Islamists are upset - not for the first, or hundredth, time - with al Jazeera and other Arab satellite television stations for their intense, respectful coverage of the death of the Pope.
The Arab world's leading satellite television channels have been giving unprecedented coverage of the death throes of Pope John Paul II, provoking anger from Islamic extremists.
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera , famed for screening "exclusive" videotapes from Islamic militants including Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was among the first to announce the pope's death. On Sunday, it continued providing widespread coverage of his life and death, as did Dubai-based Al-Arabiya , as well as preparations for his funeral after in-depth coverage of his last days. Both Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya transmitted live from the Vatican over the past few days, with blow-by-blow accounts from their correspondents at the Vatican, in Rome and at holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
.... They also highlighted images of the pope during his historic visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel in March 2000 when he was warmly welcomed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Dheishe, near Jesus's traditional birthplace of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The pope had often called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work together for peace in the Middle East. Arabs throughout the region assiduously followed the pope's numerous initiatives, including his unrealised desire to go to Iraq before the US-led invasion in March 2003 to see how Iraqis suffered under international sanctions.
Radical Islamists ... have been using Islamist websites to vent their anger at Arab television stations for according the pope such importance. One such user lashed out at Al-Jazeera , saying viewers were "annoyed" with extensive reports eulogising the pope, who the user described as an "old tyrant". "What is mortifying is that this hooligan channel pretends (to defend) Islam," added the user, who wrote under the name Muhib al-Salihine on the Islamic News Network, a site often used by Islamist militants operating in Iraq. ... "I have started to hate Al-Jazeera for the multiplicity of information on the grieving" for the pope, said another user.
Other, non-radical Islamists, had kinder words. Yusuf al Qaradawi's organization sent a message of condolences which in part said "“He (the pontiff) was a man of peace who stood firmly against the (US-led) Iraq war and the Israeli separation wall", and "prayed to God to show mercy on the pope" and “reward him for the services he done to his religion and humanity.” Al Azhar Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi "hailed the late pope as a partner in promoting inter-faith dialogue": “The death of the pope is a great loss for the Catholic Church and the Muslim world... He was a man who defended the values of justice and peace and worked for the victory of relations between the Muslim and Christian peoples based on friendship and love... We supported the pontiff’s in many of his wise stances, especially his firm opposition to the war on Iraq.... The pope stressed during a visit to Al-Azhar that all divine faiths advocate peace work for the security and welfare for all people.”
That moderate Islamists like Qaradawi felt comfortable with the late Pope's social conservatism and genuine commitment to interfaith dialogue does not surprise me. That radical Islamists are infuriated by the respect for a symbol of the Catholic Church also does not surprise me. Michael Jansen notes the widespread admiration for the Pope in the Arab world, and points out that the greatest criticism of the Pontiff in the Arab media has come from Arab liberals - he cites a piece in al Hayat - upset with his social conservativism, and his making common ground with Islamic conservatives on issues such as abortion.
As for me, I'll just offer my own condolences for all who mourn the pope's passing. I'm not Catholic, and have little to add to the retrospectives and emotions about his passing which can be found everywhere.