ALGERIA: Who is in favor of Al-Qaeda bombs?



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Algerian blogger Nouri discusses Al-Jazeera's recent online poll in which a majority of respondents said they supported the Al-Qaeda bomb attacks in Algiers last month.

"I just wanted to write up a short piece on the recent Aljazeera online poll that asked users whether or not they supported the al-Qaeda bombings in Algeria. 54.7% of respondents said they supported the attacks, and 45.3% opposed them.

That the station would ask its viewers this comes as no surprise. The poll is symptomatic of their longstanding sympathy with al-Qaeda, often portraying the group's leader Osama bin Laden as an Arab Che Guevara, or placing its barbarous attacks in Iraq in an overtly sympathetic light. Aljazeera also gives fanatical preachers, like Yussef al-Qaradawi, a base from which to preach.

Algerian critics and journalists were very quick to angrily acost the network for its irresponsible poll, even those Algerians who were employed by Aljazeera. Algerians accused the station of being a "mouth piece for al-Qaeda", and said that members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb had made up the majority of the poll's participants. El Moudjahid, the paper of the FLN, said that Aljazeera was like a Rwandan station that incited genocide, and stated that the poll "legitimized" terrorism in Algeria. Aljazeera was kind enough to withdraw the poll.

As most of the poll's participants were most likely not Algerians, but Arabs from across the Arab region, with the bulk of them probably being in Levantine countries, the Gulf and Egypt, I would say that it also reveals a popular lack of information and sympathy about and for the Maghreb in the Arab east. Whereas North African newspapers and television stations were quick to denounce the attacks, eastern Arabs often cheered or blamed the attacks on the US. While Algerians had their own conspiracy theories, the other Arabs either looked at the attacks in the context of some Western conspiracy to control the Muslim world, rather than a power struggle within Algeria itself. Major Arab news outlets tend to ignore political happenings in the Maghreb, contributing to a dearth of information and a flourishing ignorance of Maghreb affairs in the Gulf and the Levant.


Culturally and politically, the Arab world is ignorant of its brotherly west. A common stereotype in eastern Arab regions is that Algerians do not speak Arabic, but French. More pernicious stereotypes paint North Africans as ignorant of language, religion, and history. A Mauritanian colleague once told me that on meeting a Levantine woman in Boston, she remarked to him: "You speak Arabic so well! Where did you learn to speak it?" Little did she know that of all Arabic dialects, Hassaniya, the dialect spoken through most of the southern and western Sahara (including Mauritania), is closest to classical Arabic. At al-Azhar University, Mauritanians were known for being exceptional students above others when it came to grammar and religion.

But one cannot ascribe such ignorance to eastern Arabs alone; Maghrebines tend to be almost as ignorant of the internal workings of say, Lebanese or Palestinian political life. They also follow the same pattern of turning somewhat of a blind eye to terrorist atrocities, particularly in Iraq. But because the Arab media is so dominated by Mashreqi personalities and happenings, they tend to have a firmer grasp on things eastern than their cousins in the Mashreq have on things western. A superficial sense of solidarity creates an "any means necessary" attitude that leads to a nihilistic and cold world view in which even fellow Arab and Muslims are expendable if their deaths aid in the march against the enemy.

The same bizarre thinking that causes some Arabs to question the identity of the 9/11 hijackers causes the same ones to condone acts of mass violence against themselves. While the results of the Aljazeera poll are not indicative of the opinions of the vast majority of any Arab polity, they do highlight a continuing problem within a specific sector of the Arab population; the minority that cheers on terrorists and other fanatics and straps bombs to their bellies and head into "battle" against children.

Sadly, the poll's results are neither surprising nor heartening, but they do not represent scientific data and are taken from anyone who passed through website.

My question is this: if the same bombings took place in Qatar, would Aljazeera have run the same poll?"