Al Jazeera hides the real face of al-Nusra Front

Al Jazeera hides the real face of al-Nusra Front
Comment: Al Jazeera's interview with the Nusra leader highlighted sectarian views towards Syria's minorities, says Layal Haddad.
3 min read
01 Jun, 2015
Nusra and their allies are fighting regime and Islamic State group forces in Syria [AFP]
The al-Nusra Front leader, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, appeared on al-Jazeera's Arabic channel last week, covering his face and showing his back to camera while speaking to presenter Ahmed Mansour. 

During his previous appearance on al-Jazeera, in December 2013, he had also hidden his face, although leading al-Qaeda figures have shown theirs.

It is fair to say that the interview was not objective. Ahmed Mansour did not play the role expected of him - challenging the violent agenda al-Nusra - al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise - or putting forward the concerns and fears of ordinary Syrians. 

Mansour appeared to agree with everything that Julani said, and did not question the militant leader's sectarian rhetoric or his attacks on the Druze. On several occasions the discussion crossed the fine line between journalistic dialogue and propaganda.

"On my tours to liberated areas [of Syria] I was surprised to see you protecting Druze and Christian villages," Mansour purred.  

Minority issues

Julani, meanwhile, condemned Syria's Alawite minority, of which President Bashar al-Assad is a member.

"They should put down their weapons, disassociate themselves from Assad, leave their doctrine and return to Islam."

Mansour, on the other hand, seemed more concerned about clearing Nusra's image. "You did not impose anything on Christians, and did not take women as captives as was reported in Western media," he opined.
     On my tours to liberated areas [of Syria] I was surprised to see [Nusra] protecting Druze and Christian villages.
Ahmed Mansour, al-Jazeera

This compeltely ignored Julani's comments about forcing Syria's Christians to pay the jiziya tax "when" an Islamic state is eventually established.

When the al-Jazeera presenter stated that Western media focused only on Nusra's violations against minorities, Julani retorted: "We don't need the west to teach us about human and animal rights". 

Julani went on to re-confirm Nusra's connections to the al-Qaeda leadership, clearly illustrated from the jihadi banner hanging in the palatially decorated interview room.  
Shortly after the interview was aired, supporters of the Syrian regime came out with a hail of insults against al-Jazeera. However, ignoring the knee-jerk reaction, the interview was definitely a scoop for the Qatari news channel.

Still, there are many questions and concerns about the decision to broadcast the interview and the way it was conducted. 
Perhaps the biggest issue is Mansour's apparent sympathy for Julani, the rhetoric he used and his weak responses to the Nusra leader. Throughout the interview his tone was calm - Mansour seemed more like a propagator for Nusra's views rather than an journalist holding the powerful to account.

He asked Julani the questions the militant leader wanted, and then explained and articulated his thoughts for the audience. It showed that Mansour might have been reluctant about the real face of Julani and Nusra being revealed in the interview.  

Layal Haddad is a Lebanese journalist.

Opinions stated in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.  

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.