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Profile: Ahmed Mahmoud
Ahmed Mahmoud was a participant or observer in the following events:
President Obama and Hisham Melhem, during the interview. [Source: Al Arabiya / Time]President Obama gives his first interview after assuming the presidency to the Dubai-based satellite broadcaster Al Arabiya. He tells interviewer Hisham Melhem that Americans are not the enemy of the Muslim world, and wants Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations. [Al Arabiya, 1/27/2009] Melhem, Al Arabiya’s Washington bureau chief, originally believes he was slated to interview the newly named US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell (see January 22, 2009). Melhem believed there was some discussion among White House officials on whether it was the right time for Obama to grant an interview to the Arab media. The selection of Al Arabiya is deliberate, as that channel is considered more moderate and Western-friendly than, for example, Al Jazeera. [Time, 1/28/2009]
Intent to Reopen Talks between Israel, Palestinians - Obama intends to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and says the US will open up new talks by listening to the two sides instead of immediately issuing demands. “[W]hat I told Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating—in the past on some of these issues—and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved. So let’s listen. He’s going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response. Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what’s best for them. They’re going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it’s time to return to the negotiating table.” The larger peace plan for the Middle East recently proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah will play an important role in the negotiations, Obama says.
'A Language of Respect' - Language matters, Obama notes. “[M]y job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect,” he says. “[T]he language we use matters. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith’s name.”
Restoring Relations with the Muslim World - Melhem asks Obama about tensions between the US and the Islamic world, inflamed by demagogues and extremists on both sides. Obama says: “Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they [extremists]‘ve been using against me before I even took office… what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There’s no actions that they’ve taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.” Obama reminds Melhem, and the viewers, that he lived for a time in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, during his childhood. He learned through his experiences in Indonesia and other Muslim countries that everyone, regardless of differences in culture or faith, has similar hopes and aspirations. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy,” he says. “We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.”
Dealing with Iran - Wrapping up the interview, Melhem asks if the US is prepared to “live with a nuclear Iran.” Obama responds: “I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran.… Iran has acted in ways that’s not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past—none of these things have been helpful. But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress.” [Al Arabiya, 1/27/2009]
Responses - In Pakistan, Obama’s interview is widely viewed, and receives what CNN calls “a generally positive response from analysts there.” Islamabad author and journalist Imtiaz Gul says, “It’s a good sign of an attempt to reconcile with the Muslim world, to say America wants to reach out to them and not to consider them as an enemy.” [CNN, 1/27/2009] Egyptian student Omar Youssef, who has joined in protests against the Israeli war in Gaza, says of Obama: “He’s a man of diplomacy and speaks well. Bush, Arab people hate him. But the world needs a man like Obama.” Another student, Ahmed Mahmoud, adds, “Maybe if he can solve the problem between white and black people in America, he can also solve the problem between Arab and Jewish people here.” [Time, 1/28/2009] Melhem, who has long criticized US policies towards the Middle East, later says he was touched by Obama’s conciliatory tone and references to his Muslim roots. “You can feel the authenticity about him,” he says. “The interview was his way of saying, ‘There is a new wind coming from Washington.’ Barack Obama definitely sees the world differently from a man named George W. Bush.” [Time, 1/29/2009] Al Arabiya General Manager Abdul Rahman al-Rashed says: “What he did campaigning in the US he is trying to do in the Middle East, convincing people that he is on their side. He is telling Muslims that he is proud of his Muslim roots. This is being received positively.” And Jordanian news columnist Jamil Nimri writes, “The language of force, conceit, and threat has totally disappeared.” [Time, 1/28/2009] Neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer disputes Obama’s implication that the Bush administration treated Islam with any disrespect, saying: “[S]omehow he is implying that somehow the Obama era is a break with the American past. Somehow it is undoing a disrespect of Islam that had somehow occurred under the previous administration.… We have no need to apologize. Extend a hand, yes, but to imply that there was a disrespect of Islam in the last administration, I think is unfair and fictional.” [Fox News, 1/28/2009]
