Arab incitement against the West:
Islamic scholar protests on Al-Jazeera TV

Published: 19 January 2007
Briefing Number 210

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Summary: : Israel has long complained bitterly of the incitement whipped up against it on TV and other media across the Arab world. This includes media in the so-called ‘moderate' Arab states. There's just been an unexpected addition to those voicing concern over incitement against the West: an Islamic academic, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari. Admittedly, his words are about incitement against the West generally, but we would argue that the logic applies word-for-word to Israel . Al-Ansari, who is the former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University spoke up forcefully in an interview which was aired on Al-Jazeera TV on 9 December 2007 . Among the comments of Al-Ansari are the following:

- Islam must respect diversity of opinion and culture

- We Arabs lose because of anti-Western incitement and the preachers of hatred

- Conspiracy theories do not benefit the Arab world in any way

- We in the Arab countries busy ourselves exaggerating the defects of others

- How can we call for our children to hate the scientists who discovered insulin, and are working on a cure for malaria?

These are courageous words, which benefit Arab and Jew alike. Peace cannot be built on foundations of incitement hatred and conspiracy theories.

Below are extracts from the Al-Jazeera TV interview with Abd al-HAmid al-Ansari. The programme can be viewed on the MEMRI website. Go to and view Special Despatch 1813, dated 16 January 2008

Islam must respect diversity of opinion and culture…..

Al-Ansari: “…. In my opinion the people who try to impose a single religion, a single culture, a single political regime, oppose the will of Allah. Allah created human beings, and the Koran says: ‘but they will not cease to differ' until Judgment Day….. Why did Allah create human beings different from one another? The development of the world, the enrichment of life, and the progress of man and society can only take place where there is such diversity….”

We lose because of the incitement and the preachers of hatred…..

Al-Ansari: “….When we follow those who preach hatred, confrontation and conflict, we are the ones who end up losing. We do not have the power or the means for a confrontation. This means that our sons will turn into bombs. If we incite them against others, this means that instead of building our society, and establishing a culture of dialogue within the society, we use the religious pulpit and satellite TV for incitement. Of course the people who incite get away with it, and are never held accountable, but my son is the one who will pay the price. That is the problem, and unfortunately the law does not punish those who incite. It punishes my son, the perpetrator…..”

Conspiracy theories do not benefit us in any way….

Al-Ansari: “The people who say that America and the West are the enemy, and who focus on conspiracy theories, want to create an imaginary enemy. We will not benefit from this in any way….”

We busy ourselves exaggerating the defects of others

Al-Ansari: “When I talk about a culture of dialogue I mean a culture that deals with its own defects and flaws more than with the flaws of others. What is happening today, as far as the culture of dialogue is concerned, is that we are busy following and exaggerating the defects of others. If somebody in the West disparages the Prophet or the religion of Islam, or says something abominable, we immediately blow this out of proportion, and this makes the preachers of hatred happy. They say to us: didn't we tell you that the West was hostile, and that it was constantly conspiring against us? But the truth is that there are many ‘wests', and America does not consist of a single sect or single opinion….”

How can we teach our children to hate the scientists who discovered Insulin, or who are working to cure malaria?

Al-Ansari then comments on how a Saudi woman wrote to a local journalist that her 8 year old daughter was taught in her Saudi school, in a class on monotheism, that the first way to disavow polytheists is to hate them. He says:

“The mother wrote in her letter: do they expect me to hate the Jewish scientist who discovered insulin, which I use to treat my mother? Am I supposed to teach my daughter that she should hate Edison, who invented the light bulb, which lights up the Islamic world? Should I hate the scientist who discovered the cure for malaria? Should I teach my daughter to hate people merely because their religion is different? Why do we turn religion into a religion of hatred of those who differ from us….?”

Beyond Images comments

•  The Islamic world is not monolithic. This interview illustrates this.

•  Moderate, courageous voices like Al-Ansari need support.

•  While his words were uttered in relation to incitement against the West generally, they may be applied word-for-word to Israel .

•  Long-term peace between Israel and its neighbours cannot be built on foundations of incitement, hatred and conspiracy theories.

Additional Beyond Images resources

See our briefing: Rejecting Militant Islam and Accepting Israel: Muslim women Speak Out - Briefing 173, May 2006. See generally MEMRI: