An Alarming Video! ZOMG!!!1!

Two different people sent me a link to the same video recently, breathlessly titled, “An Alarming Video Every Westerner Should See.” In one case the video was posted on an obnoxious right-wing site and in the other case on a Christianist site. The video itself is a product of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which cherry picks the most outlandish media coming out of the Arab world, edits it for effect, translates it mostly accurately, and hopes it will frighten American voters. Although you’d think that since Israel is part of the Middle East, MEMRI would sometimes translate and disseminate rantings of delusion Israeli figures, it doesn’t. Just Arab ones.

Mantiq al-Tayr, though, is there to pick up the slack and point a finger at Israeli whackaloonery. See this post on his blog about Israeli politician and anti-Christite (needless to say anti-Arab and -Muslim) Obadiah Shofer.

Mr. Shoher does not think that Jews should just engage in suicide attacks. Rather, he believes they should be much more on the offensive. Among the tactics he endorses is the murder of POWs. He acknowledges that Israel has killed “a lot” of Arab POW’s and he approves.

The MEMRI clip is just under nine minutes long. It starts out in the middle of a press conference, with a guy wearing Arab garb talking casually and matter-of-factly about how four pounds of anthrax could kill 330,000 Americans in an hour. I have no idea if this is true, but true or not, it’s certainly not the same as saying, “I demand that someone kill 330,000 Americans with anthrax!” But the title has already alerted me that EVERY WESTERNER SHOULD SEE this, so I’m already primed to tremble with fear at the sight of a bearded Arab guy standing in front of a backdrop with terrifying Arabic writing on it.

(Also, it’s just 22 seconds into the MEMRI clip at this point and I’ve already found terms I would have translated differently.)

Wait a minute, he just smiled while talking and gesticulating about anthrax, and then he said, “What a horrifying idea.” Isn’t he supposed to be scaring us? That’s not scary. But then he says if someone did that, that person would cry out with joy. Well, yes, I suppose he would, because if he did such a thing, he must have done it on purpose.

Then he goes into a digression about how al-Qaeda isn’t backwoods yokels living in caves, but has laboratories and produces weapons, as Hezbollah does. The MEMRI edits out something.

After MEMRI’s edit, the speaker says the so-called terrorists are the best people. He gets a round of applause. You’re familiar with the saying, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” He name drops Mulla Omar, who he says is a spiritual guy. Then he makes fun of politicians. Then MEMRI edits out something.

Then he says there are more than 300,000 white militia members in the US who wish to attack Washington. Again, I don’t know if his numbers are right, but domestic terrorism is certainly serious and we ought to pay some attention to it. Huh, for some reason MEMRI edits something out again.

Now he’s saying that the white militia racists want to bomb a nuclear facility in the US. This is alarming! Let’s round up those white militia guys before they can harm us! Ah, but then he jokingly wishes those guys well, and the audience laughs. The nerve! No American would ever make a joke about bombing any place where Arabs live. Then he makes another similar joke, and this time he even has a nasal, smirky laugh almost identical to ex-president Bush’s. The audience laughs again, but this time it sounds more like a courtesy laugh.

Then he says that God says in the Qur’an that hostility between “us” and “them” (MEMRI inserts ‘the Jews’ so you know it’s all about them) is eternal. I don’t doubt the guy’s knowledge of the Qur’an, because I’m confident he’s studied it a lot more than I have, but I couldn’t find such a passage and neither did the guy I go to with all my Qur’anic questions. Then he says something about cutting out tongues, and that definitely isn’t in the Qur’an.

Then he admits that he is a takfiri, meaning he’s an extremist who holds with accusing other Muslims of unbelief. He’s like that guy at church who thinks that everyone who goes to a different church is a bad Christian. Also, most of the people going to his own church. Also, his minister. And his wife, probably, too. Anyway, then MEMRI edits something out again.

Then he says we should support the resistance, the brave resistance to this campaign. But what resistance, what campaign? MEMRI has edited out all of that part. More on that later.

