Taking away our humanity
Creating an imagined realm of
hostile peoples: The Muslim Middle East
October 8, 2004
Why is it that half of the Middle East is being threatened with
invasion if it hasn't already been occupied? Iraq is down, Afghanistan
is down, and Syria and Iran are on the list of potential hosts
for an extended US stay-over, despite being very different regimes.
There is certainly no shortage of murderous, dictatorial, and
(depending on your outlook) "terrorist" regimes worldwide
to target; in fact, Iran's tyrannical religious oligarchy seems
nice compared to Myanmar or US buddy Saudi Arabia. Even with differing
viewpoints about why Afghanistan and specifically Iraq have been
invaded, it is necessary to examine the rationale for choosing
these particular countries.
When one reflects for a moment, the fact that we are fighting
two real wars and maintaining an imaginary one doesn't come as
much as a surprise. The centuries-old tradition of Orientalist
thought has permeated the collective consciousness of the US. Our
governments, news networks, blockbuster movies, even our big WWF
villains have been preparing us for a showdown with the "Muslim
world", whatever that is (is there a Christian or Buddhist
The stage was set from a long time ago: Hulk Hogan battled
the Iron Sheikh; Kurt Russell outsmarted a bunch of dirty, sweaty,
unshaven airplane hijackers. Remember how many of those hijacker
movies there were before the day it actually happened? Even I'm
party to the conspiracy: my friend and I shot up a bunch of screaming
jihadi terrorist freaks in Counter-Strike, one in a wave of "fight
those crazy Arabs" video games with great graphics, sound,
and controls that sell so well among future army recruits.
What about Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim portrayal in the media?
I know if I got my information exclusively from US media, I'd swear
that the Middle East never
left the 9th century. Usually it is chador-clad women waddling down Main Street,
Baghdad, or surly, unkempt men going wild at a fundamentalist Muslim rally.
This is not to say that extremists don't exist on the other side
of the world; but one would be hard pressed to recall a time when
a university student rally
(yes, "they" have universities too, with 20 year-old boys and girls
and everything) or a secular demonstration (that too!) was televised.
things, apparently, are not as interesting as the images that cause us
to fear and hate Muslims and Middle Easterners alike. Case in point:
on September 11th,
outrageous video footage of Palestinians burning the US flag was shown.
The footage was identified at Columbia University and turned out
to be from 1991.
Passing through the press filter are the opinions of the vast
majority of moderately religious peoples throughout the Middle
on prime-time, that familiar
image: hook-nosed, illogical, irrational, incorrigible fanatic "A-rab".
Again and again, we members of
the "Muslim world" (I'm
not even Muslim but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone) are
shown as angry, angry, angry,
people prone to acts of unimaginable destruction and violence, unable
to process logic, think long-term, or experience the process of
All they seem able to do is hate the US and everything it stands for.
implicit message given to us here in the "Western world" is, "what to
do with these crazy camel jockeys? These people can't be reasoned with. Let's
reason for them. Let's liberate them and spread 'Western' values. Otherwise
they'll be plotting and itching under their turbans to get WMD until they do
and then God forbid they attack us again."
This "liberation" is
nothing short of neo-colonization, this time by a different superpower:
us. Some of the more ignorant people on this campus and in this country
believe that the US is doing the Iraqis a favor that they should
be grateful for; grateful for the invasion by a country that looked
other way when
Hussein's regime was beneficial for US interests. The undercurrent
of racism that runs in this attitude is bursting through the seams.
amazes me is that people aren't even aware of how this foreign
policy is based in the same currents of thought that justified
and, to a certain extent, Nazism. By creating an imagined realm of
hostile peoples (the Muslim Middle East) that transcends borders,
ideologies, governments, and history, we are consciously putting
a divide between "us" and "them",
creating two sides in an apocalyptic, unnecessary conflict.
taking away their humanity, and that makes it easier for us to
justify our government's
agenda, no matter how barbaric it gets. This is an issue that requires
all people to raise their voices and question the validity of this
policy. One thing that is clear is that the Middle East doesn't
need to be told how to create a civil society. The Fertile Crescent
after all, invent
much of it.