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A Look at Al Jazeera’s Propaganda Against Hindus

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A Look at Al Jazeera’s Propaganda Against Hindus

What we generally understand as ‘the media’ is an aggregate of networks which function as primary tools of information dissemination and thus, agitation propaganda, used by all powerful entities, including many nations of the world. Countries like Russia and Iran are of those lot who rely less on media and more on their time-tested old methods of bots and cyber-attacks. Others like China smartly use their economic leverage and deep state assets to get the job done, which may or will ideally include both the spread and the countering of propaganda. Other than these, most of nations – especially of the West and Middle East – put their money on the media. And the media follows with such a zeal that even the strongmen of communist and sharia-governed states would be left startled.

One prime example of this is Al Jazeera – a media house owned and operated by Qatar’s government, but surprisingly enough, widely known as being ‘non-biased’. Though almost all of the rich Arab nations rely on the power of the media, they do so with a small caveat – they rely on Western media. Qatar on the other hand took a lead of its own and formed Al Jazeera – a news broadcasting network which spans around eighty countries with multi-lingual channels and an ever-zealous role of spreading Islamist propaganda, and by default, anti-Jewish and anti-Hindu agitprop.

No one can deny the renown Al Jazeera has earned since entering the media market. It has been termed as “a terror broadcast network that promotes radical Islamic militancy, religious extremism,” with a past track record of “being involved in giving provocations to riots, anarchism, vandalism and jihad”.[1]

A part of the criticism levelled against Al Jazeera is that it is controlled by the Emir of Qatar. Owned by Doha-based Qatari Media Corporation, Al Jazeera, since its founding in 1996, has received generous grants from the Emir including the $147 million loan to fund its start in 1996. The company will not exactly say how much money the monarch has thrown in, but Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera‘s Arabic channel, told Time magazine in February that it was “hundreds of millions of dollars annually”.[2]

Under such generosity of the ruler of its parent country, Al Jazeera has nothing to worry about its profitability as strategic interests overshadow profits any day. According to Zubair Iqbal of the Middle East Institute, Al Jazeera is funded “essentially for strategic reasons. Qatar has ambitions to become a major player in the region…  I don’t think they are interested in making money [on the network].” But one way to gain a more global audience, Iqbal says, is for Qatar to back a channel that has many critics in Arab capitals — to underscore the differences between Qatar’s supposed “better” society and the rest of the world.[3]

This despite the fact that the Qatari government has often been accused of gross human rights violations and abuses. Its labour rights system and treatment of migrant workers is no hidden fact. More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was selected, back in 2010, to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[4] But Al Jazeera will never broadcast anything even remotely critical of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family or the Qatari government.

In 2010, Wikileaks released a tranche of information, including the United States’ Department of State internal communications. One of the memos claimed that the Qatar government manipulates Al Jazeera coverage to suit political interests.[5] The same was alleged by Al Jazeera‘s long-time Berlin correspondent, Aktham Suliman, who left the company in late 2012.

Al Jazeera has been known for being pro-Wahabi as well as being pro-political Islam (including being inclined to support rather subtly the Muslim Brotherhood). Al Jazeera never really broadcasts or pays more than cursory attention to the thousands of extremist Jihadi attacks on Hindus and India, or Hindus in Bangladesh or even in Indonesia. Compared to other news networks, it also seldom broadcasts the extremist Salafi school’s attacks on the local, pre-Islamic cultural heritages in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, which can be attributed to the Salafi beliefs of its owners and executives. The network also downplays atrocities committed by extremist groups, and instead highlights actions taken by governments against them, and in the process, they succeed in portraying terrorists as innocents, and terrorist violence and criminality as democratic dissent or public outrage.

Walid Phares has indicated that Al Jazeera became the “primary ideological and communication network” for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists during the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria in 2011.[6] He noted that after democratic forces had initiated the rebellions, Al Jazeera had played a “tremendous role” in supporting Islamist forces which then hijacked the revolutions. This was repeated by a large number of prominent staff members who quit citing the media organisation’s Jihadi bias. Among the largest walk-offs was that of 22 members of Al Jazeera‘s Egyptian bureau on July 8, 2013, citing biased coverage of the ongoing Egyptian power redistribution in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood.[7]

Sherry Ricchiardi had expressly pointed out in a 2011 American Journalism Review essay, the “anti-Semitic, anti-American bias in the channel’s news content.” She went on to add that “in the wake of 9/11, Al Jazeera broadcast statements by Osama bin Laden and reported from within the ranks of the Taliban, earning a reputation as a mouthpiece for terrorists. In October 2001, a New York Times editorial took Al Jazeera to task for reporting Jews had been informed in advance not to go to work at the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. The Bush administration was openly hostile to the news organization.”

