The website of the pan-Arabic channel Al Arabiya was hacked Friday. Hackers threatened to shut down all Sunni websites if "attacks against Shia sites continue". The arabic television channel created a temporary website.
"If attacks on Shia websites continue, none of your own websites will be safe."
The warning message was posted on the homepage of Al Arabiya Television’s internet site on Friday.
Computer hackers claiming to be Shia wrote the message in both Arabic and English across the main page and blocked access to the site. The page also displayed a picture of an Israeli flag on fire. The site was later shut down.
After the cyber attack, Al Arabiya issued a statement saying that it would continue to be “moderate, balanced and objective” when covering news. The attack is not the first of the kind, Al Arabiya added.
Several similar incidents targeted Sunni and Shia websites over the past few weeks. Iran’s Fars news agency reported last month that Sunni hackers had attacked 300 Shiite websites, including Shia Islam’s most popular site linked to Iraq-based spiritual leader, grand ayatollah Ali Sistani.
The Sunni-Shia schism appeared soon after Prophet Mohammad died and a succession war ensued. While the majority of Muslims in the Arab world are Sunni, Iran presents itself as the protector of Shias in the region. Tensions between both communities have been aggravated by the conflict between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.
Al Arabiya assures it has remained neutral in the dispute, interviewing people from both sides.
The Dubai-based station said in its statement that it had been bitterly criticized for airing an interview with prominent Sunni commentator Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who claimed that Shia were “invading” Sunni societies, following an Iranian plan. His attacks were endorsed by a number of Sunni religious leaders and on several websites.
“If the US doesn’t invade Iran and the latter develops the nuclear weapon, this would be a catastrophe for Sunni societies,” said the site hespress.com.
Others argue that Qaradawi has strengthened his attacks on Shias following his son’s alleged conversion to Shiism. The report was denied by the commentator.
Shiite imam Fadl Allah Nasm-Eddine, director of the Paris-based Shia Islamic Center, criticized the cyber attack again Al Arabiya’s website and told FRANCE 24 that the station was “neutral and respectable."
“I don’t think that the hackers are Shias but I think some people do criticize the station’s programmes which are often favourable to Gulf countries”, which are mainly Sunni. Moreover, the station is partly owned by Saudis. “It’s a news station. It should be allowed to function,” he added.
The imam called on Sheikh Qaradawi to “improve his methods” in order to end the tensions since “every escalation is a threat for both Sunnis and Shias.”
Date created : 2008-10-11