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Friday, September 24, 2004

Arabs continue to support kidnappings, beheadings; but worry about PR


Muslim outrage over killings found lacking

By Paul Martin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

LONDON — The beheadings of two Americans in Iraq this week have been treated as unwelcome developments in the Arab press, but the concern has been more for the image of Muslims than for the victims.
Most organizations continued to cast the outrage as a small part of a wider conflict in which the United States is seen as the prime culprit.
"There has been little sign of the outrage that greeted the kidnapping of two French hostages last month and none of the soul-searching prompted by the ... siege" at a school in Beslan, Russia, said Sebastian Usher, who monitors the Arab media for the British Broadcasting Corp.
A survey of the Arabic press in the past few days found that almost all reported the kidnappings of two Americans and a Briton and the Internet posting of statements and videotapes depicting the grisly killings of the two Americans. Appeals for mercy from the family of British hostage Kenneth Bigley also were widely reported.
But in most cases, the stories were quickly overtaken by extensive and colorful reports of bloodshed elsewhere in Iraq or in the Palestinian territories.
Al Jazeera, the most widely watched Arabic television channel, conducted a telephone poll during its top debating program, the Other Direction. In it, 93 percent of viewers said they approved of kidnapping foreigners in Iraq — even though by then, one of the two American hostages had been decapitated.