The Pavlovian reaction to Aljazeera’s Muslim Brotherhood activist Ahmad Mansour’s arrest

Ahmad Mansour
Nureddin Sabir, Editor, Redress Information & Analysis, writes:

The arrest of Muslim Brotherhood activist Ahmad Mansour has triggered an avalanche of criticism from journalists and left-wing politicians.

They should know better than risk their credibility by defending a spokesman for the Arab equivalent of the right-wing fringe of the American Tea Party.

Mansour, who also works as a “journalist” for the Qatari-owned Aljazeera network, was detained in Germany on 20 June at the request of Egypt, which had issued an international warrant for his arrest.

In a Pavlovian response to Mansour’s arrest, former MP and UK Respect Party leader George Galloway said:

Echoing the same sentiment, Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour Party leadership contender and widely respected campaigner for just causes, seemed unaware of Mansour’s questionable credentials as a journalist:

Meanwhile, BBC reporter Ahmed Maher unwittingly tarnished his own image by indirectly equating his professionalism with that of Mansour. In a post on his Facebook account, he said:

Ahmed Maher

So, what exactly has Ahmad Mansour been up to that makes us less than enthusiastic about him?

First, let’s take a look at this video – it is in Arabic but we will explain its significance.

The video came to light after the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist president and Muslim Brotherhood member, Muhammad Morsi, in July 2013. It shows Ahmad Mansour giving advice to his Muslim Brotherhood audience on how to reinstate Morsi. “Raise the Egyptian flags like they [Morsi’s opponents] who stole the revolution did,” says Mansour, adding: “I beg you to listen to me. Egyptians won’t come out on the streets with us otherwise.” In other words, drop the habit of parading Islamist and jihadist flags and pretend to be Egyptian patriots or else you will alienate yourselves from the people even further.

Adel Iskandar, a Washington-based scholar of Arab studies whose research focuses on media, described the video of Mansour as a “worrying development”, indicating that even veteran Aljazeera journalists “have abandoned their role as practitioners and turned into political operatives”.

But it gets worse.

According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), Mansour has publicly praised the murders of Egyptian police officers and advocated attacks on journalists who allegedly supported Morsi’s successors. In a statement, reported on 22 February 2014 on the Muslim Brotherhood’s own website, Ikhwan Online, he blamed police and journalists for supporting Morsi’s ouster.

Those who “retaliate against the criminal officers are the ones who will help in overthrowing the coup,” Mansour’s statement said, according to Ikhwan Online. “They are those which will destroy the economy of the coup. They are those which will decisively prevent the return of tourism.”

Mansour’s statement also criticised what he described as “the treasonous media” for siding with the military in overthrowing Morsi.

“Considering the media partners in all the massacres is correct, and their being punished at the hands of the movements today is not a terrorist act, but act of heroism,” Mansour’s statement said.

The report on Manour’s statement, the IPT says, was quickly removed by the Brotherhood, and Mansour denied making the statement.

Ahmad Mansour’s last major act before his arrest in Germany was a 47-minute interview with Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, the leader of Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. (An Arabic transcript of the interview is here and an English translation is here.)

The interview, first aired on 27 May, was more sympathetic than hard-hitting and has been described as the first shot in the Syrian Al-Qaeda’s public relations campaign, aimed at selling itself to the West as the credible alternative to Bashar al-Asad’s regime.

Mansour was released by the German authorities on 22 June. Many in the West – sadly, mostly liberal and leftists – are doubtless rejoicing at his freedom, as are activists of the far-right Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.

For us, however, he is at the very least an influential spokesman for the most potent enemy of enlightenment, freedom and equality in the Arab world.

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