Arab media coverage of Catholic leader's death infuriates Islamists
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Monday, April 04, 2005
DUBAI: The Arab world's leading satellite television channels have been giving unprecedented coverage of the death throes of Pope John Paul II, provoking anger from Islamic extremists.
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, famed for screening "exclusive" videotapes from Islamic militants including Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was among the first to announce the pope's death. On Sunday it continued providing widespread coverage of his life and death, as did Dubai-based Al-Arabiya.
Both Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya transmitted live from the Vatican over the past few days, with blow-by-blow accounts from their correspondents at the Vatican, in Rome and at holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The two stations, along with many others throughout the Arab world, aired several documentaries about John Paul II and his various appeals for peace and dialogue between all faiths and civilizations.
They also highlighted images of the pope during his historic visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel in March 2000 when he was warmly welcomed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Dheishe, near Jesus's traditional birthplace of Bethlehem in the West Bank.
Arabs throughout the region assiduously followed the pope's numerous initiatives, including his unrealized desire to go to Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to see how Iraqis suffered under international sanctions.
But radical Islamists, who advocate the expulsion of non-Muslims from Islamic countries, have been using Islamist Web sites to vent their anger at Arab television stations for according the pope such importance.
One such user lashed out at Al-Jazeera, saying viewers were "annoyed" with extensive reports eulogizing the pope, who the user described as an "old tyrant."
"What is mortifying is that this hooligan channel pretends [to defend] Islam," added the user, who wrote under the name Muhib al-Salihine on the Islamic News Network, a site often used by Islamist militants operating in Iraq.
"What is more humiliating - I think that it was Al-Arabiya channel - is that the imam of a mosque ... praised the memory [of the pope]," said Seri Eddine le Libyen on the same site.
"I have started to hate Al-Jazeera for the multiplicity of information on the grieving" for the pope, said another user.
In Lebanon, the Al-Manar satellite television of the Shiite group Hizbullah, interrupted its programs after the announcement of the pope's death to broadcast live from the Vatican.
Four other private Lebanese stations and the public Tele-Liban did the same.
In Iraq, the public television station Iraqiya also interrupted programming on Saturday night to announce the pope's death. - AFP
These people calling the pope a tyrant is quite comical, they should try that line in a stand up routine sometime because I could have sworn their own "darlings" Bin Laden and the rest of the gang could fit that description. This flies in the face of their propaganda about the West and Christianity. In their minds, how could the Pope be portrayed as a great man when he was an infidel? Anyway, I thought Catholic releif services was big in 3rd world countries, isn't this like biting the hand that feeds you?