Pulse: Arab Media Tack Conservative - New Canadian Media

Pulse: Arab Media Tack Conservative

Arab media publications across Canada are providing extensive coverage of the Syrian crisis, often publishing editorials in support of the Conservative Party’s approach to fighting…

Arab media publications across Canada are providing extensive coverage of the Syrian crisis, often publishing editorials in support of the Conservative Partys approach to fighting ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also called ISIL (ISI and Levant), and the millions of refugees fleeing that country.

Anti-government demonstrations in Syria began as part of the Arab Spring in March 2011. With the governments violent crackdown against Syrians and rebel forces fighting back, it has escalated to an all-out civil war.

Medhat Oweida, Chief Editor of Al Ahram, a bi-weekly Arabic newspaper that is distributed across Canada said the paper has been covering the crisis since it began. The Syrian conflict is one of the issues that has captured Arabsattention,Oweida said.

In a piece titled “How Canada can Fight ISIS”, Oweida suggests the fight against terrorism will not be successful with air strikes alone, but that Canadian forces should be on the ground as well.

Western countries would have to support and cooperate with Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan Iraqs and Kurdish armies. The armies would lead the war on the ground with the help of international alliances who would help with air strikes and information like what happened in Kobani. Western countries need to learn the lesson and stop assisting the opposition in Syria,the editorial explains.

His paper also carried a poll asking Arab Canadians if they are willing to open their homes to Syrian refugees: 85 per cent of respondents said yes.

Military solution

The reliance on a military solution was echoed in Good News, an Arabic Christian publication distributed in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The bi-weekly paper chose to highlight Prime Minister Stephen Harpers August visit to St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Markham as its cover story. During the visit, Harper emphasized the need to continue providing military support and air strikes to fight ISIL.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria cannot be solved, cannot even come close to being solved, by refugee policy alone. We must stop ISIS,Harper said during the campaign visit.

His paper also carried a poll asking Arab Canadians if they are willing to open their homes to Syrian refugees: 85 per cent of respondents said yes.

Both the NDP and Liberals have expressed concern that Canadian bombings in Syria are helping target attacks. The NDP say they would focus on aid and diplomacy in order to fight ISIS. The Liberals say they would increase the number of Canadian soldiers training local forces who are fighting ISIS militants.

Stop the war

Ebram Maqar, Chief Editor of Good News is cautious about speaking for all Arab Canadians, but notes that Harpers stance on Syria has been well received. We support the Conservatives who want to take military action in addition to humanitarian aid. You cant just treat the victim, you have to stop the war from the source.

Majid Aziza, the Editor-in-Chief of Ninewa Media, an Arabic publication in the GTA and Southwestern Ontario with majority Syrian and Iraqi readership, shares these views. With regards to the elections in October, from what we see in the conversation, the Conservatives are the ones helping in Iraq and Syria,he said.

Trudeau and Mulcair say the Canadian military isnt needed in the Middle East. Of course, this isnt right,Aziza said.

Arab media in Canada has a track record of promoting the Conservative Party through favourable coverage. Conservative MP Costas Menegakis (Richmond Hill) has a regular column in Good News; an opportunity that MPs of other political parties do not have.

A contrary view

Al Bilad, a London-based newspaper presents a different perspective from other Arab publications with regards to Canadas involvement in tackling ISIS in a column titled “Taking Back the Country”.

Columnist Mohamed Amery writes: We are long past being frightened by Harpers ridiculous and unsubstantiated charge that the Canadian society is being threatened by ISIS.

Harpers decision to involve Canada in international wars has negatively impacted the countrys image, according to Amery.

Our involvement in these conflicts gained us new enemies from Russia and Iran to Libya and other countries elsewhere in the Middle East.He urges readers to vote against Harper and his minions and put a merciful end to the ongoing agony this country has been suffering under Stephen Harpers watch– offering a stark contrast with the pro-Conservative messages common in Arab publications.

There are also several newspapers that have not published articles on Canada’s involvement in the Syrian crisis; much of the news has been sourced from wires in the Middle East.

In interviews with New Canadian Media, Mohamad El-Cheikh, editor of Al Forqan and Elie Moujaes, Editor in Chief of Al-Akhbar, both said their focus has been on news, rather than editorials. Neither publication plans to make any endorsements in the upcoming election. 

Party promises

The Conservatives have been criticized for not doing enough to support Syrian refugees or accelerate their entry into Canada. In response, MP and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced the Conservatives will soon release details on its plan to accelerate 20,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees into Canada over the next four years.

Arab media in Canada has a track record of promoting the Conservative Party through favourable coverage.

Both the Liberals and NDP plan to accept a higher numbers of refugees, with the Liberals vowing to resettle 25,000 refugees and the NDP to 10,000 by the end of this year alone. “People are picking numbers out of a hat,” Kenney said in response to these commitments.

Over eight million Syrians are internally displaced according to UNHCR figures, and an additional four million are registered refugees, making this the worst refugee crisis in a quarter-century, according to the UNHCR. Most refugees have fled to surrounding countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Death toll estimates range from 140,000 to 330,000.

Editor’s Note: This report has been updated to include the comments of editors from Al Forgan and Al-Akhbarnewspapers.

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