A Biased Media – Us vs Them?

13775951_10153582480591968_5019934728246552948_n

The tragic attack in Nice on Thursday 14th of June, Bastille Day, is one of utter heartbreak. Currently, 84 citizens are dead including 10 children, with 202 more civilians injured. Already the Western world is provoked and sympathetic towards the situation in France, with landmarks such as the Palace of Westminster to be lit up in the French colours to show the British people’s solidarity with the French, and the growing rise of Facebook’s “flagtivism’. This notion of solidarity is something which should be praised, as it highlights humanitarian support.

However, it must be noted that there was a considerable lack of solidarity, flagtivism and landmarks draped in national colours when just as horrendous bomb attacks occurred in places such as Turkey and Iraq. The most recent terrorist attacks in Iraq similarly happened on a national holiday, Eid, and during the holy month of Ramadan. Yet where was the media coverage? The bombings in the capital of Iraq killed over 200 people two weeks ago, but on the media it seemed to be less important than the terrorist attacks that happen here in the West. When media coverage has a greater focus and emphasis on what happens in the West it almost seems to suggest that the deaths of Westerners are far more significant than the deaths of those in Middle Eastern countries.

This is not to say that the tragic deaths of those in Nice are less important than those in the Middle East — they were equally as shocking and devastating. The media now needs to combat such acts of cowardly terror through pushing aside ancient orientalist notions of Us vs Them, and truly take up the belief of “#AllLivesMatter” by reporting with equal concern of those closer to home as well as further away. The only way we can fight such attacks is we support each other in solidarity — ethnicities aside.

International New York Times’ Problematic Definitions of ‘Islam’ and ‘Modern’

The International New York Times (September 24, 2015)

Headline Reads: Islam’s Tragic Fatalism

In a opinion piece on Thursday, author Mustafa Akyol argues that ‘fatalism’ – arguing that a disaster was ‘God’s Will’ serves as a cover for inadequate safety measures too often. Akyol incorrectly characterises the problem as a ‘global Muslim problem’. Rather than lay the blame at the door of elites, Akyol crudely blames all Muslims. In this, he homogenises Islam, and this contributes to Western misunderstanding about the religion – and indeed, the region.

There also seems an assumption that being ‘modern’ and being ‘secular’ are one and the same in Akyol’s writing. He argues that ‘even in Turkey, which is more modern and secular than Saudi Arabia’, the problem of fatalism exists. This off-hand remark runs roughshod over articulations coming from within the region of a Muslim modernity. In short, one can be both ‘modern’ and ‘religious’, and Akyol’s writing presupposes the opposite.

Moreover, Akyol argues that ‘Muslims live within cultural codes largely defined’ by Hanbali ‘dogmatists’. In so doing, he seems to deny ordinary Muslims to ability to forge their own Islam. Perhaps more importantly, his argument has the subcontext  that there is something inherently ‘Islamic’ involved in elite corruption. Given that such arguments are not made about corrupt elites elsewhere in the world, it is misplaced to look back to early Islamic theology to explain fatalism today.

Akyol’s piece homogenises Islam and then demonises it. Neither are useful for critical debate over the role of religion in politics.