Why MEMRI touches a nerve

Writing in the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Alawsat, Arab journalist Diana Mukkaled gets to the heart of why the Arabic-to-English translation website MEMRI sends some Islamists and their apologists into such fits of rage.

As the Muslim Association of Britain put it last year during the controversy over Mayor Ken Livingstone’s welcome for Sheikh al-Qaradawi:

MEMRI, the Israeli Mossad operation whose mission is to undermine Islam and Muslims, proved once more a useful source of hate… Thanks to MEMRI and its clients within the camp of hate no Muslim scholar or thinker can now express an opinion without being witch-hunted.

And of course Livingstone himself decided it was a wise use of London taxpayers’ money to produce a report that, among other things, tried to discredit MEMRI for providing translations of some of the nastier things Qaradawi has said when he didn’t think the non-Arab media were paying attention.

Mukkaled writes about the outraged reaction of the Muslim Council of Britain to the BBC’s Panorama program about the extremists within their membership. And of the Arab media, she adds:

There remains the belief that “We are the believers and the people of paradise and they are the unbelievers and the people of hell”. Such is a language that is present on a daily basis and hardly any broadcasting channels are free of such dispute. Yet within the minds of those who propagate these acts, lies the belief that the world will not heed their message when repeated in Arabic on Arab broadcasting channels. These very people, however, will use different terminology when speaking in English on foreign television networks. For this reason, when they are confronted with what they have previously argued in Arabic, they seem confused and frantically search for other arguments, which was exactly the case on the Panorama special.

However, the world is closely watching. There are western institutions that specialize in translating material that is used by all forms of Arab media. The majority of programs are recorded and later broadcasted, therefore when a Muslim cleric features on some broadcasting channel referring to Jews as “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs,” it is inevitable that such words will reach millions of people around the world. Such a portrayal of these extremist attitudes causes the Muslim and Arab immigrants and their children in the west to pay the price for such words.

The accusations that British Muslims have made against the BBC of having a Zionist agenda are easily refutable in comparison to the statements made by Muslim leaders themselves. The problem does not lie in what the BBC said, but rather in what we say.

(Via normblog.)