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| September 16, 2004
IRAQ: WHAT'S MORE VILE THAN TAKING HOSTAGES? TAKING FRENCH HOSTAGES
September 16, 2004
IRAQ: WHAT'S MORE VILE THAN TAKING HOSTAGES? TAKING FRENCH HOSTAGES
** Arab outlets: to kidnap journalists over "internal French matter" is "beyond comprehension."
** Euro and Latin writers are irked by selective Muslim condemnation of kidnappings, killings.
** Opposing Iraq war confers no "immunity" from terror on French, others.
** The kidnappers are driven by hatred of Western "values and freedoms."
'The French are the last to deserve this kind of treatment'-- The kidnapping of French journalists in Iraq--ostensibly to block the imposition of a "headscarf ban" in French schools--produced a surge of Arab commentary condemning the hostage-takers. Writers expressed disbelief that the Iraqi "resistance" would target citizens of a nation that espouses "moderate and objective" policies on Iraq and the Arab/Israeli conflict. They railed against a "disgusting blackmail" attempt interfering in "France's internal political affairs." Several columns argued against kidnapping journalists whose "task was to expose American crimes in Iraq." Two Jordanian columnists stood out by calling for "unifying the stand against such operations altogether, whatever the nationality" of the hostages, "even Americans."
'This stand Is hypocritical, racist and immoral'-- European and Latin American observers were troubled by Arab religious and secular leaders' calls to liberate the French journalists, because these appeals weren't accompanied by unequivocal condemnation of "other abductions and other murders" in Iraq. They dubbed the Arab outcry over the French hostages "political opportunism." A German writer noted that "the killing of an Italian journalist did not cause protests in the Arab world." A French columnist wrote that "the religious and political authorities in the Arab and Muslim world...must extend the condemnation to include all hostage situations.... In this case, there cannot be a French exception."
'No Western nation can claim immunity-- European and Canadian commentators used the French hostage drama to illustrate the point that Western democracies can't avoid terrorist attacks by merely employing adroit diplomacy. Jean Daniel stated in Paris' left-of-center Le Nouvel Observateur: "We must not think that Iraq alone...spawned terrorism, radical Islamism and the taking of hostages. This mistake would lead us to underestimate the problems facing us." A conservative Spanish daily concluded, "In the confrontation which the West is waging against Islamic fundamentalism there are no borders or immune countries."
Every attack is aimed at 'values and freedoms' of the West-- Western editorialists depicted the kidnappers' demand for nullification of the "headscarf ban" as symbolizing the "clash between our Western civilization and the barbarism of Islamic terrorist fundamentalism." Italy's centrist Corriere della Sera asserted, "This terrorism knows no values and...legitimizes the massacre of...all those who oppose its plan to control the world's Muslims." French writers identified the "successful integration of France's Muslims" into French society as a prerequisite for preventing a domestic schism along these same lines. They were heartened by the mobilization of French Muslims in condemning the kidnapping of the journalists.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Stephen Heath Thibeault
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 96 reports from 29 countries from August 29 to September 15, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
FRANCE: "France's Exception"
Dominique Moisi noted in right-of-center Les Echos (9/15): "In the past France was the only western power to entertain relations with the more radical elements of the Arab world.... The temptation to use France's positive image in the Arab world was therefore understandable when it came to negotiate for the liberation of the hostages.... Today, more than ever, and for demographic reasons, France needs to maintain good relations with the Muslim world.... France continues to talk with radical Muslim elements, especially if there is a hope of serving the cause of the hostages. But the fundamental question with regard to this strategy is whether it is an effective strategy. Will France's 'difference' pay off? On a strategic level, could it be that France is making a terrible mistake by pursuing, for exclusively national reasons of a demographic nature, the myth of a 'love relationship' with Islam? For a majority of France's western partners, Islam equals a threat. But not for France.... When it comes to dealing with terrorists and Muslim radicals, it appears to me that the best approach is somewhere between the radical American neo-conservative approach and the 'angelic' French approach.... Muslim fundamentalism is a universal threat.... But contrary to what America's neo-cons believe religious fundamentalism cannot be handled the way one handled yesterday's communism. Just as a new Europe cannot exist as a reaction to the Islamic threat, reverting to the mentality of the crusaders to fight against the specter of an 'Arabized' Europe is absurd and dangerous."
"I Would Like to Understand"
Denis Jeambar observed in right-of-center weekly L'Express (9/13): "I would like to understand why after so much fanfare about the French hostages, our FM finally conceded that the situation demanded discretion.... I would like to understand why the situation transformed itself into national self-congratulations about the degree of integration of France's Muslim community.... Why a nation clamoring its national tradition delegated its power to religious authorities.... Why a minister from a secular state spoke so much of prayers and God.... What is God's role in an affair that should essentially be diplomatic and political? I would like to understand why there is this undercurrent that the taking of two French hostages is unfair, considering France's pro-Middle East policy.... Our diplomats are bowing too much before the Muslim world in the Maghreb and the Middle East, but not at all in the Caucasus.... I would like to understand where France is going with so many contradictory signals?"
Claude Imbert wrote in right-of-center weekly Le Point (9/9): "Islamic horror is proliferating.... So how can we avoid having Islam become an obsession? The clash between civilizations is haunting us.... But recent events in France, and the solidarity shown by the Muslim community for the two French hostages...shows that 'fitna,' the war within Islam between the fundamentalists and the reformists, is on. Al-Qaida and Muslim fundamentalism nourish new hopes for Europe, the land of miscreants: to enmesh the political stakes of international terrorism with the Islamic militants who are present in Europe and are coming from Europe's immigrant population.... Madrid, Iraq, the French hostages and the attempt to have a law on the Muslim headscarf revoked in France are all dramatic signals of this imported 'fitna'."
"A Belabored Comparison"
Ivan Rioufol observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/3): "France has in turn become a target of the third world war which started on 9/11 and was declared by an ideology which hopes to impose Islamic order everywhere in the world, starting with Muslim countries. The barbaric methods introduced by al-Qaida threaten Muslim democrats as well as Jews and Christians.. Under the guise of a 'resistance' movement, it is keeping Iraq from advancing on the road to democracy, hoping to see Iraq fall under the law of Sharia.. It is time for the Europeans, whether pro or anti war, to finally open their eyes and stop drawing a parallel, in a belabored comparison, between Bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism, said to be the inspiration for President Bush's policy. There is of course no common measure between the taste for death of the first and the Protestant moralization of the other.. Must we give up the fight against such totalitarianism, which has gone mad after the clumsy American intervention in Iraq? Of course not. Today, the war waged by democracies will be won or lost in Iraq, where France is awaited."
"Diplomatic Tension Between Paris and Baghdad"
Luc de Barochez stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/3): "The French hostage situation has caused new turbulence between Paris and Baghdad.... On the ground, relations are tense.. FM Barnier did not go to Baghdad and the fact that the pro-American authorities on the ground were excluded from France's negotiations are proof of a reciprocal feeling of mistrust.. One might have thought that France and Iraq shared the same interests in this affair.. This is not the case because of the old rancor remaining from France's campaign against the war in Iraq. PM Allawi has forcefully expressed his frustration with France in an editorial that harshly criticizes Chirac's policy...and he previously noted that neutrality was no protection against terrorism. The maneuver aiming to bring France into the coalition is crystal clear. But France is increasingly comforted in its initial belief that the solution for Iraq is political and not military by the growing chaos there. According to France, the solution begins with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq."
"Allawi Imitates Rumsfeld and Criticizes France"
Thomas de Rochechouart observed in popular right-of-center France Soir (9/3): "Since the beginning of the French hostage crisis Iraqi PM Allawi has been on a rampage against President Chirac's policies, with sorties that rival Rumsfeld's anti-French remarks.. In the tragic context of the hostages, the irony of the commentaries in Allawi's local Iraqi paper is misplaced and Allawi's lack of support stands out.. Especially since France's opposition to the war was based on the belief that it would lead to chaos. An analysis which does not appear to be too much off the mark."
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (9/3): "The religious and political authorities in the Arab and Muslim world who condemned the taking of the French hostages in such an unusual and unanimous manner must extend the condemnation to include all hostage situations, and act in favor of all the victims without exception, be they Nepalese, Italian, American or Iraqi.. In this case, there cannot be a French exception."
Claude Imbert declared in right-of-center weekly Le Point (9/3): "Hope for France's Islam lies in their integration into society.. Islamism is a disease of Islam. The Zealots who want to recruit candidates can find what they need here at home. No one, including the many currents within Islam can guarantee against contamination. This is why only a successful integration of France's Muslims will turn them into French Muslims."
Jean Daniel commented in left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (9/2): "We must not make the mistake and think that Iraq, the Pandora's box opened by the Americans and from which so many demons have escaped, has alone spawned terrorism, radical Islamism and the taking of hostages. This mistake would lead us to underestimate the problems facing us for the future. The American intervention has only aggravated what already existed.. One of the positive things which has come out of the French hostage situation is the fact that France's Muslims have clearly sent out a message defining their conception of French Islam."
Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (9/2): "The French hostage situation has proven that no western democracy is immune to Islamic radical fanaticism.. France, because it has Europe's largest Muslim population, has become a privileged target of this war of ideology.. But the Islamic Army of Iraq has failed in its political goal. Far from dividing France's Muslim community...it has triggered a movement of national unity."
"No Excuse, No Alibi"
Andre Bercoff argued in popular right-of-center France Soir (9/2): "Those who slaughtered Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and others, the Nepalese, the Italians, the Pakistanis, the Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the name of their own idea of religion deserve no excuse and no alibi.. What is happening to the children in Northern Ossetia, to the French journalists, the workers from Nepal, and all hostages, has a name: war. Sooner or later we will either have to accept or deal with the situation."
"A Method to Counter Terror"
Charles Lambroschini opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/1): "FM Barnier has toured the Arab capitals, where everyone has given his support and repeated that France dared to oppose America's intervention in Iraq.... In the face of such support, the hostage takers will be hard-pressed to find justification for their horrendous blackmail in their supposed battle against the law banning the Muslim headscarf.. If they had hoped to divide the French community with a new debate on the wearing of the headscarf in schools, they have missed their mark. The French Muslim community was quick to unanimously condemn the terrorists' action, leaving behind their own internal divisions. This is one of the paradoxes underlying the hostage situation: in France's Islam, the extremists have been forced to keep quiet."
