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Extremists and the corruption of relations among people

What groups like ISIS try to do is use the media to fuel Muslim public opinion against its own rivals

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

My late friend Saleh al-Azaz was undergoing cancer treatment in Houston when the September 11, 2001 twin attacks, which shocked American society, happened. We were worried that these terrible events would affect the American public as a result of anger and incitement and that they would influence social relations with the country's Muslim residents, students and tourists.

A few weeks after these events, I called him to ask if there were any threats against them or if they had been harassed. He surprised me when he said that everyone around him, from the neighborhood he resided in to those at the clinic he was being treated at, was sympathizing with him. He said his neighbor, who didn’t know him, visited him at home to check on him and offered to take his children to school along with his own so his wife can stay with him as he resumes treatment. Such human relations among people is what terrorists and extremists want to sabotage. There are many joyful stories about the compassionate relations which followed the Paris events and the excessive anger felt by extremists from both sides.

French President Francois Hollande's speech evidently had a positive influence. He defended the Muslim community in France and declared it above terrorism as terrorist organizations killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. The aim of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and of al-Qaeda before it, is to incite Muslims against others and stir tensions in mixed communities to cause disputes, as they do in every society they infiltrate.

Despite that, there has been many incidents committed by racists who want to benefit from the Paris crimes, claimed al-Qaeda in Yemen, and use it to pit the French public opinion and others against peaceful Muslims.

What groups like ISIS try to do is use the media to fuel Muslim public opinion against its own rivals

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

However, the French people celebrated an act that contradicts with last week's attack on Charlie Hebdo which led to the death of 12 people. Despite the presence of Islamist terrorists, there are great Muslim heroes like Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabet who was killed by the terrorists as he chased them following the Charlie Hebdo attack. Another Muslim hero is the immigrant shop assistant who works at the supermarket which was attacked by a gunman who killed four people. The French government has decided to hold a celebration to honor the Malian Muslim as he risked his life to help save a few shoppers, including Jews, and hid them in the supermarket's freezer. The government has also promised to grant him French citizenship, and has commended his heroic acts and publicized his story in the media.

The act of the American neighbor who volunteered to take the children of my friend Saleh, God bless his soul, to school and what the Muslim shop assistant did to help the French people express the truth of people's essence, goodness and humanity – it's in their nature to co-exist as groups, sects and ideologies. And at the same time, we are aware that media is a power that can be used to either achieve good or evil aims.

It can also treat relations from any hatred and racism. What groups like ISIS try to do is use the media to fuel Muslim public opinion against its own rivals. They do so under excuses which are easy to make up and which easily stir disputes. They are also aware that the media is the best means to spread images, tears, anger, incitement and insults and to transfer the battle to neighborhoods and homes.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on January 18, 2015.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.