Lara Logan, in a 2008 photo from Iraq. [Source: CBS News]Lara Logan, CBS’s chief foreign correspondent and a veteran war reporter, is beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob celebrating the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek in Cairo. Logan and her colleagues, including a small security force, are surrounded by over 200 people during a celebration in Tahrir Square. Logan is separated from her group and subjected to what CBS calls “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.” She is rescued by a group of women and 20 Egyptian soldiers, and returns to the United States the next day for medical treatment. The network does not release full details of her injuries, and Logan’s family asks that her privacy be respected while she recovers. [Washington Post, 2/15/2011]
Fellow Journalist Accuses Logan of Trying to 'Become a Martyr' - Within days, American commentators and pundits begin blaming Logan for bringing her injuries upon herself. Nir Rosen, a journalist and foreign policy scholar, posts a series of comments on Twitter accusing Logan of trying to upstage CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who days before had been beaten by a crowd of Egyptians while covering the protests in Cairo. Rosen writes: “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal?” referencing General Stanley McChrystal (see September 22, 2009), who once led American troops in Afghanistan and whom Logan has defended in her reporting. Rosen then goes on to say that had Cooper also been sexually assaulted, he would have found it amusing: “Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” Reacting to her defense of McChrystal, he posts, “Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger,” and finishes his Twitter blast with, “Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.” Rosen quickly issues an apology and deletes some of his posts, calling his comments “a thoughtless joke” and saying that he “added insult to Ms. Logan’s injury.” Within 24 hours, he steps down from his position as a fellow of New York University’s Center on Law and Security. In a statement, the center’s executive director Karen Greenberg says that Rosen “crossed the line with his comments about Lara Logan.” She continues: “I am deeply distressed by what he wrote about Ms. Logan and strongly denounce his comments. They were cruel and insensitive and completely unacceptable. Mr. Rosen tells me that he misunderstood the severity of the attack on her in Cairo. He has apologized, withdrawn his remarks, and submitted his resignation as a fellow, which I have accepted. However, this in no way compensates for the harm his comments have inflicted. We are all horrified by what happened to Ms. Logan, and our thoughts are with her during this difficult time.” Rosen then sends an email claiming that Logan received undue media attention because she is white: “Had Logan been a non-white journalist, this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed.” [National Review, 2/15/2011; The Atlantic, 2/15/2011; Washington Post, 2/16/2011; Huffington Post, 2/16/2011] A columnist for the conservative National Review, Jim Geraghty, calls Rosen’s comments “appalling.” [National Review, 2/15/2011] Rosen will attempt to explain his comments about Logan in an article for Salon (see February 17, 2011).
Right-Wing Columnist: Logan Herself to Blame for Assault at Hands of Muslim 'Animals' - Right-wing pundit and columnist Debbie Schlussel claims that Logan’s assault is typical of how Muslims celebrate anything. She captions her blog post with the tagline, “Islam Fan Lara Logan Gets a Taste of Islam,” and writes: “Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.” Schlussel goes on to mock Logan’s request for privacy concerning the incident, and seemingly blames Logan for deciding to try to cover the celebration: “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered. This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled. Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.’ Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara!” Schlussel updates her blog post with a denial that she supported any “‘sexual assault’ or violence against Lara Logan,” insults her critics’ reading ability, and restates her belief that the assault on Logan is emblematic of Muslims around the world, whom she repeatedly calls “animals.” [Debbie Schlussel, 2/15/2011; Salon, 2/15/2011]
Right-Wing Blogger: Logan's 'Liberal' Beliefs Caused Attack - Right-wing pundit Jim Hoft of the influential blog Gateway Pundit blames Logan’s “liberal belief system” for her attack, and, like Schlussel, blames Logan for the attack. Hoft writes: “Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday? Why would she think this was a good idea? Did she not see the violence in the square the last three weeks? Did she not see the rock throwing?… Did her colleagues tell her about the Western journalists who were viciously assaulted on the Square? Did she forget about the taunts from the Egyptian thugs the day before? What was she thinking? Was it her political correctness that about got her killed? Did she think things would be different for her?… Lara Logan is lucky she’s not dead.” Like Schlussel, Hoft refuses to retract or apologize for his post, and says “the far left” is at fault for reacting badly “when their tenets are questioned. It must be hard when someone holds a mirror up and you see that your twisted agenda has caused such havoc and pain around the world. These warped individuals must have missed that day of school when they talked about playing with fire.” Hoft calls a report on his commentary by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters “a dishonest smear job.” [Jim Hoft, 2/16/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2011] Commenters on Hoft’s blog post take his comments even further. One says Logan must have “the IQ of a tree stump.” Another chortles that she is now an “in-bedded reporter.” Another says, “I only wish it would have happened to [CBS news anchor] Katie Couric.” Another commenter says, “Shame that this is the only cure for a brain dead liberal!” And one commentator, echoing Schlussel, writes, “Hey, if you can’t handle rape, stay out of a Muslim country.” A number of commenters deny that Logan is a victim, because, as one writes, she “knowingly walked into” the situation and therefore is herself to blame, and one says for Logan to expect “a free pass” for being a woman in an Islamic society is cause enough for her to be assaulted. Many commenters question the entire incident, claiming that it is a “liberal fantasy” designed to give conservatives an opportunity to portray conservatives as racist and misogynistic. [Jim Hoft, 2/16/2011] Progressive blogger and pundit Bob Cesca responds to both Hoft and Schlussel: “There aren’t sufficient obscenities to describe Hoft and others his filth. Like Debbie Schlussel, for example.” [Bob Cesca, 2/16/2011]