"France's Limited Influence in the Arab World"
Jose Garcon commented in left-of-center Liberation (9/1): "France's pro-Arab policy is essentially directed at Arab states, rather than the population which is often governed by authoritarian regimes. The anti-Americanism of Arab publics and their identification with the Palestinians has granted France a certain aura. But such support goes hand in hand with a certain form of schizophrenia.. Hence France often appears as the protector of the authoritarian status quo in some countries, like Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq during Saddam's reign.. This is why France often tries to alter its image and show 'support for the people.'... Whether or not the hostage takers had planned their actions, the taking of French journalists shows that France is not immune, if it had ever been, from Islamic terrorism.... It is as if the hostage takers cared less and less for political and religious considerations and cared exclusively for a confrontational stance between cultures and civilizations."
"France And The Iraqi Crisis"
Jacques Hubert-Rodier wrote in right-of-center Les Echos (8/31): "This is the first time terrorists have tried to interfere directly in the domestic policy of a country.. Last week France reiterated that it would not be sending soldiers to Iraq.. Still France and its president have no illusions about the outcome of the Iraqi crisis: failure in Iraq would have grave consequences for the entire international community.. Paris, like Washington, knows that the transfer of power in June was only the first step, before the free elections to be held in 2005.. Paris also knows that France is in the line of fire of terrorist networks, at least since last February when a threat was made by al-Zahwari in a televised videotape.. But terrorism, which is a means to an end not an end in itself, knows how to take advantage of opportunities. The March 11 attack in Madrid is one example. The taking of the two French hostages is unfortunately another example. There is no doubt today that Iraq, after the Taliban defeat in Afghanistan, has become the terrorists' latest fighting ground."
"France And The Fanatics' Trap"
Max Gallo opined in right-of-center France Soir (8/31): "The terrorists want us to kneel before them. The trap's second jaw is that we become like them: forgetting human rights, tolerance and freedom. Understanding this twofold threat is essential.. Therefore it is useless to wonder, after the fact, whether sending soldiers to Iraq or voting a ban on the headscarf was the right choice. Faced with the trap we have before us, the question is what society do we want and what future for our nations? If we want to continue to be democratic nations, we must not give in on either front: resistance to blackmail and respect for human rights.. By giving in to Islamism we help it to spread."
Gerard Dupuy commented in left-of-center Liberation (8/31): "France has nothing to negotiate with the hostage takers...who, we must note in passing, have ties to al-Qaeda, an organization that has never excluded France from being one of its potential targets."
Jean-Christophe Ploquin observed in Catholic La Croix (8/31): "People live their Islam in many different ways. It is probable that these many ways may one day become contradictory. The radicalization of Islam in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria has already begun to trigger reactions in the Muslim world. Many Muslims in France already believe that the Islam professed by the hostage takers is not their Islam. The greatest service the terrorist can do their community is to shatter the illusion that there is a political and sociological unity among Muslims across the world.. The taking of the two French hostages is forcing France's Muslim to choose between a mythical and ideal Muslim community and France's community, at times perceived as hostile, yet a concrete, tangible and close community."
Patrick Sabatier contended in left-of-center Liberation (8/30): "For the hostage takers, the law on the school ban of the Muslim headscarf is nothing but a pretext. To give in would only lead to their moral and political victory, with more zealots flocking to their ranks. The only goal which all 'Jihadists' share is kindling the fires of a war of civilizations. Their target is the West and its values. This is why we are all hostages.. But we must refrain from putting all Muslims in the same bag.. And in this regard we must rejoice in the unilateral condemnation of the hostages by all, from Tariq Ramadan to the (Paris Mosque's spiritual leader) Dalil Boubaker."
Jean-Claude Maurice stated in right-of-center Le Journal du Dimanche (8/30): "This ultimatum is an insult to Islam, the religion the hostage takers claim to be defending.... Thankfully all Muslim representatives in France have appealed in favor of liberating the hostages. Let us hope they will be heard. The time for the settling of accounts has not come, even if we feel rage against President Bush's adventurism, which has opened a Pandora's box, turning Iraq into a new sanctuary for al-Qaida and proving its inability to secure, as promised, a territory which is often in the hands of criminals. The two French hostages were taken on the road between Baghdad and Najaf, 'a Bermuda triangle' of lawlessness, where even the American army, the mightiest in the world, no longer dares to patrol."
"A Unanimous Front"
Bruno Frappat commented in Catholic La Croix (8/30): "The unanimous front which has arisen in France and which the 'Islamic army in Iraq' is discovering must be a 'satanic' surprise for the terrorists.... To keep from giving in to terror means to hold strong, psychologically, mentally and politically. The past has amply proven that the best weapon against terrorism is the strength of unified societies. Such unity is stronger, in the end, than many 'wars' waged by strong nations, as recent history has unfortunately proven in Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars only plant the seeds of bloodshed as an answer to bloodshed."
GERMANY: "Unexpected Side Effect"
Michaela Weigel editorialized on the front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/8): "The hostage crisis in Iraq could enter the history books as the hour of birth of a French Islam. For the first time, the highest Muslim representatives in France...fully stood up for the values of the French Republic and defended them to the outside and in the Islamic world. Even though the fate of the kidnapped two French journalists is still unknown, one thing is clear: the blackmail attempt of the terrorists will fail to achieve its goal.... Of course, this new cohesion, the 'union nationale,' will not end the integration difficulties Muslim immigrants are faced with in France.... But the Muslim council's clear support of the rule of law and its opposition to violence and terror could have a long-term effect on the perception of Islam in France.... The hostage crisis has now demonstrated how useful it can be to have an Islamic interlocutor, whose word has an effect at home and in the international arena. The clear commitment to democratic values by the Islamic Council has created a new scope of action for the government which it needs an answer to the urgent question of the training of Imams. This would be the next step to a French form of Islam which frees itself from the tutelage of Islamic states."
Andrea Nuesse noted in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (9/7): "Is there a beginning of a principle reflection on legitimate resistance and jihad in the Arab world? Is there a careful consideration how Muslims who feel oppressed can defend themselves without becoming terrorists? It does not look like it, although there was an outcry in the two cases [that of Beslan and the kidnapped French journalists]. Only the selection of the targets caused protest; the hostage-takers in Beslan killed children. This crossed a limit, because Islam believes that jihad must not target children, women and old people.... And France is traditionally, and in particular after the opposition against the war in Iraq, respected in the Arab world and seen as a well-meaning nation. The killing of an Italian journalist did not cause protests in the Arab world. The nationality of the victims seems to matter. It is therefore questionable whether there will be a principle debate."
Hans-Helmut Kohl commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (9/5): "Also two lives are worth an an entire nation standing up to fight for them. The determination with which the French President, government, opposition, the secret service, the 'native' population and Muslims immigrated to France were calling for the release of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot is paying off. This is a lesson how we can make the impossible happen.. The Muslim acknowledgment of the Republic, the laical principle, human rights and the triad of 'freedom, equality and fraternity' could not have been more impressive, given the demand that France reverses the ban of headscarves in schools. The issue is an open wound, because the law basically admits that France has failed to integrate Muslims.. Kidnappers hoped to find solidarity, but they saw the opposite. And they were not just dealt a blow in France, but also in the Arab world. No other kidnapping has yet met with such a response reaching from Arafat to the Saudi King."
"The Diplomatic Frenchmen"
Martina Doering commented in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (9/5): "If French Muslims had accepted allies such as the kidnappers in their fight against the ban of headscarves, they would have lost all sympathy. Also, religious fellows in Iraq and the region were disturbed, because the demands had nothing to do with the liberation of Iraq. Maybe these kidnappings and the reactions will have effects going beyond the day when both victims will be released. First, diplomacy can accomplish a lot. Secondly, the Islam community can achieve something when it acts against kidnappings and killings. They must know that these actions damage the reputation of Islam, not just in France."
"Caucasian Vicious Circle"
Moscow correspondent Tomas Avenarius filed the following editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/4): "The bloody end of the Russian-Chechen hostage drama is not surprising...and hopelessness remains on what is to happen in Chechnya. Long ago, the conflict spread to the entire Caucasus.... But what can an 'honest solution' look like, as Foreign Minister Fischer called for?. International mediation suggests itself. The Chechens are Muslims, and the rebels cite Islam. Why then no Muslim mediators? We owe the contact with the kidnappers of the two French journalists in Iraq to French Muslims. Why should international Muslim dignitaries be unable to talk to the Chechen rebels? The issue of Chechnya is a much more important issue for the entire Islamic world than for the West."
"Good Hostages, Bad Hostages"
Dorothea Hahn noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (9/3): "There has never been so much support in the Muslim and Arab world against the hostage-taking in Iraq. The government in Paris can be proud of this sympathy. It is a fruit of more than half a century of French diplomacy during which left and right-wing presidents pursued similar goals. But the reason, which numerous political and religious leaders have presented for the demand for the release of the two hostages is problematic: French foreign policy, Paris's support for Palestine, and the French position in the Iraq war. These are bad arguments for a good cause. Of course, Chesnot and Malbrunot must be released, but not because they are French but because the taking of civilians as hostages is in principle unacceptable, regardless of whether the victims are from France, Italy, or Nepal or whether they are school kids in the Russian republic of Northern Ossetia."
"Fanatics Using Religion As A Disguise"
Right-of-center Hamburger Abendblatt (9/2) had this to say: "As a matter of fact, we are not in a war with Islam. In reality, it is the struggle of stubborn fanatics who, under the disguise of a peaceful religion, want to implement their medieval ideology. Neither arguments nor sheer violence will help against such criminals. We can counter their hatred only if the Muslim world finally agreed on clearly disassociating itself from terrorism. In France, this happened over the past few days in a way that creates hopes. Actions like the one in France are a good sign. But they can only be a beginning. Islam, like Christianity in the 16th century, needs a reformation. But where is the Muslim Martin Luther?"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch penned the following front-page editorial for center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/1): "There has been an increase in attacks on foreigners, kidnappings, and so-called executions.... A new dimension for Iraq is the attempt of a group called 'Army of Islam' to force France to withdraw the ban on wearing headscarves by kidnapping two French journalists.... President Bush justified his war on Iraq by arguing that democracy should be established in Iraq after Saddam's ouster...but now radical Islamists are paying back the intervention of western 'crusaders' by using force against the West by demanding things that they want: that Muslim women are not subjugated to western customs.... France will not give in to this blackmail and is even supported by spokespersons of Muslim communities. But we cannot obscure the fact that Americans and British, through this war that should contain violence and terrorism, have opened Pandora's Box. The 'clash of civilizations' which many people have complained about will now be intensified and extended with such blackmail."