He says “we” should pressure journalists to present the facts correctly. Pressure them with phone calls saying we’ll take measures. I guess given that this guy’s eyebrows are somewhat similar to those of that guy Jafar in the Disney Aladdin movie, his eyebrows lend a certain scariness to this innocuous words. “I shall write a sternly-worded letter, and if you don’t capitulate, I shall write again.”

Then he urges the audience to pressure Arab journalists not to speak against the resistance, and they should pressure these journalists by any means necessary.

And then for some reason, the video ends right after he says that Hamas’s leaders are mujahidin, i.e. Muslims who are fighting the good fight. Where we would call someone a crusader for justice (or better cafeteria lunches, whatever), Muslims call the same person a mujahid.

So what questions are we left with? 1- Who is this guy? and 2- what opposition and what campaign?

MEMRI didn’t translate the backdrop for you. It says “Dr. Abdallah al-Nafisi’s Lecture ‘The Arab Before and After Gaza’,” and the date of the lecture was February 2nd, 2009. I know this because the whole, unedited lecture is also online. It’s an hour and sixteen minutes long! And it’s about the brutal, monstrous attack Israel waged on Gaza right before President Obama took the helm, while the younger Bush was still occupying the oval office.

Mr. Nafisi starts out much more solemn than he was later on, in the clip MEMRI made. He’s saying that America has something to do with Israel. Although most Americans don’t know it, the rest of the world does know that America makes it possible for Israel to get away with the destruction and killing that it does. He’s claiming that the west isn’t actually impartial. Heck.

Huh, he points out that the west usually deals with the east by waging war on it and divvying it up amongst themselves. Huh.

Anyway, to skip away from the content of his long lecture, he is Dr. Abdallah Fahd Abd-al-Aziz al-Nafisi. There’s no English-language Wikipedia page on him, but the Arabic-language one says he’s an intellectual and political analyst. So he is neither a politician nor a religious leader. He has no constituency nor congregation. I must confess this really makes me wonder why that right-wing site, that Christianist site, and MEMRI thought every westerner should see that clip.

Wikipedia says he’s a well-known writer who specializes in the struggle and dialogue between Islam and the west. This, even though in this speech he says there is no point in dialogue. People are paradoxical.

Also, he has a doctorate from Churchill College, University of Cambridge and was also a visiting professor at Harvard.

He has 761 fans on Facebook, his own web page (currently down), and is on LinkedIn. (Muntazar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who is serving a year in jail for slinging his shoes at Bush, has 47,897 fans)

At right around minute 30, Dr al-Nafisi says “China is America’s nightmare,” and in a scary voice. MEMRI must be slipping, leaving that out.

Oh hey, this is the part right before the MEMRI clip started. Okay, what he was doing just now was talking about America’s three main fears. Number one was China, and keeping China from becoming a military powerhouse by letting it become an economic powerhouse. Number two is weapons of mass destruction. And this is where the MEMRI clip starts.

In other words, MEMRI took his statement out of context and implied that he meant it in a way completely different from how he meant it. Big surprise.

And that edit before he talked about the white militias? That’s when he said that the United States’s third great fear is domestic terrorism. And then he starts with his examples.

The next of MEMRI’s edits is where al-Nafisi explains that Israel attacked Gaza when it did as a means of grandstanding for its election shortly afterward. He talks about Netanyahu and Livni and what they were willing to do for Israeli votes. He talks about the 2006 war with Hizballah. You know all this stuff. That’s probably why MEMRI edited it out. *rolleyes*

He mentions how both Bush and Obama turned away from doing anything about Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

Now I know al-Nafisi is confused, because he thinks Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote The Arab Mind, when it was really Raphael Patai. al-Nafisi talks a bit about the way Arabs were portrayed in that book, a favorite of neoconservatives who read. al-Nafisi thinks the peace process the US has pursued is a ploy to lull the Arabs into complacency, following Harkabi/Patai’s advice.

So the part MEMRI didn’t include, which precedes the part about eternal hostility with the Jews, is about how the Arab Muslim countries would do well to unite, because there is strength in unity. So what he says about “there is no dialogue,” is referring to what he perceives as the phoney peace dialogue on the part of the west.

