HuffPostArabi, the new Arabic edition of the Huffington Post, has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.
Routinely condemned by both the right and left, the site–led by former Al Jazeera editors and Muslim Brotherhood supporters–has drawn support from the Huffington Post’s Washington Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim, who has taken to explaining “Why We’re in The Middle East.”
Much of Grim’s defense was centered around explaining away the revelation that a HuffPoArabi contributor wrote an article–that was later taken down–in which he used a vile Arabic term to describe homosexuals.
In his post, Grim makes clear that he and Huffington Post leadership currently have much lower standards for its Arabic-language publication in the Middle East.
Grim argues that readers should not expect the Arab world to maintain the social standards Westerners are familiar with, writing: “Societies evolve, and they do so through the force of social movements, which then shape dialogue.”
In the Middle East, both are tightly bound up by repressive regimes. It is likely no coincidence that changing opinions on LGBT rights have come at the same pace and moment as the growth of social media.
Wadah Khanfar and Anas Fouda — the head of Integral Media Strategies, our partner in HuffPost Arabi, and editor-in-chief, respectively — are both accomplished journalists, and we have every confidence that they’ll bring a balanced approach to debate in the Middle East.
Responding to allegations that the site pushes pro-Muslim Brotherhood talking points akin to Al Jazeera, Grim points to two posts on HuffPoArabi that appear to support the government in Egypt: one by an Egyptian preacher, who Grim says in Muslim Brotherhood-friendly language, “justifies the Sisi coup,” and another by Nadir Bakker, a Salfist Islamist who sees Palestinian terror group Hamas as a “resistance movement.”
“The value of open dialogue over repression and violence can’t be overstated. HuffPost Arabi’s headquarters are in London and Istanbul, so that our editors can be free as possible from repressive regimes who see an open Internet and a free press as threats,” Grim adds, seemingly unaware that Turkey is among the world’s worst violators of press freedoms.
The Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief invites his anti-LGBT contributor to feel “free to resubmit” his piece “with a less grotesque term, even if the overall message remains offensive and retrograde.”
In defending his Arabic site’s anti-gay vitriol, Grim equates Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his opposition to Lawrence v. Texas (2003) with the position of Islamist radicals on homosexuals. “Scalia and his followers are more than welcome to make their case here in the pages of HuffPost U.S., and Scalia’s Arabic brethren will be afforded the same opportunity at HuffPost Arabi,” he concludes.
Grim did not address the multiple articles on HuffPostArabi that appear to relegate women to second-class citizenship. In one post, a contributor complained, “women need to stop playing the role of victim.” Many have taken to social media to express their discontent with the site’s anti-women narrative.
— Afef Abrougui (@Afaf_TN) July 30, 2015
— Salah Toukan (@stoukan) August 3, 2015
The Huffington Post Bureau Chief also did not offer any apology for the anti-Semitic and conspiratorial statement made by HuffPoArabi’s editor-in-chief, Anas Fouda, who wrote on Twitter (in a post that still has not been taken down) last July, “Only after the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza did I realize the number of Egyptian Jews has increased greatly since the coup.”
— Anas Fouda أنس فودة (@anasfouda) July 10, 2014
This week, Breitbart News reported on the background of HuffPostArabi’s two top editors – Wadas Khanfar and Anas Fouda – described by some as “Jihadists in suits.” Both men have been arrested by Arab governments on charges that they support the Muslim Brotherhood.
During his tenure at Al Jazeera, Khanfar weaponized the Doha-based network into a “hard-line” platform for the Muslim Brotherhood, former diplomats and independent research institutes have argued.
Fouda, who has reportedly admitted that he’s been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood since 1988, remains a loyal admirer of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a hate-preacher and the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood. An analyst has recently described him as “bread and butter MB.”
There remains no evidence that Arianna Huffington’s newest partners at HuffPostArabi will forgo their Islamist past and become the arbiters for true change in the Middle East. There are no signs thus far that HuffPostArabi has adapted a more open, more liberal platform that truly distinguishes itself in the region. Instead, the website continues to attract radical Islamist voices.
In addition to Breitbart News’ previous reporting on a handful of individuals voicing their controversial opinions on the pages of HuffPostArabi, we have found that additional pro-jihad voices are being given prominent placement on the webpage.
One of the Arabic site’s newest contributors is Abdul Rahman Yusuf al Qaradawi, a man known in the region not as the “Egyptian poet” title that complements his byline, but as the son of the aforementioned Muslim Brotherhood chief Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The elder Qaradawi has called for attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq as a form of “resistance.” He is not a mere Holocaust denier but, rather, a Holocaust supporter. His fatwas have been credited with inciting terror attacks across the region, and his arrest is now sought after by INTERPOL, the international counter-terror organization.
Although he has condemned his father’s militant fatwas, the younger Qaradawi has also engaged in suspicious activities, according to reports.
In 2007, he attended a conference held under the auspices of Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, in which he wrote glowingly about the event, praising its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, a man who has called for the killing of Jews worldwide. Since then, Qaradawi has dedicated a series of poems called, “Write The History of The Future,” towards praising the terror chief.
Mohamed Mahsoub is another contributor to the site and the vice-chairman of the Islamist Wasat party. Mahsoub served in the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo as its legal and parliamentary affairs minister. He has called for Egypt to usurp land in the Sinai and “reexamine” the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, also known as the Camp David Accords. In calling for a conflict with Israel, he said in 2012 that Egypt must “regain its prestige over every inch of its land.”
At the beginning of the month, the site held a feature interview with Taysir Alluni, an Al Jazeera propagandist who interviewed Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. In 2005, A Spanish court sentenced Alluni to seven years in prison for collaborating with Al Qaeda. He was freed in 2012 and has since returned to Doha, Qatar to continue his work with Al Jazeera. In his HuffPostArabi interview, Alluni described former Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar as a “statesman.” “His favorable qualities are numerous but from my experience with him I say that his personality represented manhood in its most sublime sense,” he added.
HuffPostArabi had the potential to become a powerful voice for the much-maligned, often-silenced, freedom-loving, secular liberal voices in the Middle East. Instead, Arianna Huffington’s new Arabic page has become a status quo hate site rife with Islamist talking points.