Dietrich Alexander editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (9/1): "Even Frenchmen...have now become hostages in an undignified war of nerves. The truth is: there are no onlookers. The kidnappings and the conditions linked to their release show that the murderous gangs are not interested in Iraq's liberation. They are waging an ideological, global war against all models of life that do not correspond with theirs.. But the six million French Muslims have disassociated themselves from the self-appointed high priests of 'real Islam' and turned to the modern structures of a western democracy that they feel threatened by the kidnappers.... It is not surprising that the Muslim leaders in France condemn the kidnappings.... This hostagetaking made the French Muslims move closer to their French host country more than all political appeals or ecumenical masses would ever have achieved. The rebels must realize that they miscalculated. Their blackmail attempts proves how little they understand of their western world and the informed Muslims living in it."
"French False Friends"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (9/1) noted: "After the end of the kidnapping, France must critically review its strategy against terror.... The widespread assumption that French are not in jeopardy since their country rejected the Iraq war, turned out to be a fatal error. The massacre of twelve Nepalese yesterday showed that this madness does not follow any method. The French concept to isolate the terrorist in their own culture is right, but the solidarity of groups that are siding with Paris because they consider it an ally against Jews and America is clearly a solidarity from the false side. The kidnapping was not a regrettable misunderstanding in a noble, holy war, but it is a brutal and logical part of this war. But it is encouraging what is happening in France itself: the entire country, including the Islamic community rejects the attempt to pursue a policy based on terror. It cannot be expressed more clearly."
Fanaticism Doesn't Differentiate Between New York And Paris"
Centrist Suedwest Presse of Ulm (9/1) stated: "The extremists of the 'Islamic army' are very likely a totally autonomously acting group. The French may have thought that their rejection of the Iraq war would protect them from Islamic hostilities. But fanaticism does not differentiate between New York, Madrid, Rome, Paris, or Berlin. Nevertheless, it is bitter for France to be dragged into a conflict, which it never wanted and of the consequences against which it was never tired of warning. In addition, the cynical blackmail attempt harbors domestic policy problems. There are also Islamic radicals in France. Now the danger is mounting that an overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims in France will be lumped together with radicals."
ITALY: "An Inconvenient Ally"
Bernardo Valli noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/14): "Ghazi al Yawar's visit to Europe is evoking embarrassment rather than conflict. Paris and Rome's behavior is telling: the former preferred not to receive the ad interim President of an occupied Iraq and the latter welcomed him as an ally, but kept the pomp to a minimum.... The presence of the Iraqi President increases the anguish in the capitals that are tormented by hostage crises.... If the President had been received with pomp and circumstance the hostage-takers would have read it as a hostile act and it could have made it even more difficult to get through to them.. Ghazi al Yawar is officially an ally, but an inconvenient one--even for the UN. Although the organization acknowledges his role, it has not sent him the promised advisors and experts. They don't trust him; they're fearful. If your soldiers are engaged in Iraq, then you are forced to receive the ad interim President, as Rome did. If you don't have soldiers, you can choose not to welcome him, as Paris did. But you are still risk being abducted. In some way we are all even morally, Iraqi hostages."
"Paris Awaits Liberation of Two Reporters"
Centrist, influential La Stampa (9/3) noted: "The overwhelming national mobilization which has attracted unprecedented solidarity in the Arab world, has reportedly affected the small and ferocious Iraqi Islamic Army group that either reports to Bin Laden or some part of al-Qaida.... The wave created by the stream of solidarity that French diplomacy gathered in only a few days' time was too much for a small terrorist group to bear."
"The Devil's Choice"
Foreign affairs commentator Lucia Annunziata wrote on the front-page of centrist, influential La Stampa (9/3): "Both Moscow and Paris have begun talks with the terrorists and have the same merits: they chose not to stand along side the Americans in Iraq. This has created an objective confrontation: for the first time since September 11 the different Western policies have turned into two different, likely incompatible, practical options in the clash with terrorism. If Paris and Moscow were to obtain the hostages' release, it would prove that dialogue is more effective than war. This would be a hard blow for Washington's line. And Europe (or at least some countries) could transform its opposition to the U.S. into alternative leadership in the crisis. On the other hand, if the hostages are killed, the idea of dialogue will die along with them, and Washington will emerge strengthened. No matter the result, either one of the outcomes will be painful. Successful negotiations would mean disturbing prospects: the specter of more coordinated terrorism throughout Europe; the emergence of a strong contiguity between moderate Arab countries and terrorism that could influence the course of events; finally, the sanctioning of terrorism's capability to take part in the Western debate."
"'Soon Free,' But It's Not True, And Hopes Unite (People) In Paris"
Bernardo Valli reported from Paris in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/1): "Should the liberation of the (French) hostages fail, it could be evidence that 'a neutral position won't save France,' as Iraqi prime minister, pro-American Allawi, said. On the contrary, their liberation would show other ways of establishing a relaxed relationship with the Arab world, other than joining that Iraqi adventure (war)."
"A French Illusion Fading Away"
Massimo Teodori opined in leading center-right Il Giornale (8/31): "The illusion that Europe could stay sidelined, just watching a clash with the Islamic terrorism, is finished. The tragic death of (Italian) Enzo Baldoni.and the capture of French hostages Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot should awake our dear old continent to the twenty-first century reality.... The United States reacted its own way.... If our Western Europe, as well, won't decide to oppose its foes.which continue to attack.it will inevitably find itself disarmed in the face of.terrorism.... Clearly, it has nothing to do with a clash of civilizations, but it is a clash between our Western civilization and the barbarism of Islamic terrorist fundamentalism, which is also moving to attack Islamic civilization itself."
"Now They Are Waging War Against Everyone"
Gianni Bonvicini stated in center-left Il Messaggero (8/30): "The terrorist blackmail against France on the headscarf issue has increased the sense of confusion and impotence on post-war developments in Iraq. The Islamic Army's threat to kill the two French journalists doesn't correspond to the logic of a guerrilla that is trying to 'liberate' Iraq. In fact, the French harshly contested the Americans' decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein and they didn't participate in any military actions..... In proposing this war, Islamic radicalism is utilizing popular issues like the use of headscarves and the respect of religious customs, but in fact it is advancing a global war against the West that allows it to weaken pro-western Arab regimes and to take the threat beyond the Iraqi borders. In this strategy, the terrorists are cynically using the Arab mass media to spread their beliefs and they target western journalists to intensify the psychological and media effects of their actions. It's almost impossible to defend oneself. The Iraqi quagmire has taken us back to the beginning of the war that was unleashed by Bin Laden and it's disheartening to observe that nothing has changed--or rather things have gotten worse--since September 11 of three years ago."
"There Are No More Refuges Against Terrorism"
Pierluigi Battisti wrote in Turin's centrist influential La Stampa (8/30): "The involvement of Chirac's France, the nation that spearheaded Western repudiation of the Anglo-American military intervention that ousted Saddam Husayn, severs the logical and factual link between the West's conduct in Iraq and that of the terrorist groups. It is a warning, particularly to the people who are fooling themselves that a short cut in the form of a withdrawal like Zapatero's can shield us from assault by the terror lords. It also rocks a reading of the terrorist efflorescence as a 'defense' against the troops occupying Iraq, based on a nationalist urge for independence against the 'Great Satan' accused of treading and violating the sacred soil of Islam."
"Attack on Europe"
Magdi Allam wrote in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (8/29): "For the first time Islamic terrorism, which has identified its front line in Iraq, is attempting to impose its law on Europe and to stake a claim on the control of Muslim communities. The threat to kill two French journalists, if Paris doesn't abrogate the law banning the use of headscarves in public schools within 48 hours, constitutes a significant change in the strategy of Islamic terrorism. Europe is no longer a formidable logistical stronghold where combatants and aspiring 'martyrs' can be molded, but a fertile ground to unleash the Jihad, the Islamic 'holy war.'... The truth is that this terrorism knows no values and refuses the logic of compromise. It legitimizes the massacre of all the 'enemies' of Islam, or rather of all those who oppose its plan to control the world's Muslims. Now we have proof that this terrorism is of an aggressive nature and that in its eyes there are no good or bad people, but only enemies."
"Now the Imam Speaks Out in Paris"
Marcella Emiliani wrote in Rome's center-left Il Messaggero (8/29): "The positions on the war held by individuals or governments are no longer important. Our singular fault is that we are Westerners and therefore incompatible with and allergic to the diktats of Islamic terror and conformism."
RUSSIA: "Islamic International"
Maksim Yusin contended in reformist Izvestiya (8/31): "The kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq has changed our perception of the 'resistance movement' in that country. It is the first instance of hostage-takers' demands having nothing to do with the Iraq war. Until recently the Americans' claims that they are fighting a terrorist Islamic International, as well as local 'patriots,' in Iraq have caused many to smile incredulously.Surely, the reaction is less skeptical now. While Iraqi 'patriots' don't care about the hijab at French schools, global jihad champions think it very important. The fact that France opposed the U.S. operation in Iraq does not matter to them at all.... The Islamic International must be displeased with Russia even more. The hijab is nothing compared to Chechnya. Were terrorists from the Islamic Army of Iraq to capture Russians, their demand would most certainly be an end to the occupation of Ichkeria [the separatists' name for Chechnya]."
ALBANIA: "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
Blendi Fevziu held in independent center-left Korrieri (9/11): "Two years ago, when, going by the logic of the struggle against terrorism, the United States and Britain embarked on a war to smash Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime, Russia and France were utterly opposed to it. They argued that there was no convincing motive for the war. Also, they feared that a war situation would create problems with the large Muslim population
within their territories. Moreover, they did not believe that terrorism would pose a threat to them. Three years on, terrorism has struck heavily, indeed tragically, in these two countries. Two French journalists have been taken hostage and their lives are being threatened for no reason whatsoever. Two men who were exercising their profession and who did not believe that they would be kidnapped also because they were French, citizens of a country that opposed the war, are being held hostage to the whims of some groups for which normal human logic is altogether invalid.... Terrorists are only terrorists and criminals are only criminals, regardless of where they strike, regardless of their nationality, and regardless of how they try to justify their actions. In an insecure world all of us feel threatened; hence today, three years after 11 September, the old saying from the 17th century is more relevant than ever: never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you too."
