The legacy media isn’t telling you the full truth about Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi exile who is feared dead after he was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. His disappearance has created a media firestorm, resulting in tensions between the United States and its traditional Middle East partners.
We’ve been told that Khashoggi — who was living in the U.S. for the past year — was a voice for reform and democracy in a Middle East that is in desperate need of such individuals. However, a closer look at Khashoggi’s past activities reveals a man with an extremely regressive, anti-Western worldview and a consistent pattern of supporting fringe Islamist movements in the region.
Of course, no one deserves to be harmed for his views. However, Khashoggi’s disappearance (and likely death, at this point) does not give the foreign and domestic media a green light to play fast and loose with the facts.
Khashoggi the “journalist”
Pretty much the entirety of the legacy media has attached a wildly misleading “journalist” label to Jamal Khashoggi. While he was once a journalist for several state-controlled Gulf media enterprises, Khashoggi has not been anything resembling a journalist for quite some time.
Prior to his disappearance, Khashoggi was an opinion writer for the Washington Post’s “Global Opinions” section. He was also working with Islamists tied to the Muslim Brotherhood to create an organization called Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN).
Why does the “journalist” label continue to stick to Khashoggi?
We know that Saudi Arabia’s rivals, such as Turkey, Qatar, and Iran, seek to undermine the U.S.-Saudi alliance by any means necessary. And the optics are much worse for Riyadh if the Saudi monarchy is found to have executed a “journalist” rather than an Islamist activist.
Domestically, perhaps the media stubbornly insists on calling Khashoggi a “journalist” because it helps to advance the false media narrative that President Trump is waging a war on the free press. Notably, legacy reporters have been leveraging the Khashoggi situation to take shots at the president’s rhetoric.
Lee Smith over at The Federalist also points out that the “Obama echo chamber” of former Obama officials and their media lackeys have used the Khashoggi situation to score points against the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Khashoggi the “reformer”
Jamal Khashoggi was never a reformer in the sense that he wanted to advance individual rights and overall freedoms in the Middle East. In fact, all of the evidence points to the reality that he was a regressive thinker and a dedicated Islamist who wanted to move Saudi Arabia to a more cleric-led society.
As an early ally to al Qaeda founders Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, Khashoggi has been an Islamist for decades. While he may have disagreed with his old friend Bin Laden about how to impose an Islamic state on the world, the two shared the same endgame.
While Bin Laden preferred a much more aggressive strategy, Khashoggi appeared to be a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood model of governance advanced by groups like Hamas and the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt.
Both Hamas and the Morsi regime in Egypt were elected through the democratic process. Yet almost immediately after seizing power, the Brotherhood-aligned groups sought to impose extra-constitutional measures that would tighten their grip on power and ensure that there would never be another election.
Khashoggi’s “democracy” project is nothing more than a facade that would allow for the empowerment of Islamist actors. For the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, history shows us that their first victorious election campaign quickly becomes the last election.
Khashoggi the “man of peace”
Today’s Middle East reform movements are largely backed by individuals and leaders who have rejected calls for perpetual Islamist warfare. Those in the U.S.-allied reformer camp — such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed — have preferred to focus on bolstering patriotism, combatting Islamism, pursuing secularization and modernization, and encouraging foreign and domestic entrepreneurism and investments.
The “soft-spoken” Khashoggi, on the other hand, has sought to drag the Islamic world into endless conflict.
And as is typical for many Islamists, Jamal Khashoggi had a serious bloodlust when it came to violence against the state of Israel. He expressed these violent aims in a 2014 piece for the Muslim Brotherhood-tied Middle East Monitor, in which he wrote that he hoped one day Islamic nations would join the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas in its campaign to destroy Israel. In another piece he wrote that year, Khashoggi shamed Arab states for not supporting the jihadi terror group.
Of course, violence is never the answer to political disagreements, and that is a clear message to all of our Middle East partners. The Khashoggi affair, however, is no reason to destroy all of the progress that the Trump administration has made in supporting historic, measureable Middle East reform efforts. The White House must continue following the pro-reform message articulated in president’s Riyadh speech in May 2017. To abandon reform now would empower America’s adversaries, strengthen Islamist movements, and jeopardize our Middle East allies.