Hack or attack? Qatari emir's allegedly contrarian 'comments' unsettle neighbors

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Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (second left) is seen in a group photo with US President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman, and other leaders of Muslim nations during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. Qatari news media reports quoting Sheikh Tamim as allegedly endorsing Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and criticizing the summit has caused tensions with Qatar’s Gulf neighbors. (AFP file photo)
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US President Donald Trump (R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. In an alleged statement by Sheikh Tamim, carried by Qatar's official news agency QNA, he endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — strongly diverging from the stance of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors. (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)
Updated 25 May 2017
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Hack or attack? Qatari emir's allegedly contrarian 'comments' unsettle neighbors

JEDDAH: Tensions rose in the Gulf on Tuesday after a series of controversial comments attributed to Qatar’s emir, in a row that led to the blocking of Doha-aligned news websites in some neighboring states.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s alleged comments, carried by the official state news agency QNA, apparently saw him endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — strongly diverging from the stance of Qatar’s Gulf neighbors.
Doha claimed the report was the result of a hacking attack — but its Gulf neighbors responded nonetheless, particularly after the same comments were repeated in more than one language, on more than one outlet and at various times of the day in a manner which makes the story true and the hacking seem less likely. 
The Arabic-language website and phone application of Al-Jazeera and the Middle East Eye website were blocked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE a day after the Qatari state news agency carried inflammatory comments attributed to Sheikh Tamim. Egypt also blocked some Qatari outlets, Al-Watan reported.
Earlier reports also attributed to the official Qatar News Agency said that Doha has withdrawn its ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE, according to the Al Arabiya News Channel.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister said early Wednesday that he did not make any statement regarding the withdrawal or eviction of five Arab ambassadors from Doha, Al Arabiya reported.
Qatar maintains that the statement posted to QNA was the result of a hack, and says it is being investigated. But the report in question was simultaneously posted in different languages and on social media platforms, where they remained, according to Al Arabiya.
The remarks led to a widespread backlash on social media, while access to some Qatar-sponsored media outlets was restricted elsewhere in the Gulf.
The emir’s alleged comments were in line with recent criticism waged against the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by other Qatar-sponsored media outlets such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arab and the London-based Middle East Eye.
Sheikh Tamim also allegedly spoke of “tensions” with the new US administration and predicted that US President Donald Trump will not last long, citing domestic political problems in Washington over ties with Russia.
Sheikh Tamim also seems to have praised Iran, which even the previous US administration under President Obama labeled as the “biggest state sponsor of terror.”
The emir reportedly said: “There is no wisdom in harboring hostility toward Iran.”
Despite the emir allegedly saying that the relations with Israel are “good,” he went on to describe Hamas — which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, EU and Israel and is condemned even by Arab countries for firing missiles toward civilians — as the “official representative of Palestinians.”
Despite this apparent endorsement of Hamas, the emir seems to have still refuted allegations of his country supporting terror. Yet many claim Doha supports both Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated a terrorist group by some fellow GCC countries.
The emir reportedly also criticized the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for waging a campaign against Doha. All three countries are fierce critics of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the emir seems to have not mentioned Saudi Arabia by name.
He did seem, however, to criticize what he described as “exaggerated” arms deals and said that countries should be spending such funds on development projects. That was an apparent attack on the recent enormous Saudi-US arms deals signed in Riyadh during President Trump’s visit.
The emir is said to have credited Al-Udeid Air Base, which houses the biggest US Air Force base in the region, with protecting Doha from some neighboring countries, without mentioning any names.
Whether the comments attributed to the emir are real or not, much of it reflects what was previously being reported by Qatari media outlets attacking Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
In a series of comments posted on his twitter account, Deputy Head of Dubai Police and General Security Dhahi Khalfan expressed his shock over the alleged statements.
In one tweet the Khalfan asked why Qatar would break the line of unity Riyadh has built, while in another he asked why Qatar would extend bridges with Iran.
Addressing Qatari citizens, Khalfan said: “You should not worry about Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt, you should be worried about Iran."
“Saudi Arabia succeeded in convincing the world of its stances but Qatar refused to listen,” the Dubai police chief added.
“What does Qatar mean that the US base is there to protect it from its neighbors? Qatari people are dear to their neighbors.”