AUSTRIA: "Closing Ranks In Paris"
Editor Stefan Bründle commented in liberal Der Standard (9/3): "The hostage-taking in Iraq forces ambivalent Muslims to take a stand. And the vast majority of them side with the French state, whose citizens they are. But this does not come easy to them. The law banning headscarves may justifiably uphold and codify secular principles, but practicing Muslims, Jews and Christians will have a hard time with it. Politicians and authorities acknowledge the difficult situation in which many French Muslims find themselves nowadays: caught between Islamism and secularism. For that reason, liberal Christian Democrat Bernhard Stasi, whose commission formulated the headscarf law, again recommended introducing one individual school holiday each for Muslims and Jews. Not a bad idea perhaps: The state does have the right to demand that its citizens stick to its laws and customs. However, it has also the duty to be generous."
"Activism In Paris"
Foreign affairs writer Markus Bernath opined in liberal Der Standard (8/31): "Apart from the human tragedy, Paris' activism (on behalf of the two French journalists held hostage in Iraq) is of course determined by political considerations. One is to avoid a media disaster, like that which followed the deaths of several thousand French senior citizens, as a result of the summer heat wave of 2003, while French Ministers whiled away their time on vacation. But more than anything, France's future role in the Arab world is at stake. Critical of both Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's settlement policy and West Bank barricade and U.S President Bush's Iraq war campaign, Paris sees itself as the model advocate of a liberal democracy without religious undertones. Chirac envisions journalists, like those abducted in Iraq, as spearheading this campaign. He intended to start a French version of CNN in 2004, aimed at showing Arab countries that there is an alternative to Likud and White House on the one hand, and Al-Jazeera on other. What France lacks to implement this prestigious project is money: Foreign Minister Barnier admitted recently that there was no budget for such a network."
Editor for mass-circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung Nina Koren commented (8/31): "The abductors' blackmail strategy did not work. On the contrary, the law banishing headscarves in France will be implemented as planned at the beginning of the school year and those Muslim groups that a few months ago demonstrated against the law on the grounds that it is discriminatory, have now rallied behind the French government and the constitutional state. Tragic as it is for the abducted and their families, democracies cannot allow criminals who resort to violence to dictate their laws."
BELGIUM: "Political Opportunism"
Diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert opined in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (9/7): "The Arab religious leaders' call to liberate the French journalists...is not based on moral arguments that want respect for citizens or the work of journalists. They did not condemn the murders of twelve Nepalese workers, other abductions and other murders. Their argumentation was an example of political opportunism. Regarding Iraq and other issues, France had turned against America and, for that reason, its citizens had to be spared.... When it looked as if the abducted journalists were going to be set free last week French diplomats and analysts said that it was a success for French diplomacy. The liberation (of the journalists) was a reward for France's active 'Arab policy' and its pleas for dialogue and against the war in Iraq.... Reality was more nuanced. France's Arab diplomacy and opposition against the war in Iraq were of little importance when the Parliament approved a law early this year that banned ostentatious religious symbols from schools--including the Islamic headscarves. Muslim organizations in France--which had applauded President Jacques Chirac's policy so warmly--immediately lost all their sympathy for the President and the government, and protested strongly. Virtually all Arab and other Muslim countries also reacted in an hostile manner.... The message was that France can count on Arab and Muslim sympathy only when it takes an anti-American position and not when it introduces laws--in the name of its republican values--that the militant Muslims don't like....
"The members of the Islamic religious leadership in Iraq--who are now issuing fatwa's in favor of the liberation of the two French journalists--follow the same reasoning and the same tactics as al-Qaida with its attacks: the good boys receive sweets, the bad boys are confronted with attacks and abductions. That is why more than 200 people were killed in naughty Madrid--where, for the first time, an electoral outcome in a major European country was co-decided by al-Qaida. And that it why docile France receives help for the liberation of two French citizens."
"We Are All Hostages"
Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen commented in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (9/4-6): "This week, France woke up from its dream that opposition to the American war in Iraq would make the country immune to Muslim fundamentalist violence. The abduction of two French journalists gave the impression that it was an error. However, the fact that they are used as a quid-pro-quo and blackmail for the ban on headscarves in public schools (in France) is a new milestone in the wrecked relationship between the West and the extremist Islam. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to deny that a clash between civilizations is in the offing."
"Putin Is Facing his Most Serious Challenge"
Pol Mathil asked in left-of-center Le Soir (9/3): "What could Putin do? Like Jacques Chirac did for the two French journalists held hostage in Iraq, he could start 'indirect' negotiations. For Chirac, it is the Muslim world that is acting as intermediary. Mr. Putin could try the same approach. Couldn't the Muslim community--which so massively intervened in favor of the French journalists, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Yasser Arafat included--also intervene in favor of the school kids who are being held hostage by terrorists claiming to be acting in the name of Islam? Especially since it is more than likely that there are ties between the Chechen and the Middle East terrorists--money and weapons are not heaven-sent."
"Taking French Hostages Is Bad For The Arabs"
Diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert observed in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (9/2): "The Arab world and Muslim organizations continued to pour out condemnations of the hostage-taking of two French journalists in Iraq. On the other side, there was much less indignation over the murder of twelve Nepalese workers on Tuesday. It is an indication that the protest against the abduction of the Frenchmen has much less to do with Islamic principles than with political opportunism. Twelve murdered Nepalese clearly weigh less than two kidnapped Frenchmen. Indeed, Nepal is a small country and France is a permanent member of the UNSC.... Many Arab statements said that such kidnappings are not compatible with Islam. However, that argument was seldom or never heard when other people were taken hostage and murdered in Iraq."
"The Muslim World's Salutary Reaction"
Baudouin Loos opined in left-of-center Le Soir (9/1): "The major French and international mobilization to save our two colleagues is the indication of a particularly intense emotion because the hostages are journalists, i.e. courageous observers who were working in Iraq because their conscience had ordered them to do so and because informing people is their passion. The twelve unknown Nepalese workers who were executed in a cowardly manner these last days did not benefit from such an international mobilization. In any case, the kidnapping of the two French reporters demonstrates once again that one cannot be simplistic and present this conflict as a battle opposing bad and bloodthirsty Muslims to good and compassionate democrats. Because the Muslim world has rarely in the past so clearly expressed its opposition to the cruel methods of the kidnappers in Iraq who are calling on the spirit of Islam.... It would be indecent not to see or hear the numerous Muslim officials--from local Imams in small Iraqi mosques to high Sunni officials in Paris, Cairo, and Riyadh, or even from these alleged extremist organizations like the Muslim Brothers, the Hamas, the Jihad, and the Hezbollah--who vehemently condemned the kidnapping of human beings whereas the abductors had used a pretext that they thought was perfect--the French ban on headscarves that almost the entire Arab Muslim world opposes."
"We Are All Hostages"
Pol Mathil wrote in left-of-center Le Soir stated (8/31): "One the one hand, it would be naïve to believe that, if the Italian military presence in Iraq could 'justify' the murder of an Italian journalist, Chirac's opposition to the American war in Iraq could give French journalists a kind of immunity in Iraq.... Secondly, the very fact that, in spite of his opposition to the war and in order to save the French hostages, Chirac was forced to open more or less direct negotiations with the abductors or with their sponsors is a major victory for terrorists.... Lastly, with the murder of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and of Enzo Baldoni in Iraq, a 'logical' threshold in horror has been crossed. Kidnapping journalists was a common practice in Lebanon. But killing them is an 'invention' of Islamic terrorists. A journalist is an observer, not an actor, and he is the only person capable of echoing the terrorists' message. But a journalist is also a witness. By killing him, terrorists also kill a witness, signaling that, in Iraq like elsewhere, neutrality is not possible when facing terrorism.... We are all hostages of the war--not in Iraq but, although were are so reluctant to admit it, of the war of civilizations."
"Condemning Hostage-Taking Doesn't Mean Supporting U.S. In Iraq"
Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen commented in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (8/31): "The unanimous disapproval (of the abduction of the journalists) is undoubtedly boosting national cohesion in France. It is a basis on which better understanding can be built. However, this loud denunciation is in deep contrast to the Islamic camp's silence over these methods. How much stronger would the signal have been if the Islamic spokesmen in Europe and elsewhere had spoken out equally firmly against the thirty previous abductions in Iraq and the twelve murders to date? If it is unacceptable to kidnap people and to threaten to murder them to influence the debate on the headscarves in France, isn't that also applicable to the abductions and murders that were carried out to force countries to end their participation in the occupation of Iraq? Where is the difference? In war not everything is legitimate.... Nobody has to change his position for or against the ban on headscarves in public schools to condemn the abduction of the two journalists.An unambiguous denunciation of the abductions and murders in Iraq does not mean that one supports the American warriors. It is extremely important that everybody makes that distinction. The first victim of the lack of clarity in this matter is the coexistence of the native people and the Islamic immigrants in Europe."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "They Want Scarves Now And Maybe Everything Next Time"
Jan Jandourek noted in mainstream MF Dnes (8/31): "The knife put to the neck of the French hostages in Iraq is also a knife put to the neck of French representatives. One can expect that sooner or later other countries will face a similar tragic situation.... The French are doing the right thing when they refuse to succumb to the demands of the terrorists. Those who would yield today to the requests to change the law [banning wearing scarves in schools], would be facing further demands tomorrow; for example various privileges for radical religious groups. The array of demands can be boundless.... Especially since terrorists are not fighters for freedom, not pioneers for establishing 'higher values,' but only lowly criminals."
IRELAND: "Belief That French Journalists Enjoyed 'Immunity' Proved False"
Lara Marlowe declared in the center-left Irish Times (9/1): "Are the kidnappers and murderers of the Islamic Army in Iraq amenable to pressure and reason? Do the men who have already shot dead or beheaded at least 16 of the 163 hostages they have taken this year have a heart? Given the circumstances, the wish expressed by Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin that France's unity in the face of its worse hostage crisis since the 1980s would 'touch the heart of the kidnappers' seemed almost naive.... Whatever hope remains for Malbrunot and Chesnot is based on the unprecedented number of appeals for their freedom. For the first time, the director of al-Jazeera television announced that his station 'condemns the murder and kidnapping of journalists in Iraq."
POLAND: "No Sense Of Reality"
Krystyna Szelestowska commented in leftist Trybuna (9/1): "The abduction of two French journalists...shows that the most ruthless part of the Islamic world has lost a sense of reality and is drifting toward some gruesome nightmare.... The terrorists...hit Paris, the most consistent opponent to the Iraqi war, an outspoken critic of the military expedition and President Bush's aggressive politics. They hit the friend of the Arab world, supporter of the Palestinian cause.... By blackmailing France with the killing of its citizens, the Islamic fanatics indirectly admitted that President Bush was right, and that the White House...chose the right method to deal with the brutal dictatorship and terrorism."
