Middle East outraged at West's `terrorism' tag

Click to follow
Arabs responded with relief and anger to the news that the bombing is now believed to be the work of Americans: satisfaction that US missiles would not be fired in the Middle East but fury that the atrocity had again revealed what they regard as the double standard of the West towards the Arab world.

European and US newspaper headlines in which Islam was blamed have reinforced the growing belief that Muslims have become racially stereotyped with the word ``terrorism''. Sheikh Mohamed Fadlallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hizbollah, insisted that Muslims felt no animosity for Americans but warned that response to the bombing showed that many in the West were searching for an excuse to attack Iran.

``As soon as it became clear that Arabs were not involved," a distinguished Lebanese Muslim academic said yesterday, ``you people stopped using the word `terrorism' - you lost interest in the `hows' and `whys'. First you were guided by Israeli `experts' as to who was to blame and when forced to conclude that they were wrong, you just stopped asking questions."

These remarks were not entirely fair. Many Arabs - especially Lebanese - first suspected that Muslims may have been involved. And US embassies and military forces in the region have been attacked by groups calling themselves Islamic. But Arabs also noticed how swiftly Western news agencies and television dropped the word ``terrorist'' once it emerged that Americans were thought to be responsible for the slaughter.

The BBC World Servicechanged the nomenclature in its reporting on Saturday, substituting the phrase "home-grown, politically inspired violence" for international "terrorism".

A number of Western newspapers had supported allegations against Muslim nations, especially Iran, by quoting anonymous ``informed sources" who turned out to be Israeli.

``As usual, you thought we were the enemy," the Lebanese scholar said. ``Your reporters scoured Jordan and the West Bank for details of the innocent Palestinian who was questioned and then released. But we're still waiting to hear about your terrorists, whom you call `right-wing militiamen' or `radicals' rather than terrorists."

Associated Press called those responsible "extremists" as soon as it became clear that Arabs were not involved. "The bias of you people just disgusts me," one of Beirut's veteran reporters said. "The way you change your reporting when you find you can no longer accuse Arabs is sheer racism. Who taught you to do this?"