Monday, November 26, 2012

Stereotypes of the Middle East

"You share the same religion with men who cherry picked the bible to justify slavery. Those assumptions you made, those quick generalizations; what about the vengeance and the blood shed in the old testament, the Crusades, the Inquisition… are these events guided by a religion of peace? No, they are guided by self-important men who think they know more then the God they claim to worship. This was not the work of religion; it was arrogance, it was hypocrisy, it was hate. Those horrible men who hijacked those planes hijacked my religion that day too. They insulted my God. So, no, this isn’t “too difficult”. It’s a privilege to be able to serve this victim to show him that care and love that was so absent that day." - Arastoo Vaziri 

    Once again, I turned to television this week when I began to think about Middle Eastern stereotypes. The quote above is from the television series "Bones," during a recent episode about 9/11. It is stated by a Muslim character, who is asked if a case on a 9/11 victim is too difficult to handle. I feel that this quote speaks loudly and clearly to the topic of Middle Eastern stereotypes. For the most part, media does not cater to this view on Muslims and people of the Middle East. Like in Disney's Aladdin, the image of a violent and bloodthirsty people is usually portrayed.  Until I saw this episode and read about it for class, I never realized the strength and history of this stereotype.  It had not occurred to me that before 9/11 I had been feeding on bits of stereotypes against a whole people. When the news and war on terrorism sprouted I always thought that was the reason for all the bad vibes and feelings around the Middle East, I did not realize how far back the stereotype extended.

      I must admit that I have held these ideas too, without even realizing it.  There is a Muslim family in my neighborhood at home.  I remember that even before 9/11 I was afraid of them.  Their foreign appearances and head garbs were so different looking and I did not trust them.  After 9/11, I felt uneasy every time I saw a Middle Eastern man in the airport.  This is not something I am proud of.  Every time I felt these things I would tell myself that these ideas and worries are unfounded and unfair.  But even though I knew my judgment was wrong, it did not stop me from feeling the way I did.  That feeling is one of the sad evolutions of a stereotype, to the point where a person can induce unwarranted discomfort simply by looking a certain way. I hope that with this class and even more knowledge under my belt I can fight the way this stereotype has been established in my brain.  Some may say ignorance is bliss but I think that is wrong, especially in this case.  I hope that by being better informed about this, I can take a step away from this ignorance.

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