"The Road Nowhere"
Bronislaw Wildstein opined in centrist Rzeczpospolita (8/30): "Not only is France not a member of the Iraq coalition, but it is its ardent critic. France opposes the offensive against Islamic terrorists that America announced in the wake of the [September 11] attacks. The United States has assumed that a new and dangerous opponent to the West emerged--radical Islamic fundamentalism. France leads the countries questioning this. Listening to the opinions predominant in France, one should conclude that it is largely U.S. policy itself which provokes this threat. However, demands [from terrorists in Iraq] concerning French internal policy indicate that the goal of terrorists is to introduce Islamic order wherever Muslims live. In other words, we are dealing with an ideological war cloaked as a religious war. No consensus is possible with this kind of enemy. It can be only defeated."
ROMANIA: "The Veil Is Just A Pretext"
Foreign policy analyst Mirela Barba observed in financial daily Curentul (8/31): "Terrorist attacks come in new shapes, extending over to the other side of the civilized world which fiercely opposed participation in the 'anti-Saddam' coalition. The two missing French journalists are in the hands of an Islamic extremist group that took them hostage, and is protesting against the prohibition of the traditional Muslim headscarf in public schools in France.... It is probably the greatest challenge yet to French diplomacy, taking into account that France is a country without military forces in Iraq. In this context, the Muslim 'veil' is just a pretext of the extremists."
SPAIN: "France's Firmness"
Conservative La Razon opined (9/3): "France could do nothing else but maintain its law, since giving in to the barbarians, in this case the Islamic terrorists, is completely out of the question.... The kidnappers [of the French reporters] are the same ones who have declared a total war on the world, one in which not being a Muslim is sufficient cause to be marked as an enemy and part of the conspiracy of Jews and 'crusaders.' This is a war where neutrality is no longer a possibility."
Conservative La Razon declared (9/1): "The highest Sunni institution in Iraq, yesterday made a public call urging the kidnappers of the two French journalist to release them. This public intervention painfully contrasts with the silence maintained by the same religious committee about the assassination of an Italian journalist and twelve Nepalese workers.... An important part of the Islamic world shows that it has internalized terrorism, the murder of innocents in cold blood, as a legitimate way to fight against the West. And thus they make 'respectable' some fanatics who, with the kidnapping of two journalists and their blackmail, have done nothing less than point out to France its own foreign policy contradictions.... There are no defensive walls possible in this war on terrorism that, with Islam as its pretext, had its point of inflection with the 9/11 attacks.... No matter what happens from now on, terrorism has scored a point in its favor by orchestrating once again the Manicchean dichotomoy of good and evil."
"All Of Us Are Hostages"
Left-of-center El País declared (8/31): "The kidnappers (of the two French journalists) have demanded the suppression...of a law banning the wearing of head scarves in French public schools. This is a subterfuge.... But it demonstrates that these groups, linked or not to al-Qaida, are well informed and trying to globally appeal to Muslims throughout the world. They have not achieved it.... Perhaps the terrorists feel strengthened after having gotten the Philippines to withdrew its troops this summer after a Filipino hostage was freed. But they must know that a democracy such as France could never give in to such blackmail.... France may have thought that it was free of this danger because of its opposition to the war in Iraq and its refusal to send troops. But some Islamicists recalled yesterday that France is actively participating in the fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. What has happened makes clear that, despite the original sin of the Iraq situation, its consequences affect all of us. Nationality is not important; all of us are hostages."
The Internet version of conservative La Razon editorialized (8/30): "After the 11 March tragedy in Madrid, the conviction was established in part of Spanish society that the monstruous massacre was directly related to the sending of troops to Iraq.... Today, however, the target of Islamic fundamentalist terror is France, the Western country which most opposed the U.S. intervention in Iraq and which even rejected the UN request for security cooperation in the process of political transition. In this case the pretext is the coming into force of a law of a secular nature which prohibits the display of Muslim, Christian or Jewish symbols in public schools.... The so-called 'headscarf law'...was the object of a major controversy during its passage--a controversy which spread beyond its borders, especially in the Arab world. It is, then, a sensitive issue, which al-Qaida has not hesitated to utilize. Because in the confrontation which the West is waging against Islamic fundamentalism there are no borders or immune countries."
TURKEY: "Falling into the trap set by bin-Laden"
Erdal Safak commented in the mass appeal Sabah (9/3): "By looking at recent events around the world, one could easily draw a conclusion about how the world is being dragged into a very dangerous era. Al-Qaida has set as its goal to bring about a 'clash of civilizations' and has just opened a new front in Russia following Iraq.... In a recent interview with Al-Bahri from Yemen, formerly a bodyguard for Osama Bin-Laden, there was clear indication about al-Qaida's plans. He said that the organization intended to create a conflict between the U.S. and the Islamic world.... The strong reaction to the kidnapping of French journalists by Muslims all around the world is an encouraging sign that the Islamic world may have finally realized this trap."
"Can The Iraqis Be That Stupid?"
Melih Asik argued in the mass appeal Milliyet (9/2): "Iraqi resistance groups began the resistance by targeting the occupying force--the Americans.... Over the course of time, there was a major shift in the selection of targets, with U.S.-appointed Iraqi policemen, soldiers and civil servants becoming more frequent victims of violence. Currently, we are seeing a further expansion of the target list to include foreign workers and foreign journalists in Iraq. As seen in the reaction to the kidnapping of the French journalists, sympathy toward the resistance movement is beginning to recede. Muslims around the world are beginning to hold negative views about Iraqis and the resistance. Leaving aside their unhappiness over the U.S. occupation, many are now beginning to take the U.S. side and to view the resistance groups as terrorists. This development is clearly a relief for the Bush administration. But could the Iraqi resistance groups really be so stupid? Who would possibly organize such violent acts while knowing full well that they will not serve to his benefit? There are growing questions about the current situation in Iraq: are those carrying out these kidnappings and murders real resistance groups, or are they being organized by someone else?"
"Why Iraq Won't Become A Second Vietnam"
Mine G. Kirikkanat argued in liberal-intellectual Radikal (9/1): "A lack of unity and discipline has led to the development of a disorganized guerrilla movement. Unlike Iraq, in Vietnam there was a solid ideological and national unity when the resistance fought against the American occupation.... From this point of view, Iraq is now being controlled by local and foreign terrorist organizations, including some who do not have any real goal or purpose other than the pursuit of violence for its own sake. Terrorist organizations linked to al-Qaida have the largest role in Iraq, but they don't really care about freeing Iraq from the occupation. On the contrary, the growing chaos serves their interests to turn Iraq into a staging ground for international terrorism.... If the French journalists are murdered, and possibly even if they are not, the independent press will begin pulling out of Iraq. In the long run, international opinion will become distant to the Iraq issue. This will lead to a number of consequences, including a silence about U.S. actions in Iraq. This will be similar to what Russia has been able to do in Chechnya, shielded from public view."
IRAQ: "The Third Anniversary Of 9/11"
Mshari Al Thayydi wrote in the Baghdad version of London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat (9/7): "Since that event I decided to say 'no' to terror because there is no justification for calling that attack a Jihad. Some Arabs welcomed that attack because they called it a punishment for the U.S crimes against Moslems all over the world. Does this attack represent a protest against U.S policies? I do not know why some Arab youths conducted such awful crimes. And how do you describe the kidnapping of French reporters in Iraq? France has been opposed to the U.S war on Iraq. These terrorists want to exploit everything to distort the picture of Islam. I think the terrorists themselves have commemorated the 9/11 attacks by disseminating horror, abduction and killing among innocent people."
SAUDI ARABIA: "The Meaning Of The Tragedy Of The French Journalists
Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (9/2): "The two journalists are citizens of a country that has been known for its strong position against the war in Iraq. Furthermore, France is a country that has been moderate and objective in its position regarding the Palestinian cause and most Arab issues. The motives behind the kidnapping serve groups that want to create tension and rivalries among the diverse factions. In the end all this would only serve the interests of the extremists. Right wing American extremists, Zionist extremists, or Muslim extremists want to ignite the spark of ethnic and religious wars among people. Here it must be said that Islam and Muslims would not benefit from dragging France into other peoples' war."
Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah observed (9/1): "In spite of the tragic circumstance surrounding the two French hostages in Iraq, Arabs showed great concern to maintain their good relations with France. All official and non-official Arabs agreed on the importance to rescue the two hostages from these bloody groups, who have incorrect ideas about Islam, and carry out their operations under the flag of Islam. The perpetrators do not have significant plans, and their acts do not represent the stance of Iraqi people. They are not Iraqi nationalists, but rather hiding behind Islamic names and slogans, which is harmful to Islam, since kidnapping and killing innocent people are against Arab and Muslim values."
"Let's Not Forget The French Positions"
Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/31): "It's not fair to reward the French government for its positions regarding the Iraqi and Palestinian issues by hijacking two famous French journalists. Furthermore, these two individuals have been known for their support for the Arab cause. Those who kidnapped the two journalists, and presented demands that have no relation to the Iraqi or Palestinian cause, must review their position and reconsider their actions.... Hiding behind Islamic slogans is no longer an effective method to achieve political objectives. You do not gain Muslim support by standing before an Islamic flag and threaten to slaughter innocent people. Kidnapping two French journalists to put pressure on France to change its policy regarding the Hijjab would not encourage France to continue its support of Palestinian and Iraq causes.
Pro-government English-language Arab News editorialized (8/31): "This may be a case of opportunism. Once [the kidnappers] found that their two new victims were not from a country actively supporting Washington's Iraqi policy, they could have let them go, perhaps with a message to the French people thanking them for their opposition to Bush's aggressive Middle East diplomacy. Instead after some days, perhaps of debate, the headscarf demand is made. This is being greeted as an extremely worrying development because it is seen to be threatening any country, which has nationals in Iraq, regardless of their home government's political position. The French must stick to their refusal to deal with the kidnappers for the lives of these unfortunate journalists. It is not simply that any compromise will encourage further kidnappings; there is a real danger here that this wicked scourge could spread beyond Iraq. Terrorists could target any national in any country where they would find secure hiding places and make any demand of any government. The mayhem and heartache that such a campaign would unleash would be appalling. The only way that kidnappers can be defeated is by refusing to give in to their ultimatums. France and every country must stand firm.
