Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How London's Arab Papers Reported the 'Heinous' Attack on USA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How London's Arab Papers Reported the 'Heinous' Attack on USA

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID ROWAN

The capital's many Islamic journalists were quick to offer condolences over the twin towers atrocity - but now they're asking questions, says David Rowan

LONDON has long been the world's capital for Arabic media, though its heyday may be ending. Today, in Acton or Ealing, between 800 and 1,000 journalists interpret the world for papers such as Al Hayat and satellite broadcasters including MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Company).

This week, of course, there's been just one story.

In all the London-based papers - six daily broadsheets, and four magazines the tone has been remarkably consistent. However unpopular US foreign policy in the Middle East, you will search in vain for attempts to justify the terrorists' acts. The leader in last Wednesday's Al-Arab, signed by the editor-in-chief, Haj Ahmed El-Houni, is typical of the sympathetic line.

"What took place was a heinous crime, an appalling piracy and terrorism," he wrote. "We pray to God to expose those brutes who did not consider the consequences."

The papers are full of expressions of regret that so many have died, and columnists cautiously accept Washington's right to a "civilised" response.

They do, however, suggest that America should itself reflect. "Such acts do not serve any cause, no matter how just," wrote Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which frequently reflects Palestinian and Iraqi

viewpoints. "But we call upon American citizens to ask, why among all the embassies, buildings and defence establishments of the Western powers, it is theirs that are targeted."

In the Hammersmith offices of Al Hayat, a leading Saudiowned newspaper, the mood has similarly been one of measured reflection. "We've reported the great deal of condemnation coming from the Arab world, and are now asking questions," explained Abrahim Khayat, a senior reporter. "We're reminding the US that we share their sorrow. But we're also reminding the US government - not Americans themselves - that it has never shared our sorrow about the Arabs' treatment in the Middle East." Al Hayat is also warning of the backlash that could follow a brutal American response.

The paper has experience of terrorism: in January 1997, two letter bombs exploded in the London office. …

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