JEDDAH: Social media erupted with criticism over the weekend after a well-known Al Jazeera Arabic presenter mocked US citizens fleeing Hurricane Irma, justifying the destruction as a “display of God’s greatness which many dare to deny.”
Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian journalist for the Qatar-based TV network, on Saturday posted a photo showing a jammed highway as hundreds of thousands fled the deadly hurricane.
A similar post on Facebook contained the Qur’anic verse, “And He will show you His signs, and what signs of Allah will you deny?”
This brought an onslaught of criticism by social media users angry at Mansour’s suggestion that the hurricane was some kind of "divine punishment."
Some viewed Mansour’s comments as hate speech, while others accused him of twisting the Qur’anic verse to suit his own agenda.
A Facebook user residing in Miami, Florida, responded to Mansour, reminding the journalist that if his post “contained some kind of hatred or gloating against non-Muslims, do not forget that many Muslims actually live in Florida.”
Another commentator pointed out the double standard in Mansour’s discourse: “Back in 2015 when a crane fell on pilgrims in Makkah causing (more than a hundred) deaths, or when (many more) died in the stampede the same year, you called that a ‘test’ from God and a ‘technical’ issue.”
“How is this any different?” demands the man, adding that Mansour’s comments show grave “hypocrisy and unprofessionalism.”
Mansour posted another update to Facebook, with a video showing airplanes leaving an airport in Florida, captioned with the same Qur’anic verse.
In the wake of the uproar over social media, the news anchor deleted the posts.
Abdellatif El-Menawy, the well-known Egyptian media analyst, denounced Mansour for mocking Americans during a time of natural calamity.
“To suggest that Americans fleeing Hurricane Irma is divine punishment is atrocious, inhuman, insensitive and unprofessional,” El-Menawy told Arab News from Cairo. “This is simply unacceptable.”
El-Menawy questioned the convoluted point Mansour was making, and the logical extension of it.
“Does he think what is happening in Myanmar is divine punishment? Do the Muslims in Myanmar deserve what is happening to them? This is despicable on Mansour’s part. He shouldn’t have said what he said,” said El-Menawy.
Mansour made matters worse by simply deleting the tweet without explanation, El-Menawy added.
“If he has an iota of respect for himself and for his profession, he should apologize for his remarks,” said El-Menawy.
“By deleting the tweet, he has only tried to hide his feelings because of the negative reaction.
“He failed in his duty as a professional (journalist).”