WEST BANK: "Harassment Of Journalists: Blind Terrorism In Iraq"
Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (9/3): "No one can understand the justification for kidnapping the French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, specifically since the demands of the kidnappers, who call themselves the 'Islamic Army,' had nothing to do with Iraq. France opposed the war against Iraq and refused to send troops to join the U.S. forces there, causing tension in its relationship with the U.S. Those two journalists cannot be accused of collaborating with the occupation forces or transferring rations and weapons to them. They both are well known for their coverage of the ongoing war in Iraq--something to the benefit of the Iraqi people who want the ugly crimes of the occupation be exposed to the entire world.... Perhaps the kidnappers and others realize that it is the occupation itself that is most careful not to allow the press to cover the events in Iraq concerning the resistance and the occupation forces' crimes. Their criminal acts against journalists undoubtedly serve the foreign occupation by preventing the world from seeing the facts. The blind terrorism practiced by Islamic groups in Iraq helps the American administration and President Bush personally to distract American and world public opinion from the occupation's crimes and the Iraqi people's resistance to what he [President Bush] calls fighting terrorism. If Bush wins another term, it will be thanks to these groups."
"Why The French?"
Bassim Abu Sumayya commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (9/3): "The crime of kidnapping the French journalists in Iraq, the threat to kill them and the conditions set by the party responsible for the kidnapping are without doubt a sign that the kidnappers, under the guise of Islam, are nothing more than a bunch of hysteric, violent people bent on kidnapping, killing and requesting ransoms to release hostages. Intentionally or unintentionally, the crimes committed by these groups with multiple names, titles and affiliations serve the interests of those who are against Islam and the national interests of the Iraqi people. What confirms the suspicion that the kidnappers are linked to parties unconnected to the national resistance or lacking a political and humanitarian vision is that they targeted French journalists, who come from a country that stood firmly from the beginning against the U.S. and its allies in their war against Iraq.... Why would kidnappers take nationals of a country that supports their cause as hostages? Is this proof of the nationalism of their objectives? The answer is definitely 'no.'"
ALGERIA: "Disgusting Blackmail"
Influential French-language El Watan commented (8/30): "A disgusting blackmail is being exerted against the French government. A sordid 'Islamic Army in Iraq' kidnapped two French journalists...and demanded that France repeal the law on wearing the Islamic veil in exchange for their release. Everyone knows that Islamic terrorism is transnational, that it takes war to an extreme against all humanity, that it sows horror wherever it installs itself, but the demand of this criminal group goes beyond comprehension. One could have imagined anything except that Iraqis would attack France. No one can forget that this country made itself Iraq's unconditional lawyer before all international authorities. It waged an unprecedented diplomatic war in the United States to prevent them from invading and occupying Iraq.... To take revenge, Americans began boycotting French products, causing serious economic consequences. Yet, France did not give in. Today, France is punished by Iraqis! It's the height of ingratitude! The big loser in this issue is Iraq. This will discredit in particular the Iraqi resistance.... Nobody will be surprised if one day we learn that this so-called army is actually a pack of individuals that acted for the CIA or Mossad. The American Agency must be taking delight in the troubles that the French government is currently going through."
BAHRAIN: "Paris Doesn't Deserve Ill Treatment"
Bahrain's pro-govt English-language Tribune (9/1): "All peace-loving people are at the end of their wits to understand how the abduction of two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, is going to help the Iraqi fighters and their cause. Jacques Chirac and his aide Dominique Villepin were among those who stood firmly against the US idea of attacking Iraq. Baghdad and Moscow had deep-rooted ties even before the war. Anti-occupation Iraqis and their supporters all over the world just can't afford to antagonise Paris. The issue of banning headscarves is France's internal matter and any movement for or against it seems justified only within France. Outside forces can only put political or diplomatic pressure over the French if they are upset over the scarf ban. The abduction of Chesnot and Malbrunot is a setback to the drive against foreign forces in Iraq. The French are the last to deserve this kind of treatment. Not one voice has been heard in favour of the kidnapping of the French. Every country has expressed its displeasure over the senseless act by 'Islamic Army of Iraq.' For the first time since the beginning of the kidnapping business, the captors have made demands not concerning Iraq. It clearly means that the abductors are deviating from their mission. It looks that first they abduct and then they decide how the abducted can be used. By troubling the citizens of those countries which rejected the U.S.-British aggression, the resistance fighters are adding more names to the list of enemies. The kidnappings are simply unacceptable and they might keep the international community's important support away from the Iraqis. France definitely deserves a better treatment for it is an important Security Council member which fearlessly comes out in the defence of defenceless Palestinians against Israeli atrocities.... There is a need to make the French understand that the kidnappers don't represent world Muslims or the Arabs. The Muslim world deems Paris as its close ally. Abducting unarmed, unsuspecting civilians is an illogical, immoral, irreligious and punishable act. Killing the innocent closes all doors of mercy. The sooner kidnapping groups in Iraq realise this, the better."
JORDAN: "'The Islamic Army' Imitates The American Army"
Columnist Yaser Abu Hilaleh wrote on the op-ed page of independent Al-Ghad (9/1): "Certainly the 'Islamic Army' that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the two French reporters does not have the capability to imitate its opponent with missiles, tanks, nuclear weapons and other deadly weaponry. However, it can imitate it in targeting the media and in the objectives, such as changing the culture of a society by force (the Hijab in France). Demanding the change to the Hijab law is exactly like demanding the change to the curricula in the Arab countries.... Which sect did the kidnapping is not important, because those who did it are Arabs and Muslims who brought harm to their people and their religion by imitating the invading army. These people seem to have forgotten to distinguish between the western media and the western governments, and they seem to have forgotten that the one who exposed the Abu Ghraib scandal was the American network CBS.... I hope that when this article is published, the two French reporters would be free. They may not be free and we hope that the worst will not happen. Enough mourning for reporters and enough damage to Islam. 'The Islamic Army' can imitate the one with the upper hand in many things, such as using technology and digital cameras to photograph real resistance operations instead of illusionary resistance operations that target unarmed reporters.... Why kind of victory is it that is achieved over the dead body of a reporter?"
"The Awakening Against 'Kidnapping The Innocent'"
Wardam noted on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Al-Dustour (9/1): "For the first time, the Arab and Muslim world, particularly political Islamic organizations, express a clear-cut rejection of kidnapping innocent people. This is a very important point of transition, because it marks the first explicit condemnation by non-governmental organizations vis-à-vis the kidnapping of civilians, which in itself indicates the rise of an actual 'awakening of the conscience' in the Arab and Muslim world vis-à-vis aggression against and kidnapping of innocent people and civilians in the name of Islam.... We want a clear and comprehensive Arab and Muslim stand towards crimes of kidnapping and political bargaining with the lives of the innocent. We want to see protests and genuine efforts to seek the release of those kidnapped, be they French, Italian, Turkish, Nepalese and even Americans if they are as innocent civilians as the reporters.... If our stand vis-à-vis the kidnapping of the French reporters was a comprehensive and general stand on all kidnappings, then it would be a stand to be proud of. If this stand is specific to the French for exceptional political reasons, then it is a stand that is hypocritical, racist and immoral."
"This Is Not How Favors Are Repaid"
Chief Editor Usama Al-Sharif wrote on the front page of center-left, influential Al-Dustour (8/31): "We have always opposed foreign occupation and condemned its motives and crimes, but we are concerned that resistance methods not be employed to harm the Iraqi people, the Arabs and Muslims. What makes the situation worse is that the kidnapped people are reporters, who enjoy the immunity and the protection that we, in particular, are keen to provide to anyone who puts himself at risk in order to tell the truth. For the kidnapped reporters to be French actually makes the situation even more critical. France is the country of brave stances before, during and after the war on Iraq. It is the country that defends our causes in the international arena and does not bargain even if that made of it a target for the Zionist media machine. What are the kidnappers calling for anyway? France was never a Muslim country that applies the Islamic law so that we can ask it to cancel or amend one of its laws to match our beliefs. The French people are the ones who make the laws and adopt whatever is their best interest. Have Iraq's problems been resolved so that we can now preoccupy ourselves with the issue of the Hijab in France? Do the kidnappers really serve the interests of the Muslim people of Iraq?... France cannot succumb to the demands of the kidnappers and we support it in that, because the kidnappers do not represent the Iraqi people and they are bringing harm to every Muslim and Arab with what they are doing. We apologize to France and its friendly people and we say that Islam washes its hand of this group of misguided people who claim whatever they claim in the name of Islam. We stress the fact that the media and reporters have immunity that should be safeguarded in Iraq and everywhere else."
"Kidnapping Reporters Is A Terrorist And Stupid Action"
George Haddad commented on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Al-Dustour (8/31): "The gravity of the situation lies in the fact that this kidnapping is being done in the name of the Iraqis' resistance to the Anglo-Saxon occupation and in the name of the 'Islamic Army' in Iraq. This means, simply, that there is something suspicious and doubtful about the motives behind the kidnapping of the French reporters. France has always stood against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In fact, this stand has brought France many headaches from the U.S. administration.... The French are free to do and decide whatever they want in their country, whether we agree with them or not, and they did not come to Iraq, Egypt or Jordan and they did not try to impose their viewpoints on us. Besides, there are millions of French Muslims who reject such methods as being terrorist actions that have nothing to do with the tolerance and good nature of Islam.... Iraq is a war zone suffering from chaos and the absence in security. It is a model situation for misguided people, conspiracies and operations by international intelligence forces to exist. Without a doubt, the American and Israeli intelligence apparatus are in the lead among those forces now roaming as they like and doing what they like. The kidnapping and hostage taking of reporters is by all standards a foolish and terrorist action that could never serve any cause or come to any good."
"The Suspicious Kidnapping"
Ibrahim Absi stated on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Al-Dustour (8/31): "This kidnapping harms Islam, Arabs and Iraq and opposes the religion, morality and the Iraqi resistance, and thus cannot be done by a responsible Islamic group that claims to be fighting the American occupiers in Iraq. This kidnapping is staged by the enemies of Iraq, of Islam and of the resistance, and is aimed at diverting attention from the actions of the real Iraqi resistance against the American occupation and from the massacres and horrific actions that occupation forces are committing against the Iraqi people. After all, the two kidnapped reporters' task was to expose these American crimes in Iraq. For whose benefit was the kidnapping of those two innocent Frenchmen done? What do they have to do with the law banning the Hijab in France? Has the battle of Iraq and the Iraqi resistance become the Hijab in France or is it still Iraq's liberation from the occupying American forces? Why did the kidnapping take place at this point in time when the city of New York is witnessing massive demonstrations against the current U.S. administration, against the occupation of Iraq, and against the policies of the neo-conservatives that brought hared and enmity to the United States? Is the kidnapping meant to steal the spotlight from these demonstrations and ease the burden on the U.S. administration?... The kidnapping of the French reporters is not far from being done by American and Zionist anti-Iraq foreign hands, even if it hides behind Islamic banners.We join hands with the Muslims of France and the Arab and Muslim world in denouncing this horrible incident and in calling for the immediate release of these reporters and apologizing to France that has stood by Iraq in its darkest of hours much more than some Arabs and Muslims have."