90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

Updated 18 January 2019
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90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

  • Middle Eastern fans fondly look back at two comic icons who share a birthday this year, although they’re not without controversy
  • An Egyptian publisher printed Tintin in Arabic, while Popeye was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 and Spacetoon

Popeye, the scruffy sailor who remains one of the most loveable characters of all time, has been a popular fixture in Middle Eastern pop culture since the early 1980s. In addition to mountains of merchandise, particularly stuffed toys, being available in local shops, the cartoons were broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 (in their original English) and on Spacetoon (with Arabic dubbing). 
“I remember the first time I watched Popeye,” Zainab Basrawi, a 36-year-old insurance lawyer and self-professed Popeye enthusiast, told Arab News. “I learned to love spinach just from watching him save Olive every time. I believed him. I think he was a great influence on children to subtly ease them into eating their greens.”
Just one week after Tintin first appeared in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” Popeye made his debut on Jan. 17, 1929 as a side character in the daily King Features comic strip “Thimble Theatre.”
Created by the American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar, the one-eyed sailor with bulging forearms quickly grew in popularity, becoming the star of his own strip, an animated TV cartoon and a 1980 movie starring
Robin Williams. The theme song from the cartoon, “I’m Popeye the Sailorman,” is one of the most recognized pieces of music in pop culture history.
Compared to boyish, clean-cut, good- natured Tintin, Popeye is his polar opposite.
The sailor is rough, gruff and extremely tough, famous for the super-strength he gets from eating canned spinach, and his never-ending love triangle with his girlfriend Olive Oyl and rival Bluto.
Like Tintin, as a relic from another era, Popeye has also been criticized for racial stereotypes. In “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves,” he is shown beating up poorly made caricatures of Arab men. In “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap,” the Japanese characters in the cartoon get the same treatment.
However, literary critic Sophie Cline said the comic strip is reflective of the time it was created in, almost a century ago. “I think it’s important not to ignore these pieces of our history, or hide them away, but rather to own up to our mistakes and learn from them,” she told Arab News.
She alluded to the new disclaimer that now precedes old Looney Tunes cartoons, informing viewers that their outdated “racial prejudices” no longer reflect Warner Bros. values but are “products of their time.”
“Popeye cartoons reflect the common view of the era,” she said. “A disclaimer should be enough.”

Tintin, one of the world’s most famous fictional journalists, traveled the world seeking stories and adventure, so he naturally spent a good amount of time in the Middle East.
Created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known by his pseudonym Herge (say his initials in reverse out loud in a French accent), Tintin travels the region in four of his books: “Cigars of the Pharaoh,” “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” “Land of Black Gold” and “The Red Sea Sharks.”
Tintin gained more of a foothold in the region when Egyptian publisher Dar Al-Maarif began printing the comics in Arabic in 1971. Renaming him “Tantan,” Dar Al-Maarif continued to publish the comics weekly
until 1980.
“Tintin has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember,” said Haytham Faisal, a journalist from Cairo. “I literally became a journalist because I wanted to be him. My dad used to take me to buy the comics from the local bookstore. I remember them being so expensive, so they were a rare treat. I’d always think twice before buying them, but I couldn’t always wait for the next comic to see what new story they have next. I still have some of them, they were that precious to me.”
Before appearing in book format, Tintin and his constant companion, the dog Snowy, were first introduced to audiences in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” or “The Little Twentieth,” a supplement to the Belgian newspaper “Le Vingtieme Siecle” (The Twentieth Century) on Jan. 4, 1929. Herge, however, maintained that Tintin was actually “born” on Jan. 10, when “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” began its serialization in the paper.
Despite the fact that he never seems to hand in any stories, the loveable and quirky Tintin is portrayed as talented at his profession, so much so that he is shown to be in high demand, with many press agencies offering him bribes for his dispatches.
Over the years, Tintin’s face has been used to advertise quintessentially French items such as Citroen cars and La Vache Qui Rit cheese. Enthusiasts of Tintin lore, known as Tintinolo- gists, have written entire books devoted to him.
Since 1929, more than 250 million copies of the Tintin comic books have been sold. His adventures have been translated in more than 110 languages, and the books are sold in almost every country in the world.
Tintin continues to grow in popularity, even 90 years on. He was the star of a full-length feature film, directed by Steven Spielberg, in 2011 and of an animated television series. The latter was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 between 1991 and 1992 and a dubbed version has been on MBC 3 since 2003.
However, the history of Tintin has not been without its hiccups. Over the years, critics have argued that, like many of the comics of the era, it should undergo censorship or even outright banning from bookstores and libraries. One of the more troublesome ones is his second adventure, “Tintin in the Congo.”
The natives Tintin visits are crude stereo- types of African people, who are portrayed as ignorant and uneducated, and the references to slavery, such as when the natives refer to Tintin as “master,” make the comics hard to stomach.
Similarly, “Land of Black Gold,” which takes place in a fictional Red Sea state named Khemed, is also banned in several Middle Eastern countries today for its stereotypical portrayal of Arabs.
While some argue the comics are simply byproducts of their era, they are nonetheless somewhat difficult to revisit in the modern era. Attempts have been made to soften some of the references, with edits being made to “Tintin in the Congo” in 1975, but is that enough?
Not according to the London-based human rights lawyer David Enright, who wrote in the Guardian newspaper that “Tintin in the Congo” shouldn’t be sold to children. “Books are precious, but so are the minds of young children. It is vital that our children learn and explore the grotesque history of slavery, racism and anti-Semitism, but in the proper context of the school curriculum.”