CAIRO: “The War on Terror is not directed in the right way. We need to know what is really happening instead of what we think are good tactics . spin doctoring does more harm than anything else, said Al-Jazeera correspondent Yosri Fouda on Sunday.
Al-Jazeera’s London bureau chief and senior investigative correspondent Fouda was at his alma mater, the American University in Cairo, giving a lecture on Al-Qaeda and his work covering the international terror organization.
A world renowned reporter, Fouda has covered Al-Qaeda extensively and is one of the few who has interviewed several of the organization’s leaders, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed.
Currently a chief investigative reporter at the Qatar-based network, Fouda also hosts Top Secret, one of the news channel’s most popular shows. He is the co-author of “Masterminds of Terror: The Truth Behind the Most Devastating Attack the World Has Ever Seen.
In his Sunday lecture titled “Covering Al-Qaeda: Reality and Spin Doctoring, students, teachers and journalists poured into AUC’s Oriental Hall to listen to Fouda’s talk about the reality and biased portrayals of Al-Qaeda and the war on terror.
For one, Fouda stressed the need for more thorough studies of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Egyptian Mohamed Atta (who supposedly attended AUC for a period of time) and Lebanese Ziad Jarrah.
“We haven’t done a fair and honest study of either Atta or Jarrah. Why would sophisticated and well-educated people like Atta and Jarrah who had everything to live for do something like this, Fouda asked after a showing a clip of Jarrah dancing at a wedding in Lebanon a few months before 9/11.
On the subject of Lebanon, Fouda also highlighted his surprise over talks of Al-Qaeda in the country.
“I was surprised when I heard a Lebanese Minister mentioning Al-Qaeda in an interview with La Liberation. You would not really think of Al-Qaeda in Lebanon, but considering the events of Nahr El Bared and what is happening with the Palestinians there is enough to make us worried, he continued.
Furthermore, Fouda showed several clips from his broadcast reports; one of them depicting insurgents from the Islamic Army in Iraq shooting rockets while shouting “Allahu Akbar, God is Great.
“This is a worrying sign. The Islamic Army of Iraq is mainly constructed of ex-Baathists, people who were not on any side before resorting to the Islamic message. They are being recruited in the mindset of Al-Qaeda, whether they believe it or not, said Fouda pointing out that “you don’t have to know Osama bin Laden to be part of Al-Qaeda
Regarding the war on terror and the road ahead, Fouda highlighted the significance of what he calls the “Triangle of Anger composed of Islamists, Arab governments, and America.
“Osama bin Laden would probably tell you if you asked him that he has not had any quarrel with America. His problem is that America keeps interfering in Arab affairs and keeps supporting corrupt Arab regimes, Fouda said.
The anger of the Islamists, the first group in the Triangle, is rooted on just that: America’s support of corrupt Arab regimes in addition to the country’s supposed double-standards in the Israel-Palestine conflict, says Fouda.
A third reason for the anger of the Islamists is the fact that the US keeps “doing unnecessary things, says Fouda, using the example of the widely criticized US-led extraordinary renditions program, which allows for extrajudicial transfers of terrorist suspects to another country for interrogation.
The countries to which the detainees are transferred often turn out to be nations with poor human rights records where the suspect is subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
Fouda then quickly mentioned the second tier in the Triangle of Anger, concerned with the perspective of Arab governments who are facing increasing pressure from within as well as from the outside.
The third angle is the American perspective comprised of 9/11, anti-American sentiment, and the moral high ground debate.
But how do we solve the problem and bridge differing ideologies and worldviews?
Fouda emphasizes that “education, education, and more education is the answer, in addition to stressing the importance of objective and informative media.
When asked about his upcoming plans and projects, Fouda’s answer was curt and witty: “I’m on sabbatical and I’m waiting for another phone call from Al-Qaeda.