And in the end, it finally becomes clear that the opposition he mentioned is “the Islamic opposition,” presumably opposition to normalization of relations with Israel.

My verdict: not an alarming video.

However, here’s a page where Arab liberals denounced al-Nafisi for what he said in this speech.

I’m not sure I exhausted this topic, although I have now exhausted myself. I may have to come back to it later. Have a good one.
—–
Update: I just took a second look at the web page where Arab liberals denounce al-Nafisi, and it’s also full of misrepresentations of his speech!

Examples:

…which urged the killing of more than 300,000 Americans in an anthrax [attack] and called the 9/11 attacks just ’small change.’

Not what happened. Not what he said.

He made a motion with his hand as though he were holding a razor or a knife, alluding to slaughter!

No he didn’t. I watched the whole damn thing. Never happened.

Here is their ‘Dr.,’ publicly and without fear delivering threats about killing Americans

He never made a threat. Didn’t happen.

Rather, he travels throughout the Arab world giving speeches unabashedly encouraging terrorism, slaughter, and suicide [attacks].

Perhaps, but he wasn’t doing any of that in this speech.

Is dispersing deadly anthrax powder in Washington, as ‘bBin Laden’ Al-Nafisi called for…

He certainly did not.

Anyhow, there’s some good criticism there, despite the inaccuracies. He’s in some ways nearly as offensive as a Limbaugh, and people like that can be toxic. It’s encouraging that al-Nafisi only has 761 fans on Facebook.

8 Comments

Filed under arab, arabic, domestic terrorism, Islamic relations

8 responses to “An Alarming Video! ZOMG!!!1!

  1. fred

    Countering the MEMRI machine would seem to be a long, uphill battle. I can’t imagine that there are any practical limitations to their budget.

  2. Geoff

    Some genius sent me the video. It seemed wrong to me (even though I speak no Arabic) and I went looking for a non-biased, unedited view on it. Your blog is really all I found. The rest are far right Christian nuts and their Islamophobia. (sp)

    Anyway, thanks for the blog. I’m sure it’s exhausting at times but, if it weren’t for your comments, the poor Dr. would have no defense.

    Geoff

    • Thanks, Geoff. I don’t know very much about Dr al-Nafisi, and from what little I’ve learned, it sounds like he is a piece of work, but at least in this speech he’s not saying the inflammatory things MEMRI wants us to think he is.

  3. Geoff

    Just out of curiosity, why would MEMRI want to further any sort of negative Arab or Muslim stereotypes?

    I’ve used your blog as a response to the emailed video to a few (normally intelligent) panicky gun nuts. Between this video and Obama going after gun rights, these people are about to pop…

    Geoff

    • Hi Geoff, thanks for referring people to my site. That post is one I’m particularly proud of.
      MEMRI has a Wikipedia page if you want to know more about them. They were founded by some former Israeli military intelligence soldiers and it’s possible they think that they’re doing something good by making westerners aware of the most inflammatory stuff out there. Unfortunately, nobody pays any attention to all the peaceful, moderate Muslims and Arabs and Persians and Pakistanis.

    • maghi85

      hi Geoff,
      sorry to interrupt.
      but the reason why MEMRI does display only negative images of the middle-east, arabs and Muslims is because they’re afraid that the American public will inevitably find out that Israel is illegally occuping the west-bank and Gaza, and is making the Palestinians go through hell… so the only way to counter a revolt from the American public is to dehumanize American public about Muslims and Arabs and general to the point that most Americans would start considering Muslims as sub-humans out their wanting to kill every American and hence making them go through all this torture (which Israel is doing) is justifiable.
      that’s my hypothesis…

  4. tuttle

    I’m always cynical about things like this in a foreign language. Especially when there are clear edits.
    What’s to say that the English “translation” has anything to do with what is actually being said?
    And who is to know anything about the speaker.
    Thank you for this enlightening review.
    I have passed it on to my source of the “alarm.”

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