Qatar Ministry removes Qaradawi, hope from Islam Online workers
Qatar Ministry removes Qaradawi, hope from Islam Online workers
Wednesday, March 24,2010 19:59
By Joseph Mayton
CAIRO: It was already late in the evening when one of the Islam Online employees sent Bikya Masr an email explaining that the Qatari government had intervened in the ongoing ordeal facing workers. However, it was not a joyous moment for the some 350 employees currently fighting for their rights. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Islam Online founder and ardent supporter of his employees, was out and a temporary board established by the Gulf country’s ministry of social affairs had been set up.

According to Deena Khalil, a Bikya Masr blogumnist and Islam Online employee, the new management that had started all the trouble, al-Balagh Cultural Society has also had their board replaced by five individuals, but the loss of Qaradawi is a bigger blow, she said.

Reports say the ministry sent a message to Qaradawi on Tuesday evening that “halts the board of directors of al-Balagh Cultural Society and appoints an interim administration which comprise: Ibrahim Al Ansari, Hasan Rashed Al Derahm, Ali Al Emadi, Muhammad Badr Al Sada, Hashem Abdel Rahim al Sayed.

According to Khalil, the exclusion of Qaradawi for a direct role in the conflict – he had promised the Cairo-based workers he would help them achieve a proper settlement – hurts their cause, as the sheikh “was our only leverage.”

Last week, days into their sit-in at the Cairo office upon hearing the new board based in Qatar wanted to disband the Egypt office and change the content make-up of the prominent website, al-Balagh began removing archives from the website’s database, changed passwords and made it impossible for anyone in Cairo to access the files.

A statement issued today by the Islam Online employees said the media company is “going through an acute crisis that can put an end to it as a successful, unique model that has won the love and met the needs of a global readership.”

It added that “some officials at Al-Balagh Cultural Society in Qatar, which funds IOL, are trying to grip the website, with the aim of diverting it from its moderate language and keen focus on major issues of the Ummah — particularly and most evidently the noble struggle of Palestine — to a traditional, text-bound discourse that is detached from reality and isolates the civilizational message of Islam from practical life.”

Dozens of Egyptian activists have thrown their support for the embattled workers, writing on Twitter and their blogs for people to support the protesters.

For the workers, life has become uncertain, almost unbearable as the news of what is happening unfolds. They don’t know what the future holds and whether or not they will be paid the appropriate wages they are contracted for. Khalil says it is shocking and the news of Tuesday night only adds to the saddening and frustrating mood taking over the workers.

“The minute I heard the news on Twitter I sought to verify it to make sure it wasn’t just another lie from Al-Balagh’s lawyer Mohamed Abdel Kareem. But it seems now that it’s confirmed,” she began, telling of how she learned of the development. “We’re upset for Sheikh Qaradawi that he is being treated this way. We’re upset for our site,” she added.

But, despite their ordeal, the workers remain optimistic and are looking to the future, one that may include a new website to continue their Islam Online efforts.

“We’re already talking about establishing an alternative site to preserve the message of Islam Online,” Khalil continued. “But mostly, we are disappointed in the Qatari government and are trying to understand what could possibly be their motive for shutting down this institution,” she added.

On March 15, when the workers showed up to work, all hell broke loose as it became apparent that a take over was in process.  According to Atef Abdel-Ghany, who runs the website’s development committee, said the new board informed the employees that come March 31, “more than 250 of the journalists will be let go.” Islam Online currently employs more than 350 people.

According to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo the board had met with the workers only days earlier “to listen to their demands and questions with promises from Ibrahim Al Ansari, [Islam Online[ Vice-President, to meet these demands, but according to the sources, this meeting turned out to be a kind of stalling and wasting time in preparation to fire the workers.”

Republished with permission from Bikya Masr