israel or have been sent in?


Ibrahim Khayat:

If you have hundreds of villages and they are cut off - all the roads - you have tanks that can shell you in your home while you are asleep during the night, you cannot find food, you cannot find a job, you cannot send your sons to the school and they are killed. There are more than 10,000 people that have been injured - more than 4,000 handicapped for life during this last ten months in the Intifada in the Palestinian territories.


Newshost:

So this is what causes the suicide bombings?


Ibrahim Khayat:

These people are frustrated and in the meantime you are fighting the fifth army in the world which is the Israeli army. The Palestinians are in the own land and they are fighting for their freedom. If some extremists will go and kill civilians wherever this happens they are wrong. But you cannot deal with it only saying these are extremists - what about the army - the fifth army in the world that has more than 300 nuclear bombs which is the Israeli army - it is financed at 5 billion dollars a year.


Newshost:

Jonathan Wales in the UK asks: Would it be possible for a Muslim coalition alone to combat these terrorists with international aid and backing?


Ibrahim Khayat:

They asked for it for many years. There is a big collaboration - this is something nobody is mentioning. There have been so many meetings between countries in the Middle East - the Arab Islamic countries - even Iran. They asked the West to do it - even the terrorism act that has been voted in by the Government a few months ago in the UK.


Newshost:

The question is specifically, could a Muslim coalition without the West being militarily involved, do it themselves with the West staying back? Have they got the political will to do it?


Ibrahim Khayat:

I would put it in a different way. They have the political will to do it. But I think any international coalition can help to do it with Muslim backing.


Newshost:

With Muslim leadership?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Yes definitely - they will help. Because they are suffering from the same disease as the West with this terrorism. It became so obvious in New York a few days ago - we saw how horrible it was. But if we see it from the Arab world - they have been killing so many people, it is not only one day or two. These people - Bin Laden - has been trained by the CIA, has been trained by the Americans. All the Afghans - the Muhajadin in the 1980s - these are the CIA born children from that period. Once they finished with the Soviets with all the training and equipment and knowledge they have got - they came back to the Muslim countries and they starting killing and fighting - what you have seen in Algeria - all these massacres.


Newshost:

Is the Ten Commandments in the Koran?


Ibrahim Khayat:

Even more.


Newshost:

Give us an example.


Ibrahim Khayat:

You have so many verses in the Koran - hundreds of verses - on how to protect, how to recognise and how to organise the social life in a legal way - something you cannot find in the Bible. It is more sophisticated when it comes to organising the social life and establish justice - social justice.


Newshost:

There is statement from Aron in India saying war should take place.


Ibrahim Khayat:

Well it is a matter of choice. I hope they will manage to get the people who are behind these attacks whoever they are. But the only problem is if you have victims in the West, you have other victims in the East - nobody has been looking at them. They are trying to establish by analogy the Arabs or Muslims as being similar in a way or another to these terrorists who have committed this attack. If it is assumed now that Bin Laden is behind it - even if Bin Laden is behind it or not he is an evil man and has to be prosecuted. But when it comes to New York - I hope we will know who is behind it and they can get them and put them in jail.

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