"Consensus Against This Type Of Operations"
Jamil Nimri observed on the back page of independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (8/31): "Kidnapping civilians, whatever their nationality, is rejected and denounced on principle, but the kidnapping of the French reporters in particular has raised widespread condemnations because France was one of the lead countries to oppose the occupation and continues to represent international opposition to American policies in the region.... The international campaign, which included national and Islamic forces in our region, against the kidnapping of the French reporters must be the beginning of unifying the stand against such operations altogether; whatever may be the nationality of the hostages. Such operations divert attention from the real issue, and it is useless to speculate about who is responsible for the kidnapping every time. A strong and direct message must be delivered that such operations are worthy of only gangsters and criminals and not political or military struggles against occupations."
Ahmed Zaki wrote on the front page of left-of-center Al Bayane (8/30): "The kidnappings of journalists who are in Iraq to cover the dirty war waged by the U.S. against the people of Iraq are hateful and ignoble acts that, in the cases where hostages have been executed, should be considered crimes against humanity.... With the assassination and the kidnapping of (French and Italian journalists) by the criminals of the 'Iraqi Islamic Army,' a new degree horror has been reached by elements who think they represent Islam. To take it out on journalists, who are on the ground to inform (us) of breaking events, in order to exert pressure on the government of (the journalists') countries is an odious act to be condemned with every last ounce of energy."
QATAR: "Kidnappers' Actions Are Stupid And Cruel"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times observed (9/1): "These terrorists have no authority allowing them to speak on behalf of French Muslims, who are citizens of that country and are allowed to express their own feelings about government policies. Rather than helping the cause of girls who wish to remain covered, their actions have weakened opposition to the ban. The death threats have even caused some women to say they will abandon the headscarf if it becomes tainted with their fellow countrymen's blood. France's internal political affairs are nothing to do with a bunch of militants in Iraq and the ban, which comes into effect today, applies not just to the hijab but to prominent displays of religious symbols. It is true that the headscarf differs from symbols such as a crucifix because covering-up is a duty for a devout Muslim woman, whereas the crucifix is completely optional. However, that distinction is an issue for the French Islamic leaders to discuss with the authorities.... We are confident that throughout the Arab world every effort is being made to make the kidnappers see sense. We hope they will be successful. Murdering these innocent journalists on such a twisted pretext would be a crime that would further distort and sully the image of Islam around the world."
UAE: "Not in our name!"
The expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times commented (8/31): "This is simply not acceptable and is a most unfortunate and alarming development in Iraq conflict. Those who are resorting to such unreasonable acts in the name of Islam and Muslims must realise that they are not serving the cause of Iraqis or Islam by such dubious tactics. Not in our name please! A just cause calls for just means. t is time those responsible realised that such acts will only bring bad name and disrepute to the Iraqis and their struggle. These despicable acts, however noble the cause inspiring them, will eventually deprive the Iraqi people of international community's vital support.... It is all the more unfortunate when the media becomes the target of such desperate measures. Journalists are there in Iraq to report facts.... If media itself is compromised and victimised, who will report the injustices of this war?... Linking Iraq conflict to the scarf ban in France is therefore patently ludicrous, to say the least. However irrational the French government may have been in imposing the headscarf ban, this is no way of dealing with the complex issue and that too in far-flung Iraq."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Hostage-Takers Must Not Be Allowed To Succeed Again"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (8/31): "The kidnapping of two French journalists has added a disturbing new dimension to the tactics of terrorism used in Iraq. This time, the demands of the Muslim militants do not concern events in the troubled country, such as a call for foreign troops to be withdrawn. Instead, their aim is to change French domestic policy.... But the kidnapping of the French journalists makes no sense. The terrorists are picking on their friends. France took a strong stand against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. And the two journalists in question are reportedly sympathetic to the Muslim cause. It is not surprising, then, that the kidnap has come in for strong criticism from Muslim leaders in France, Iraq and elsewhere. Even Palestinian president Yasser Arafat has called for the journalists to be released. The kidnapping, as the robust stance of the French government has shown, is not likely to get the law on headscarves withdrawn. What it will do--especially if any harm comes to the hostages--is make life worse for Muslims in France and lose the Iraqi people many sympathizers. The best option open to the kidnappers is to release the journalists. But when have such people ever listened to reason?"
PHILIPPINES: "Going Too Far"
The independent Manila Times stated (9/3): "Iraqi extremists are pushing their agenda too far in terrorizing foreign governments into doing their bidding, using hostages for leverage. After succeeding in forcing the Philippine government to withdraw its humanitarian contingent from Iraq in exchange for the release of the Filipino trucker Angelo de la Cruz, they are now asking the Frengh government to lift its ban on wearing of Islamic headscarves in school.... What are the Iraqi militants trying to prove? Their demand for the pullout of foreign troops under the U.S.-led Coalition of the Willing in order to embarrass the U.S. government may be understandable, but to compel the French government to forgo its plan to ban the wearing of Islamic headscarves in its schools is irrational, outrageous and interventionist, to say the least."
INDIA: "Are They Serving Enemies Of Islam?"
Well-known Muslim leader Asrarul-Haque Quasmi wrote for Urdu language nationalist Rashtriya Sahara (9/2): "Iraqi people are perfectly justified in their struggle against the American military invasion and oppressive occupation. In their struggle against the atrocities of the occupation forces, they have full sympathy and moral support of the world community that has unequivocally condemned and opposed the American aggression. However, some of the Iraqi groups are resorting to brutal measures that can't be justified.... Some of them are also making unnecessary and irrelevant demands such as the abrogation of the ban on wearing scarf by Muslim women in France. Undoubtedly, the ban on wearing scarf is in violation of fundamental human rights and motivated by the French government's prejudice against Islam. However, that is a different issue and has nothing to do with the struggle against American brutality in Iraq so as to kidnap French journalists. Such incidents give rise to the suspicion that there could be anti-Islamic elements involved in the sudden spurt in abductions in Iraq. The frequent reference to 'Islamic' organizations and websites by the biased western media points to an organized campaign aimed at maligning Islam and diverting attention from the atrocities of the occupation forces."
"Terror & Backlash
The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer observed (9/2): "The Islamic Army of Iraq, which has abducted them, has announced that they will execute them unless the French Government reverses its order banning the wearing of Islamic headscarf's in schools. Clearly, the terrorists are fighting for not just the liberation of Iraq but also what they perceive to be discrimination against Muslims in all parts of the world. Iraq appears to be in the process of becoming the focal point of a global Islamic jihad--a development whose implications hardly require to be spelt out.... What, however, the terrorist groups forget is that they cannot always have their way by holding people hostage. While the KGL transport company has secured the release of its seven truck drivers by giving to the abductors' demand to wind up its operations in Iraq, France has made it clear that there is no question of lifting the ban on headscarf's. Should the terrorists carry out their threat, a wave of anger may well sweep Europe where patience is running thin with the obscurantist ways of Islamist fundamentalists. Understandably, the five million Muslim who live in the continent are apprehensive and have demanded the prompt release of the two journalists. Their anxiety is bound to increase following the developments in Nepal, where a surge of fury began sweeping Kathmandu on Wednesday over the killing of 12 Nepali laborers, where thousands have ransacked the Jama Masjid, attacked Muslim property and clashed with the police. Terrorists must think of the backlash they can trigger."
CANADA: "The Iraqi Laboratory"
Editorialist Mario Roy commented in centrist La Presse (9/12): "It is mainly in Iraq, which serves as a laboratory and a showcase to what we have to see as the start of this clash of civilizations evoked in Samuel Huntington's famous book..... Two series of events highlight this deterioration: the first is the taking of journalists as hostages in Iraq (and notably French journalists, the most pampered by international diplomacy) and of humanitarian aid workers (especially the four members of an Italian NGO) committed to the cause of peace and aid to the Iraqi people. The message is clear...it is the West in its entirety that is being rejected including its freedom of the press and direct assistance activities.... This will further worsen the fate of Iraqis. But that is precisely the goal of terror, according to an old radical principle enunciated by precursor European [terrorists groups]: 'revolutions' are born out of absolute misery. The second new twist is the noticeable turn around among opinion shapers in the Arab world, since the kidnapping of journalists Christian Mesnnot and Georges Malbrunot and especially since the massacre of the children of Beslan.... Muslims intellectuals and newspapers in the Near East have said they were scandalized by these two operations. We have heard the protests of French Muslim leaders. We have read the newspaper of the Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam go so far as to speak of 'Arab dishonor'.... A logical and simply human reaction. But an ambiguous one also. Because this creates two types of victims: those for whom sympathy is in order and those for whom it is not. We don't recall for example having heard such words in the wake of September 11 2001. Yet in this war--for nobody doubts any longer that this is a war--this discrimination is the last thing civilization, or rather civilizations, need."
"Blood and Religion Shouldn't Go Hand-in-hand"
Business-financial El Cronista stated (9/10): "Islam is a religion of peace and millions of Muslims believe so. This is why they urgently need to be the first ones to march against a terrorism that kills in the name of Allah. In this sense, the fact that an important number of Muslims--with or without headscarf--marched down the streets of Paris calling for the liberation of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq, was a step forward, but is wasn't enough. It's necessary for them to march in their own countries. They must rally in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, in the Arab Emirates, in the Philippines, in Kenya or in Pakistan.... If they don't, they too will be hostage to these murderers."
"Terror Won't Stand Still"
Editor emeritus Peter Worthington observed in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (9/5): "Those who blame America's aggressive pursuit of terrorists should look at the world. The murder of a dozen Nepalese construction workers in Iraq by Islamic militants is pure terrorist intimidation. So is the kidnapping of a pair of French journalists by Iraqi terrorists who want the French government to rescind its ban on Muslim headscarves in schools--rather as Madrid withdrew troops from Iraq after al-Qaida blew up a Spanish train. Meanwhile, Chechen terrorists seized hundreds of hostages in a Russian school to further their demands. All this on the same day. We know that succumbing to terrorist blackmail is folly, yet it's tempting because it alleviates an immediate problem. Like scratching poison ivy, it feels good but guarantees the infection spreads."