The network’s Islamist agenda has always been very clear, as it was openly exhibited in an on-air birthday party organized by Al Jazeera‘s Beirut bureau chief for a Lebanese militant convicted of killing four Israelis, among them a four-year-old girl. Al Jazeera had also greeted Samir Kuntar, released in a July 2008 prisoner swap, as a hero.

Israel announced a “boycott” of the Arabic broadcaster on 13 March 2008, accusing it of bias in its coverage of the Gaza Strip conflict and for being partial toward Hamas. Israeli government employees declined interviews and denied visa applications for the organization’s staff. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Wahabi accused it of focusing only Palestinian suffering and ignoring that of Israel’s. He had said, “We have seen that Al-Jazeera has become part of Hamas taking sides and cooperating with people who are enemies of the state of Israel”. Later in 2009, Israel again imposed sanctions and measures restricting the media organization’s activities in the country.

In August 2011, Afghan bureau chief Samer Allawi was arrested by Israeli authorities and charged with being a member of Hamas. Walied Al-Omary, Al Jazeera bureau chief in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that a military court accused Allawi of contacting members of Hamas’ armed wing. Hence when Israeli military forces, on 15th of May this year, brought down a building in Gaza housing Al Jazeera’s – along with Associated Press’s – offices saying that it was in contact with the Hamas militants, it did not come as a surprise to close watchers of these media outlets.

So, when an organization with such a dubious and shady past as Al Jazeera blames and singles out events and politics in India, it is neither surprising nor unexpected.  Al Jazeera, no matter how successful around the world, cannot enter the deep web that is the Indian media market, unless it is helped by a manufactured narrative, i.e., the narrative of Islamophobia. Just as bad odours rely on air currents to travel afar, media houses like Al Jazeera rely on the constructed narrative of Islamophobia to increase their reach and influence.

This is quite clear in the working methods that Al Jazeera uses when reporting on or writing about India and events in India. To their targeted audience, they not only lay out suggestions about what to think about these matters but to also initiate a specific process of antagonistic thinking and what to do about it. This framing of issues to capture the public mind, and this manufacturing of compulsory dissent is evident from the language they use, the slant of the headlines, the cropping of a key pictures or visuals, the length of the report, the selection of experts to support the narrative the network is trying to foster, the placement of the news, and the access journalism they indulge in.

For instance, here is a list of articles in Al Jazeera concerning Muslims in India ever since “the Hindu nationalist government of BJP,” as it calls India’s democratically elected government, came to power in 2014.

Date Headline Authors
24/11/2013 Is India’s potential prime minister driven by anti-Muslim prejudice?

–         Narendra Modi‘s use of the 2002 Gujarat violence in electoral campaigning is not an isolated case.

Sarmila Bose
16/05/2014 India’s BJP set for landslide poll win

–          Modi, the 63-year-old son of a low-caste tea seller tainted by anti-Muslim violence in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.

Staff
12/04/2018

 

‘Anti-Muslim bigotry has been normalised under Modi’

–          Modi’s rise has further pushed Muslims towards marginalisation, leading many to suggest the community should withdraw from politics.

Nehal Ahmed
03/05/2018 How India’s institutions are failing Muslims

–          Today being Muslim in India is harder than ever before.

–          Even to outside observers, it is increasingly clear that Muslims are being ostracised and singled out and that state institutions are failing them in India.

Apoorvanand
09/08/2019

 

The Islamophobic roots of population control efforts in India Kunal Purohit
24/04/2019 In India’s democracy, Muslims feel increasingly marginalised Bilal Kuchay
28/05/2019 What does Modi’s return to power mean for India’s Muslim?

–          Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide win on the back of a divisive campaign that ostensibly targeted Muslims.

Sudipto Mondal
16/12/2019 What you should know about India’s ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law Bilal Kuchay
24/11/2020 In India, a vocal Muslim party expands its base Hanan Zaffar
15/01/2021 India’s ‘Love Jihad’ laws another attempt to subjugate Muslims

–          From its contentious anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Bill to its criminalisation of Muslim “triple talaq” divorces, the BJP has made no secret of its desire to use legal means to silence, disfranchise and alienate Muslims in India. The new “anti-conversion” laws are just another weapon in the ruling party’s anti-Muslim legal arsenal and should be opposed.

Apoorvanand
24/02/2021 Why 2020 violence in Delhi was a pogrom

–          The BJP’s attempt at redrawing who belongs bears a stark resemblance to the Nazi citizenship laws of 1935 that marked the first step towards genocide of the Jews. The international community must step in before this leviathan attempts another “final solution”.

