Tech giants must probe Qatar hate preacher, analysts say

In media appearances spanning decades, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has espoused extreme views, which have included justifying suicide bombings and authorizing attacks on Jews. (Getty Images)
Updated 02 April 2019

Tech giants must probe Qatar hate preacher, analysts say

  • Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is ‘a maker of bomb-makers’ and platforms must investigate his online activity
  • Al-Qaradawi has ‘most certainly’ encouraged acts of terror in the past, and continues to disseminate messages via social media despite being in his 90s

LONDON: It is time for social media companies to get tough with Qatar-based Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, experts on extremism have said, as the controversial cleric is named in Arab News’ ongoing “Preachers of Hate” series.
In media appearances spanning decades, notably on the Doha-based Al Jazeera news channel, Al-Qaradawi has voiced his often extreme views, which have included justifying suicide bombings, praising the Holocaust and authorizing attacks on all Jews. He has also issued fatwas (religious edicts) that demean women.
It is for this reason that Al-Qaradawi was included in this newspaper’s “Preachers of Hate” series, which analyzes extremist preachers from various religions, backgrounds and nationalities.
Despite his weekly show on Al Jazeera no longer airing, and a recent tweet in which Al-Qaradawi claims that he is not a preacher of hate, experts say the renegade cleric still has vast influence. Much of this is via social media, prompting calls for action.
Josh Lipowsky, senior research analyst at the Counter-Extremism Project (CEP), said it was inappropriate for Qatar to have provided Al-Qaradawi with a media platform on Al Jazeera. “It helped raise his profile, to expand his influence. Even though he isn’t making as many appearances as he once did, his words still matter and he still has influence,” Lipowsky said.
“The elevation and prominence given to Al-Qaradawi has enabled him to continue to spread his views. We need to make sure these platforms are no longer available.”
Research by the CEP, a non-profit organization that combats extremist groups, points to Al-Qaradawi’s vast social media network.

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As of Jan. 15, his main channel on YouTube had almost 6 million followers, while his verified Twitter and Facebook accounts had about 2.3 million followers each.
Blocking the cleric’s YouTube channel, for example, would be “one step” in curtailing his influence, said Lipowsky. “We’d call on the social media companies to seriously review these accounts to determine whether they’re in compliance with these companies’ own terms-of-service agreements.”
“Based on his past rhetoric and support of violence, these social media companies should take a thorough look at his accounts in order to determine that they’re not being used to further spread extremist propaganda.”
Facebook and Twitter did not respond to an Arab News request for comment. Al Jazeera did not respond to questions about its airing of Al-Qaradawi’s weekly show “Shariah and Life.”
Lipowsky pointed to some of Al-Qaradawi’s more extreme comments made on that show, such as claims that the Holocaust was a divine punishment for the Jews.
“His platforms gave him widespread influence across the world. His ‘Shariah and Life’ program on Al Jazeera reportedly had an audience of 60 million people before it ended in 2013. He used the show to espouse many of his hard-line views,” Lipowsky said.
“Even though his TV show has since ended, he continues to maintain influence online, on Twitter … His Facebook (account) has more than 2 million followers,” he said.
“What we need is to apply pressure in order to remove his support. It could be diplomatic, it could be economic,” he said.
“We’ve already seen countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt take action. But I think there needs to be a more concerted effort by governments in the region to identify extremist propaganda and act against it.”
Writer and columnist Abdellatif El-Menawy agreed that investigating whether Al-Qaradawi is in breach of social media sites’ terms and conditions is “part of their responsibility.”
Paul Stott, research fellow at the Center on Radicalization and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society in London, said the best approach to combating Al-Qaradawi’s views is to challenge rather than ban them.
Social media companies have been effective at removing pornographic images, but are less effective at taking out extreme political content that advocates violence, he added.
“Probably knowledge among the big social media companies about Islam per se, and then the more extreme currents within it, is probably pretty low,” Stott said.
Al-Qaradawi has “most certainly” encouraged acts of terror in the past, and continues to disseminate messages via social media despite being in his 90s, Stott added.
“Al-Qaradawi’s views are reprehensible … He isn’t someone who mellowed with age. In a way, his danger comes from his ability at certain times to convince people that he’s a sort of ‘man of peace’,” Stott said.
“This is somebody who’s a maker of bomb-makers, rather than being a bomb-maker himself.”


Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”