Al Qaeda Is Attacking Major Syrian Cities with US Weapons -- but You Wouldn't Know That from the Media

Norton, Ben
Date Written:  2017-03-22
Publisher:  AlterNet
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20614

Norton analyzes media coverages of attacks linked to Al-Qaeda in the West to highlight how this emphasis on Muslim extremism is used to justify Islamophobia.



In the West, rare al-Qaeda-linked attacks are seized on to justify draconian anti-Muslim policies and growing racism and xenophobia. In Syria, however, the fact that frequent similar attacks are even al-Qaeda-linked at all is played down.

An Islamist extremist went on a rampage in London on March 22, killing at least five people and wounding dozens more. At the same moment, there were also al-Qaeda-linked attacks going on against major Syrian cities -- with drastically different media responses.

In fact, the same Western media outlets that made sure every person on the planet knew about the attack in London simultaneously grossly understated, and even outright ignored, the ties of the Syrian jihadists to the extremist group that carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a military alliance that represents an attempt to rebrand Syria's original al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat Al-Nusra, initiated an assault near the city of Hama on March 21, in collaboration with fighters from the so-called Free Syrian Army, or FSA, which has for years been supported by the U.S. and its allies.

In the days before, the same al-Qaeda-linked group and another extremist Islamist militia, Ahrar al-Sham, launched two other attacks inside and on the outskirts of Syria's capital, Damascus, targeting civilian areas under the control of the Syrian government.

In her coverage of the assault on Damascus, the Washington Post's Liz Sly provided a prime example of how this media whitewashing works: Sly did not even mention Tahrir al-Sham's links to al-Qaeda, referring to the group simple as "extreme." She also described a U.S.-vetted FSA faction that was fighting alongside rebranded al-Qaeda, Faylaq al-Rahman, as "moderate."

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