Aiman Khan and Ishita Chakrabarty

 

The common theme in all these articles – apart from the strict selection of nature of news which is also called as gatekeeping (the process as a result of which only a certain kind of news, suitable for the media agency’s political and social interests, make it to the broadcast or on to its pages) is the relentless effort in manufacturing a perception of atrocity. This is something that adds to the falsely touted notion that roughly 15 percent Muslims in India are suffering from majoritarian oppression at the hands of India’s Hindus. The reason why it is only an attempt at creating the perception and not the reality is because all the complexities of Indian society, the trends and spread of violence across the nation, and the institutional setup favourable for the minority and the nature of India’s inter-religious conflicts, its history, all gets ignored, side-lined. Only one kind of opinion and one version of reality is allowed in Al Jazeera.

As a result of all this a villain is artificially constructed – the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi. While describing Modi in a 2013 opinion article, a staff writer of Al Jazeera said with utmost certainty that Modi had used the 2002 Gujarat violence as some sort of leverage in his electoral campaign. Despite the fact that Modi has been cleared of all allegations of involvement or of abetment in the 2002 Gujarat riots by India’s apex court and despite the fact that there have been absolutely no electoral campaigns basing on these riots by either the BJP or by Narendra Modi, the article still takes the liberty to spread a blatant lie.

The legacy of this preposterous envy-ridden reportage by Al Jazeera is carried forward in 2014 when Narendra Modi won the general national elections with a sweeping majority. He was then introduced by Al Jazeera to its audience, not on the nature of his politics, or on the basis of his leadership as a former chief minister of an Indian state, but as “the son of a low-caste tea seller tainted by anti-Muslim violence”. Fortunate still were its readers that Al Jazeera did not dub Modi’s development-centric campaign as one targeting the Muslims, as it reported in 2019, when Modi was re-elected. Modi, it said, led BJP to a landslide win “on the back of a divisive campaign that ostensibly targeted Muslims”.

The divisive agenda of Al Jazeera is more in clear when it calls a secular party like the BJP as “Hindu nationalist” but defers itself from using similar words for the  fundamentalist Muslim politician Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) – whose leaders have on numerous occasions indulged in anti-Hindu activities like calling for removal of the police force  for “fifteen minutes” so that an apparent showdown may be instigated against “those 100 crores”: this was a comment made by Asaduddin Owaisi’s younger brother, the rabidly Hinduphobic and openly Islamist Akbaruddin Owaisi who basically had targeted the majority Hindu population of the country with his “100 crores” allusion. It is rather amusing to see Al Jazeera call AIMIM a “vocal Muslim party” after such comments as those of Akbaruddin Owaisi and its other leaders on a variety of occasions. Evidence of this abounds online on most video hosting social media websites from YouTube to Facebook.

This chameleonic change is backed by the same constructed narrative of “atrocity”. It is also why a law allowing refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring Islamic nations is compared to “Nazi citizenship laws of 1935 that marked the first step towards genocide of the Jews”. Quite obviously, this is being said and made public by shamelessly ignoring the fact that the said Nazi law was for its own citizens and not for providing refuge to persecuted innocents from other nations. An Al Jazeera article dated February 24, 2021, further goes on to request international intervention in Indian affairs. “The international community must step in before this leviathan attempts another ‘final solution’,” it says.

Al Jazeera’s reporting and opinion articles on Kashmir follow the same pattern, with a visible attempt to turn the Indian Kashmir issue into an international political mess like that of Israel-Palestine.

Date

Headline Author
02/08/2011 Kashmiri Pandits: Why we never fled Kashmir

–          But, on the other, he says, there was no genocide or mass murder as suggested by Pandit communities based outside Kashmir.

–          “Over the past 20 years, we estimate that 650 Pandits were killed in the valley,” Tickoo says, adding: “The figures of 3,000 to 4,000 killings [as suggested by some Pandit organisations] is propaganda, which we reject.”

–          “Not that 650 is a low number, because even one killing should be not ignored, but we must get the numbers right.”

Azad Essa
16/07/2016 Kashmir: Why are young people protesting?

–          “We are forced to hurl stones at them. They incite us. I will continue to throw stones at them until they stop inflicting such atrocities on us” the journalist quotes a 23-year-old Kashmiri, alongside adding “popular rebel” tag to Jihadi terrorist Burhan Wani who was gunned down by India’s forces in 2016.

Neha Tara Mehta
13/08/2017 Enduring the effects of partition in Kashmir

–          In Indian-administered Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim population harbour strong sentiments against Indian rule and an estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the violence that has persisted since an armed movement of resistance against Indian rule broke out in the region in the aftermath the disputed state election of 1987.