Guy Taillefer commented in liberal Le Devoir (9/2): "Terrorism practiced in the name of Islam absolutely negates our liberties. That France, a pro-Arab western power opposed to the war in Iraq, is today a target gives a measure of the fanaticism. We are trapped in inextricably twisted times when 'radical Islamists' kidnap journalists under the pretense of restoring the 'liberty' to wear the veil, without any regard to the secular values and tradition at the base of French society. Western complicity in the evolution of this terror exists but this does not authorize Muslim societies, led by largely muzzled dictators and intellectual elites, to deny or shirk their responsibilities. They, above all, are the ones who created this deaf fundamentalism.... In France, the law prohibiting ostentatious religious symbols going into effect today can be and is contested, but the fact remains that the French Muslim community, giving a glimmer of hope, has united to denounce the sequestration of the two journalists. Others in the Muslim world will need to do the same for the terrorist source to dry up."
"World Taken hostage"
The conservative National Post opined (9/2): "The targetting of defenceless people is both abhorrent and cowardly. Yet for some reason, perhaps due in part to the success Palestinians have had in maintaining the international community's sympathy despite the use of such violence against innocents, it is becoming increasingly prevalent.... The message behind the abduction of the French hostages and the murder of the Nepali hostages is clear: Iraqi militants have not divided the world up into countries that supported the Americans and countries that didn't. They have a far narrower way of categorizing the world's peoples: those that practise their brand of militant Islam and those that don't. The message behind the greater global trend of targeting civilians with terror is equally unambiguous. To reward such heinous actions by bestowing the underlying causes with legitimacy or by granting the culprits their demands is only to invite more violence."
"An unholy war"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen editorialized (9/2): "After Sept. 11, many people insisted that militant Islam despises Americans and other westerners for what we do rather than for what we are. The idea that Islamic terrorists hate us for what we are was too disturbing to contemplate, for it means there's no way to appease the enemy. If our foreign policy were the problem, we could change it. If the problem is our pluralism, secularism and modernism--the fact we don't organize our societies according to principles of Islamic law--then we're in trouble.... Moderate Muslims, as well as the people of Spain, France, Russia, Israel, the U.S. and now Nepal have been touched by Islamist terror. It's impossible to pretend this is anything other than a global war, one that we have no choice but to fight."
"Fight Terror On All Fronts"
Editorial page editor emeritus Haroon Siddiqui observed in the liberal Toronto Star (9/2): "What else do we know? That the terrorists don't care whom they kill--Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.... This contradicts the claim of some of these terrorists that theirs is a jihad against infidels. They are fanatics who are invoking Islam, often in illiterate ways, for their misguided missions.... What is more instructive is that France has rallied Arab and Muslim allies without caving in to the terrorists. This stands in contrast to the Philippines, which withdrew its contingent from Iraq to free one of its hostages there, and Spain, which pulled out after the bombing of a commuter train in Madrid in March.... Of course, unlike America, France is not burdened with the challenges of being the world's sole superpower. Nor does it face the hostility that the occupying power in Iraq does.... We rarely hear of all those dead Muslims, or the millions of living victims suffering under varying degrees of oppression and deprivation--until some of them turn up as terrorists. Condemn terrorism and launch wars against it. T hat's the mantra of the age, appropriately so. But we can't stop there. Without fair political solutions, this mantra has proven to be a failure and will continue to be for the foreseeable future."
"Glimmers Of Hope In The War On Terror"
The conservative Gazette editorialized (9/1): "As grim as this situation is, there were some glimmers of hope in the reaction to the Iraqi killings and kidnappings. The attempt by the Islamic Army of Iraq at blackmailing a foreign power into changing its domestic laws was strongly condemned by the Muslim world.... In London, the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the killing of the Nepalese hostages and urged the release of the French journalists. A leading Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Mohammad Bahr al-Uloum, said, 'Issues cannot be mixed like this. The headscarf problem in France is no justification for the kidnapping of the French journalists.' In the space of 24 hours, two conclusions forced their way onto the world stage: No one is safe. France, which stayed out of the Iraq war, is not safe and knows that caving in to blackmail won't make it any safer. Second, things change. The Muslim world, which was never monolithic, feels free to condemn the terrorists who act in their name. It's an important step forward."
"But, We're French"
The leading independent Globe And Mail noted (9/1): "The kidnapping of two French journalists by an Islamic group in Iraq is a reminder that no Western nation can claim immunity from terror. France is as pro-Arab as any Western nation, opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq and even opposed prewar sanctions on Iraq. If France is not safe from terrorists, no democratic nation is.... The terrorists want the West to choose its policies and its friends out of fear. They expect weakness. Their hubris is astounding. The group...seems to believe that democratic nations will sell off their social policies to save innocent lives. Any democracy that does so would immediately cease to be a democracy. As Le Figaro said in an editorial: 'It is an entire vision of the world--the freedom to speak, to describe, to inform--that is at stake.'... France has been astonished to learn that is in the same position as so many others. A cabinet minister said he cannot understand why France was targeted 'when our country has always forcefully expressed the need to respect the law in order to achieve peace in Iraq.' A French Muslim leader was just as surprised: 'France is not a country that can be punished because of its attitude toward Islam--quite the contrary.' But terrorists are not merely punishing the West because of its 'attitude toward Islam'--they are opposed to the values and freedoms of the West, and every attack is aimed at those values and freedoms. That is the only logic behind the attacks."
Editorialist Mario Roy opined in centrist La Presse (8/31): "The ultimatum presented Saturday by the [Islamic Army in Iraq] was theoretically due to expire last night. France was ordered to rescind its law banning the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols, including the Islamic veil.... The Élysée decided to stand its ground and not to cede to the blackmail, which was the only sensible thing to do. This seems obvious. But we should remind ourselves that nothing is obvious anymore. The Philippine state already gave in to similar pressure by announcing the withdrawal of its troops in Iraq. The Spanish people, overwhelmed by the March 11 attacks in Madrid that left 191 dead, reacted by sacrificing the Aznar government which it was getting ready to reelect. Even Ottawa, confessed its fear, in July, in delaying the opening of its Embassy in Baghdad. In short, terror sometimes pays. We should not forget this. Paris is resisting, claiming its innocence, relying probably on its historical contacts in the Arab world to discreetly arrange the matter.... There are two main lessons to be drawn from this affair. The first is that nothing can shelter a country from Islamist terrorism, whose more militant members are after much more than the 'liberation' of a national territory.... The second is that one does not negotiate with a god. The only way to confront him is to make him disappear. In other words, to protect at all costs one of the great achievements of Western Civilization: secularity, the withdrawal of religion from the public arena and its confinement to the private domain. The West, we all know is often fainthearted in the protection of its most fundamental values. The fact France is standing firm may be a sign that this attitude is also changing."
ARGENTINA: "Blood and Religion Shouldn't Go Hand-in-hand"
Business-financial El Cronista stated (9/10): "Islam is a religion of peace and millions of Muslims believe so. This is why they urgently need to be the first ones to march against a terrorism that kills in the name of Allah. In this sense, the fact that an important number of Muslims--with or without headscarf--marched down the streets of Paris calling for the liberation of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq, was a step forward, but is wasn't enough. It's necessary for them to march in their own countries. They must rally in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, in the Arab Emirates, in the Philippines, in Kenya or in Pakistan.... If they don't, they too will be hostage to these murderers."
"Challenging Fanaticism: Islamic Young Women Refuse To Wear Headscarves"
Paris-based correspondent, Maria Laura Avignolo,wrote in leading Clarin (9/3): "To everyone's surprise, on the first school day after the long summer holidays, the young girls were not wearing the Islamic 'foulards' on the day when the controversial headscarf legislation in France was enforced in the name of Republican laicism.... Their heads without scarves was their weapon and expression of republican tolerance against the blackmail of Islamic Fundamentalism, and the best way to defend the life of the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq, threatened to be beheaded unless France annuls the headscarf legislation.... "'I don't want anybody to use mi religious right as an extortion. This is why I'm not wearing my scarf today. It's my protest and this is what my family believes. First, I'm French, then, Muslim by religion. It's my way of defending the life of both journalists,' said a 17-year-old girl of Moroccan origin.... The dramatic affaire of the two journalists kidnapped in Iraq...changed the mood of a debate that has deepened the differences between authorities and French Muslims on the use of the scarf.... Islamists used discretion as a demonstration of tolerance to the State in which they were born or are living now, particularly in rejection of those who use their religious symbols to politicize them in their name."
BRAZIL: "Headscarf Crisis"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo (9/3) editorialized: "France was right to refuse to discuss the possibility of backing down on the headscarf ban.... Paris would create a dangerous precedent if it had yielded, giving the terrorists the feeling that they can overthrow national laws through blackmail. If France was right in not backing down, the same cannot be said about the new law's provisions. As in almost all misguided proposals, the French government's goals are praiseworthy.... The question is whether the chosen remedy to achieve them is the most adequate.... It seems hasty to affirm that the headscarf is totally deprived of cultural value.... The prohibition of religious symbols is too great a violence against students who have made the decision for some faith. The measure also reflects a questionable view of democracy, in which tolerance and respect for diversity are minimized. Public school must be laic. However this goal cannot be sought at the cost of the most elementary individual liberty, which is that of possessing an individuality and expressing it in a peaceful way."
"Veil Law Is Just A Pretext To Kill More People"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo's Paris correspondent Gilles Lapouge maintained (8/31): "The great majority of Muslims have condemned the kidnapping of [French] hostages in Iraq.... No one in France is thinking about abolishing the veil law to save the life of the journalists. Far from calming down the fundamentalists, to yield would only encourage them to make even more obscene demands. The veil law is nothing but a pretext. It is evident that these infuriated people are waging a total war against everything that is Western and Christian. They are only guided by death.... Even the French Muslims who opposed the veil law are rejecting these hallucinated persons."
VENEZEULA: "Hostages Of Terrorism"
Rafael del Naranco wrote in liberal El Mundo (8/31): "Most Spanish, French and German media thought that those countries would be safe from the Islamic, backward and criminal fundamentalism if they didn't participate in the conflict in Iraq, where a cruel dictator ruled as he pleased, funding every terrorist act against the United States and Israel. Paris is now suffering the vile blackmail of terrorism. The legislation [ban on Muslim head scarves in public schools] has been a cowardly act all along. France wanted to be good with God and Allah, and today it pays the consequences of that humiliating ambivalence. France also thought that if it did not fight against Saddam Hussein, it would be safe from the Islamic terror. Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Alawi, reminds France's President, Chirac, that no civilized country can stand aside." ##
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