Canada’s welcoming reception of the first planeloads of Syrian refugees has prompted an overwhelmingly positive response in the Arab media, with one Jordanian news site going so far as to call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “Superman” for his acceptance of refugees.
Online interest in Canada has seen a huge upswing among Arabic speakers in recent weeks. The number of people searching for the word “Canada” in Arabic doubled in the past month, according to Google Trends. The primary source countries of the queries were Jordan and Lebanon, but internet users in Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Libya also generated some of the searches.
CBC News found tens of thousands of Arabic searches within the past week (Dec.8-15) for “Canada + Syrian refugees.”
Commenters use Canada to shame Arab states
When it came to comments in Arab media and on online message boards, the general trend was to thank Canada for its warm reception of Syrian refugees, but there were some dissenting voices, such as one reader on the Al Jazeera website who chastised the refugees for not staying to fight the Assad regime in Syria.
Many other commenters contrasted Canada’s favourable treatment of Syrian refugees with the actions — or inaction — of Arab countries.
“Canada’s prime minister put Arab rulers in an embarrassing situation when he said, ‘Welcome to your new home,'” said an editorial on WatanSerb.com, a California-based news weekly for Arab Americans.
The Jordanian news site Sahafi.jo was particularly keen to compare “the warmness of Canada to the coldness of Jordan.”
“It’s hard to believe what Canadians are doing for Syrian refugees,” it said in its commentary. Jordanians pointed to the footage of Trudeau and other government ministers greeting refugees at the airport in criticizing their own government’s mistreatment of refugees.
Readers of AlJazeera.net demanded “clarification on why Gulf countries are refusing to host Syrian refugees.” One reader of the Dubai-based Orient News, one of the leading news websites of the Syrian opposition, suggested that “history is going to write how Muslims in general and Arabs in particular did not stand up for Syrians whereas foreigners did and were more merciful and supportive.”
The negative comparisons were not only directed at Arab and Muslim countries. Canada’s example also prompted readers to reflect on how Syrian refugees were being treated by some European states.
“At a time when Canada is opening its doors to Syrian refugees, Berlin is facing criticism of its plans to contain refugees and the lack of basic life needs,” wrote Zainab Kherfati of Dubai on the website of the Al Arabiya TV network.
Similarly, Ahmad Abdel Zaher wrote on the Saudi Arabia-based site The Message of Islam that while Canada celebrates Syrian refugees, “Denmark blackmails them,” a reference to reports that the Scandinavian country is considering seizing refugees’ jewelry and valuables to help offset the cost of resettlement.
The United Arab Emirates newspaper Alitihad contrasted Canada’s warm welcome to what it described as the cold attitude of its neighbour, the United States.
SOURCE: Ghalia Bdiwe