Wednesday, October 17, 2012

They are all the same, all these different people...

Lately I've been asked by friends in both Egypt and the Netherlands what I think about what's happening in the Islamic world. And I am commenting a lot on the same topic when I see postings on the Internet about excesses in the Islamic world.

First of all, all these different people are all the same and I probably are one of them. What I mean is that they are all generalizing 'other people'. I think I do the same, but I make it an effort not to do so.

Recently there is a lot to do about Islamism again. And what I feel is that this is primarily to do with that in Islamic countries some weird shit is happening. US embassies being attacked, 10 year old girls shot in the head because they want an education and stuff like that. The point is that these excesses are all happening in Islamic countries and by whack-jobs that are easily mistaken for human beings. Well actually in many cases they are referred to as Muslim extremists and the media play a big part in this.

I've blogged before about the media and that I'm not really impressed by their fact-checking. But more importantly they're very much only concentrating on the shit that's happening and love to refrain from anything that's positive about what the general public considers bad. In western countries the baddies are Muslims, here in the region, the baddies are westernes. Americans are the worst. Really.

The interesting part is that more and more you see that especially the media treat whole groups as one person. Generalizing the whole group to the extent that what one members says or does is said or done by every member. Preferably the bad stuff, because bad stuff sells commercials, gets the laughs when you sarcastically criticizes it.

Sometime it really pisses me off that this happens. Why? Because often this results in more intolerance, misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Nowadays I have to say that my friends here in Egypt are more tolerant towards other ideas and beliefs than my friends in the Netherlands. Which I think has everything to do with the massive amount of information we're used to get in the Netherlands and the idea that it is impartial, to an extent and fairly accurate. Although there is the option to get yourself well informed, you have to do it yourself in Holland. And we don't have time to do so it seems.
Here in Egypt, it's different all together. Information is limited and definitely not impartial at all, but this is known and most of my friends here are really taking an effort in getting their information from different sources, making it more impartial than we in the west do, nowadays.

Let's move on to an example; you must have heard about this Pakistani girl Malala who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan just a few days ago. This girl is about 10 years old and a symbol of anti-Taliban in her country and the rest of the world. She was shot in the head because she is fighting for the right of girls in Pakistan to receive proper education. I'm sorry to say but I consider the person or persons involved to be total whack-jobs. This is just something you don't do. You don't shoot girls in the head, for any reason.

What I'm saying is not, I repeat: NOT, that this person's motives are whack, I'm saying he was a whack-job.

But that's besides the point of this post. The point of this post is that every time something excessive happens in an Islamic country, there are everywhere in the media stories about it that fuel the public paranoia against Muslims, or that further numb the public's ability to make up it's own mind. A friend of mine made me aware of a text on a website that he quoted which literally translates into; Shooting a 10 year old in the head is fine, but offending a certain religion is the worst. Of course this is referring to the recent events of the shooting and the anti-Islam movie posted on YouTube.
The sad part in this is that the Mullahs in Pakistan publicly opposed the actions of the Taliban and stated that girls have as much the right for education as boys.
The issue here is that media are positioning the Taliban as a religious bunch of people first and terrorists second. I would argue that a large amount of members of the Taliban are not the religious fanatics media would like us to believe, but are merely survivalists that have no alternative. But they are still terrorists.

Another example is about a previous post I did.

But back to Egypt, as this is my blog about living in Egypt and not about my frustrations with media.
So what about Egypt in all of this? How does Egypt fit into all of this. Well that is twofold.

Firstly, as my friends outside of Egypt are wondering how I'm still alive in this revolutionary country, my friends in Egypt are asking me how the people in Holland are looking at the developments in Egypt. Of course they only know what they see on tv and read on the Internet. And they're seeing that vast amounts of tourists are no longer flying into Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. Their view on westerners are also based on what the media are saying and showing. Feeling that tourists are staying away because of the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood by means of the new president. Some of my friends and colleagues here feel that the western world is terrified of everything that's Islamic.
It's perfectly human to generalize, it makes the world easier to understand.

Secondly, I said Egypt's fit into this post is twofold, of course is that Egypt is not only a predominantly Islamic country, but there is also a vast amount of Coptic Christians in Egypt and their neighbor is Israel, which is predominantly Jewish. They're all living side by side with almost no quarrels between them. Yes there are incidents, most of the, rather bloody I must say. Lets forget about the incidents in the Sinai. These are not religious in nature, I'm sure. Lets focus on the issues between Muslims and Christians. The massacres in churches. Again, these are beyond my comprehension, but because they happen doesn't mean that entering a church in Cairo will get you killed. In fact, a friend of a friend of mine is a Muslim and he's an expert in Cairo's religious history. He organizes for those who're interested guided tours through Cairo focussing on mosques or churches. And his audience is a mixture of Muslims, Christians and other religions. And I have witnessed with my own eyes that a group of Muslims entered a Coptic church without starting to shoot the people inside, they didn't even had C4 in a belt around their body. A complete lack of violence. I was amazed... Not really.

One of the things that I noticed here in Cairo is that every time an incident of religious nature happened in Egypt, the religious authorities publicly condemned the incident, stating that the wackos are not at all acting on religious grounds are mislead by the idea that they would enter paradise. And this usually wasn't a marketing act towards other countries and media, but a real manner to 'teaching' the public in Egypt that these actions are plain wrong. This I hardly ever see in the Netherlands for example.

Hmmm, while reading this post again, I feel that it has become more of a rant than a cohesive story. Probably because I felt more like ranting about people's ignorance than I felt about posting about some weird stuff I experienced in Cairo. That I'll leave for my next post.