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Prince al-Walid bin Talal
A Saudi prince who owns shares of the Fox News Channel claims he persuaded network chief Rupert Murdoch to change a screen banner during a broadcast that identified the recent unrest in France as “Muslim riots.”
Speaking on a panel at the Arab and World Media Conference in Dubai Monday, billionaire Prince al-Walid bin Talal criticized U.S. media for being generally “pro-Israel” and said Arabs are not doing enough to counter that, according to Middle East Online.
The prince then pointed to his own experience as an example of what can be done to shape media coverage.
During the violent street protests in France one month ago, the prince said, Fox News ran a banner at the bottom of the screen that said “Muslim riots.”
“I picked up the phone and called Murdoch … [and told him] these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty,” al-Walid said.
“Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots.”
Asked by WorldNetDaily to respond, Fox News Channel spokeswoman Irena Briganti said she was not aware of any phone call from the prince but acknowledged the network changed the banner after receiving complaints.
“We had several calls from people around the world and discovered the issue was a little more complicated than how it was being characterized,” she said.
The unrest, which eventually spread to neighboring countries, began Oct. 27 with thousands of mostly French Muslims in impoverished Paris suburbs engaging in violent clashes with police as they torched cars and buildings. After 20 nights, French officials gave a count of 8,973 vehicles burned, 2,888 arrests and 126 officers injured.
Analysts pointed to many factors behind the riots – including poverty, France’s immigration and integration policies and French attitudes toward minorities.
But some, including frequent Fox News contributor Daniel Pipes, saw a connection to the Islamist goal of gaining a foothold in Europe in its global jihad.
“The great majority of Muslims in Europe see themselves as bearers of a superior civilization and see themselves growing prodigiously,” Pipes told WND in an interview during the riots. “Through a cultural, religious and demographic confidence they feel scorn towards European ways and conspire to take it over.”
Pipes, director of the think tank Middle East Forum, was appointed by President Bush to the board of the United States Institute of Peace despite the protest of many Islamic groups, which claim he unfairly paints Muslims in broad strokes.
Al-Walid, who drew international attention when his gift for 9-11 relief was rejected by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said in a CNBC interview in September that he owned a 5.5 percent voting stake in News Corp., Murdoch’s parent company.
The prince said, at the time, he was willing to increase his share to prevent a takeover by rival Liberty Media.
“Clearly, this is something we will not accept, because we are very happy as shareholders with what Mr. Murdoch is doing,” the prince said.
Company sources, according to CNBC, said the Saudi prince has long been regarded by Murdoch as an ally in his showdown with Liberty Media owner John Malone.
Al-Walid visited the site of the World Trade Center one month after Sept. 11, 2001, and presented Giuliani with a $10 million donation to a relief fund, calling the terrorist attack “a tremendous crime.”
But in a written statement issued by his publicist during the visit, the prince declared:
“At times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.”
An angered Giuliani returned the donation.
A few days later, the prince blamed the mayor’s decision on “Jewish pressures.”
The prince reportedly gave half a million dollars to the controversial U.S. Muslim lobby group Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, in 2002 for a campaign to defend Islam in U.S. society, according to ArabicNews.com.
The donation, given to Executive Director Nihad Awad during a visit to Saudi Arabia, helped buy a collection of Islamic books for 3,000 public libraries in the U.S. The contribution also financed a media campaign in the U.S. for CAIR, which was founded as a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a “front group” for Hamas.
An estimated 80 percent of U.S. mosques are supported largely with funds and imams from Saudi Arabia, where the strict Wahhibist interpretation of Islam dominates the kingdom.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings in October in response to a yearlong study by a Washington human-rights group asserting the government of Saudi Arabia is disseminating propaganda through American mosques that teaches hatred of Jews and Christians and instructs Muslims that they are on a mission behind enemy lines in a land of unbelievers.
In March, 15 senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., responded to the report by the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House with a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding the Bush administration take stronger action against Riyadh.
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