Storming of Cairo embassy dominates coverage
Arabic media review

Storming of Cairo embassy dominates coverage

Papers also report on Yemen's defense minister dodging an assassination attempt by Al-Qaeda

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Yemeni soldiers at the site of a car bomb attack in Sanaa', September 11 (photo credit: AP/Hani Muhammad)
Yemeni soldiers at the site of a car bomb attack in Sanaa', September 11 (photo credit: AP/Hani Muhammad)

An attack by an Egyptian mob on the American Embassy in Cairo and the tearing of the US flag leads the news in Arab media Wednesday.

“The American embassy is under siege on the memorial of 9/11,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily reports thousands of Egyptians besieged the embassy, with some climbing the embassy walls.

The daily reports that the protesters tore down the American flag and tore it, then hung a flag with the slogan “there is no God but Allah” in its place. Eventually, the army arrived to prevent the mob from entering the embassy “as took place at the Israeli Embassy last year,” the daily writes.

The demonstrators were protesting a new American film broadcast on 9/11 mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

“Cairo: Demonstrators raise the ‘flag of Jihad’ on the walls of the American Embassy,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat. The daily, like A-Sharq Al-Awsat, notes that the film was produced by Egyptian Copts living in the United States. However, the Coptic church in Egypt condemned the film as “extremist,” the daily reported.

London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi puts the number of demonstrators in Cairo at 3,000, claiming they came from “various political and intellectual streams in Egypt.”

The daily’s editorial claims that the anti-Muhammad film is an “intentional provocation, an attempt to sow sectarian strife between members of one nation.”

“Western governments, and primarily the American government, must adamantly oppose these acts of incitement through strict laws. There is a big difference between freedom of speech — used as an excuse by these people to spread their sectarian poison — and the freedom to incite against beliefs and prophets, and those of Islam in particular.”

Egyptian media portrays the demonstration more sympathetically.

“Popular anger at the insult of the Prophet,” reads the headline of establishment Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. The daily reports that thousands of Egyptian protesters “both Christians and Muslims” participated in the demonstrations, with the Christians “identifying with their brothers against the denigration of the noble Prophet.”

“Thousands of angry people storm the walls of the American embassy,” reads the headline of independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. According to the daily, the demonstrators were shouting “in spirit and blood we shall redeem you, O Islam.”

Syria: Refugees and unemployment

Parallel to the escalation of fighting in Syria, Arab media is reporting more and more about the human and financial cost of the crisis.

“Unemployment among Syrians has reached 75% and 250,000 refugees,” reads the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily also reports that France is “unenthusiastic” about the Egyptian initiative to include Iran in deliberations on Syria. It also mentions the French assistance to senior Syrian officers to defect.

Al-Hayat cites a Russian warning from the “Somalization” of Syria, in what it calls “the harshest warning on the ramifications of matters going out of control.”

A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed remarks in his Wednesday op-ed on the shift in Russia’s position on Syria.

“It is clear that Moscow has come to accept the idea of Assad’s replacement,” writes Homayed. “Putin’s recent television interview proves this, where he said: ‘we understand full well the need in change, but this does not mean that change must be bloody.’ The second remark is that Moscow does not really care about who will replace Assad as an individual or as a regime. The only thing it cares about is maintaining its interests there,” writes Homayed.

Al-Qaeda retaliates against Yemen

A suicide attack across from the government building in the Yemeni capital Sanaa Tuesday is making major headlines in Arab media Wednesday.

“Yemeni defense minister survives assassination attempt and fingers pointed at ‘Al-Qaeda’,” reads the headline of Al-Hayat. The daily reports that Defense Minister Muhammad Nasser Ahmad was lightly injured, while 12 others were killed, including seven in the minister’s entourage.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports that Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi sacked a number of loyalists of the previous regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Two of the men fired are National Security head Ali Al-Ansi and Saleh’s brother Ali Saleh Al-Ahmar, secretary of the Yemeni chief of staff.


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