The editor-in-chief of a major Qatari newspaper has stirred controversy on Twitter after urging Muslims “not to apologize” for the killing of journalists in Paris, claiming that “France was looking for an excuse to intervene in Libya.”
“Don’t apologize for a crime you did not commit,” said Abdullah Al Athba, prominent Qatari journalist and editor-in-chief Al Arab newspaper, in a twitter statement.
In another tweet, Al Athba shared a comment by one of his followers that read: “Why should Muslims apologize? when the London mosque was tortured no one called on Christians or Britons to apologize.”
Al Athba meanwhile stated that France was looking for justifications for a military intervention in Libya.
“It seems that France wants to invade Libya with the excuse of ‘fighting terrorism’ after it occupied Mali under the same excuse and this operation is a suitable pretext to kill Muslims.”
He also suggested there could be a link between what he said was an increase in attacks on Mosques across Europe and the latest attack on the French newspaper’s offices.
Al Athba told Al Arabiya News in an email statement that: “Attacking innocents is unacceptable and should be condemned and I am against the killing of my fellow journalists.”
“But why is the issue being linked Islam and Muslims? There are extremist Christians as there are extremist Jews, yet no one asks the Church for example to condemn attacks on Muslims and Mosques in Sweden and hatred campaigns against Muslims in Germany.”
“So why do we as Muslims have to apologize for a crime we have not committed? We have to deal with the individual, or individuals who committed a crime without regard to their religion, especially that punishment in law only applies to the perpetrator,” he added.
“The French judiciary is supposed to deal with the case without politicizing it or taking it as an excuse against Muslims in France or in the West or elsewhere,” Al Athba continued.
Al Athba’s comments were criticized by several of his followers, with one Twitter user (Takhabbatasiran) replying: “Does France need this operation to intervene in Libya, give us a break.”
“Man, spare us your analyses,” said another user (AldosariFfqatar), before suggesting that such comments could create a crisis for Qatar with France.
Yasser Abdel Aziz, a Cairo-based media analyst, said Arab journalists should first condemn “any attack on journalism and journalists from any source.”
“Second, they should not rush into conclusions on the incident and its perpetrators until evidence is unveiled,” he added.
“What happened is a massive assault on the press and the freedom of press,” he said. “And this assault follows a series of attacks and violations on the press and journalists in different parts of the world, which appeared to increase over the past few years, from different sources, including governments, and extremist groups.”
He explained that “unsound or surprise reactions” from some Arab journalists or media figures could be attributed to “uncertainties” in the Arab world toward “Western political and media behavior toward the situation of extremism in the Middle East.”
The Arab League and Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s top religious institution, strongly condemned the deadly shooting by the black-hooded gunmen.
“Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris,” the League said.
In remarks carried by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Al-Azhar said: “Islam denounces any violence.”
Saudi Arabia has also condemned the shooting at the French newspaper in Paris.
The official SPA news agency carried a statement saying: “Saudi Arabia denounces this cowardly terrorist act which Islam as well as other religions reject.”
“[Saudi Arabia] offers its condolences to the families of the victims as well as the government and people of the French republic and wishes a speedy recovery for the wounded,” the statement added.