Violeta Santosh Moura
10/08/2019 The Kashmiri Pandits must re-imagine the idea of return to Kashmir

–          The return of the Kashmiri Hindu population which fled in the 1990s should not turn into a colonisation of Kashmir.

Deepti Misri & Mona Bhan
15/08/2019 Kashmir’s struggle did not start in 1947 and will not end today.

–          India’s decision to revoke article 370 is just another chapter in Kashmir’s long history of imperial oppression.

Tamoghna Halder
01/04/2020 ‘Demographic flooding’: India introduces new Kashmir domicile law Staff
05/08/2020 The false promise of normalcy and development in Kashmir

–         These developments (Domicile law & resettlement of Hindus) signal the arrival of settler colonialism to Kashmir with the aim of marginalising its majority Muslim population.

Womic Baba & Anam Zakaria
13/06/2020 What does the domicile law mean for Kashmir?

–          Anxiety across Indian-administered territory that new rules will spur the influx of newcomers and alter its demography.

Staff
20/06/2020 Bringing the Israeli model to Kashmir

–          The gradual encroachment on Kashmiri rights and growing prospect of colonisation could set the region on fire.

Anuradha Bhasin
28/06/2020 Kashmir Muslims fear demographic shift as thousands get residency

–         “The decision to provide non-Kashmiri residents with a domicile certificate is certainly the beginning of the end. This is the beginning of Kashmir becoming another Palestine,” Badar-Ul-Islam Sheikh, a 29-year-old resident of the main city of Srinagar.

Staff
18/05/2021 Why Indian Hindutva supporters back Israel on Gaza bombing

–          Indian journalist and writer Rana Ayyub on Sunday wrote that while checking most of the #IndiaStandWithIsrael tweet handles, a common thread that runs through is a “visceral hatred for Muslims and a bloodlust to see Muslims massacred and shown their place”.

–         Srinivas Kodali, a writer and researcher working on data, governance and internet, told Al Jazeera there is a section of polarised Hindutva (Hindu-ness) groups who support Israel’s actions against Palestine purely because Muslims are being persecuted. “It is their hate towards Muslims that is making them cheer Israel’s actions,” he said.

Bilal Kuchay

Al Jazeera’s method of reporting on Kashmir is downplaying, even whitewashing Jihadi violence on Hindus in Kashmir, i.e., the Kashmiri Pandits and even Dalit Hindus of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state while portraying the Indian administration as evil colonisers. This is evident from its opinion pieces on Kashmiri Pandits, where writers attempt at decreasing the kill count, denying the genocide, portraying the exodus as a mere political failure, and hiding the Jihadist behind the curtain of a culturally neutral “militant” tag. On the other hand, these writers spew venom at the Indian state calling it “imperialist” and its domicile laws as “colonialism” for simply allowing Indians to move and settle in India (something which is guaranteed under Article 19(d) and 19(e) of the Indian Constitution).

Al Jazeera’s repeated attacks on India, the Indian state and on Hindus worldwide bears similar – but significantly more preposterous and perilous – resemblance as its meddling in other nations’ politics, for the sake of its Emir’s foreign policy objectives. Nations around the world have taken strict actions against similar agitprop vending media groups on multiple occasions including banning, restricting, or limiting their operations, denying visa to journalists, and refusing to provide any inputs. The Indian state too – considering Al Jazeera’s radical Islamist links and its history of association with Islamic extremism and its blatant Anti-India, Anti-Hindu bias – should ponder similar actions.

[1]“Controversies and criticism centering Al Jazeera,” by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, Weekly Blitz, February 5, 2021.

[2]“The Al Jazeera Effect,” by Sherry Ricchiardi, American Journalism Review, March & April 2011

[3] “Deconstructing Al Jazeera and its Paymaster,” by Abdul Nishapuri: Lubpak.com, 13 February 2011

[4]“Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded,” The Guardian, 23 February 2021

[5]“WikiLeaks cables claim Al-Jazeera changed coverage to suit Qatari foreign policy,” The Guardian, 6 December 2010

[6] “The Lost Spring,” Walid Phares, 2014 (p. 79).

[7]“Al-Jazeera Staffers Quit Over Alleged Bias In Egypt Coverage,” NPR, July 10, 2013

Yogendra Singh Thakur

Yogendra Singh Thakur is a freelance columnist from Betul, Madhya Pradesh. He has written essays for IndiaFacts, Swarajya Magazine, Pragyata Magazine, and OpIndia. He is pursuing a BA, majoring in History, Political Science, and Sociology.