Entity Tags: Katie Couric, Hosni Mubarak, Jim Geraghty, Jim Hoft, Debbie Schlussel, CBS News, Lara Logan, Bob Cesca, Nir Rosen, Karen Greenberg, Anderson Cooper, Ahmed Mahmoud
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Nir Rosen. [Source: Media Bistro]Author and columnist Nir Rosen explains what he meant to say in a burst of Twitter posts that forced him to resign from his position as a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security (see February 11-16, 2011). Rosen made a series of comments, or tweets, that disparaged and mocked Lara Logan, a CBS reporter who was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob of Egyptians celebrating the fall of the Mubarak regime. Rosen notes: “I undid a long career defending the weak and victims of injustice. There is no excuse for what I wrote. At the time, I did not know that the attack against Lara Logan was so severe, or included apparent sexual violence. Even so, any violence against anyone is wrong. I’ve apologized, lost my job, and humiliated myself and my family. But I, at least, don’t want to go down looking like a sexist pig. I am not. I am a staunch supporter of women’s rights, gay rights, and the rights of the weak anywhere in the world.… I continue to apologize for this comment because it in no way reflects the way I feel about women or violence. Sexual assault is never funny, and it is a terrible crime. I have apologized to Ms. Logan and her family, and to victims of sexual violence everywhere.” Rosen says his posts were “disgusting comment[s] born from dark humor I have developed working in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lebanon.” However, he continues, his tweets became a focus for “ideological opportunists who have used this ordeal for their personal gain. People whose words have helped create and justify war and genocide are now jumping onto this issue to attack me for my previous journalism (which, naturally, I stand by).” Rosen then makes what he calls “the point I really was trying to make. Had Logan been a non-white, non-famous journalist, this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed and nobody will ever know their names. Credible accounts indicate that the assaults on women took place largely on the Friday of the victory celebration, when millions of non-demonstrators joined the party. Countless women (Egyptian and foreign, journalists and others) have reported being harassed and assaulted in Tahrir Square that Friday, mostly, it seems, by non-revolutionaries.… So why all the focus on Logan? The US media did not care when Egyptian journalists (or any other Egyptian) were being jailed. Only when pretty white people showed up did Egypt really start to matter, and then, they were preoccupied with the scary Muslim Brotherhood possibly taking over, or what would happen to poor Israel now that there was a ‘threat’ of democracy in Egypt. This is why I wrote in a Twitter that I was already rolling my eyes. Even before we knew what happened to her, I knew how to anticipate the media response in the United States. So Logan and Anderson Cooper [a CNN reporter who was attacked by Egyptian protesters days before Logan was attacked] have become the story, instead of the thousands of Egyptians who have far more compelling stories. Meanwhile, I have not seen any condemnation of the pure hatred, racism, and vitriol that I’ve seen spewed all over the Internet in response to the Logan story. I’ve seen Arabs, Muslims, and Egyptians called animals and pigs in tens of websites and, right under the Logan stories, read vile rhetoric about them that would never be acceptable if used against any other group.” Rosen’s anger at Logan, whom he says supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, overcame his better judgment. However, “her destructive reporting has nothing to do with the crime she suffered, nothing at all. I point it out now only to explain my thinking, not to justify or defend the hurt I caused.” He asks why he is being vilified when others have called for the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (see (Early January 2011)) or the jailing of more journalists, and calls some of the criticism of his tweets “sanctimonious, [e]specially when they come from people who support every kind of American war (or Israeli war), tolerate racism against Arabs and Muslims, and—while focusing on the plight of celebrities—ignore outrages like our scorched-earth policies in Kandahar.” Rosen believes he was subjected to what he says was an undue level of criticism because he is “a leftist opponent of American wars… and I have a hard time taking a lot of the sanctimonious condemnation from right-wingers very seriously, given what right-wing pundits say on a daily basis.” He concludes: “I hope that one day people will believe me when I say that I did not mean it and that it does not reflect who I am. I hope that people will take time to read my work and understand that I have spent my career taking a lot of heat for defending victims of all kinds, not just Arabs and Muslims. And I hope Ms. Logan and other victims of sexual violence will one day forgive me for my terrible mistake.” [Salon, 2/17/2011]
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