Today I wanted to talk quickly on a subject that takes a while to talk about. Sounds difficult, but I'll do my best to sum up: 9/11 and "Orientalism".
What is Orientalism?
Orientalism is the lens in which Americans view the Middle East due to media, movies, art, and other things that claim to "represent" the "Orient". We have had a fairly short history in the ME compared to other countries such as Britain or France, whom had direct contact with people in different countries like Tunisia and Algeria, while we came in during the 60's and 70's when there was oil to be found. Another way that our views are skewed of the Middle East is because Israel is our strongest ally and the American media almost always shows the way Israel wants things to be shown. In other words, our media is colored by politics. So what does this have to do with 9/11?
The way we have come to view the Middle East is not only that all Muslims are violent (if, for example, we see an image of a protest on the news and it looks awful and someone is burning the American flag and people are looting and pillaging, etc), but also that they are disposable (look at any hollywood movie with an Arab as the bad guy. Arnold Swarzenegger just kills them right off, with no second thought!). This perception colors our view of what Islam is, who Muslims are, and what life in the Middle East is actually like and it can lead to terrible things like racism, stereotyping, and violence against Muslims.
So why should I care?
Why should you - did you just even ask that?! Because learning about how a culture truly is and not because we have a superficial, political, or economic interest in it is IMPORTANT. Let me repeat: IT. IS. IMPORTANT.
One of the points that has stuck with me so far out of my Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East class is that when we have knowledge about a group of people, we have to choose how to portray them. We have the power to choose whether or not we can portray them as good or bad, smart or stupid, and so on. We should learn about our differences and similarities so we can talk about them and learn about each other just because we care. Because learning about other people besides ourselves is so, so important.
What does 9/11 have to do with this?
It has a lot to do with this. After 9/11, if our perception of Muslims was bad before, it became even worse after those attacks and I personally believe that that attitude still lingers today in society. If children growing up didn't learn about the 9/11 attacks in their history classes then maybe the perception of Muslims would be better because we all know that schools don't always tell children the truth (*cough* Native American genocide *cough*).
9/11 happened over 12 years ago. If you lost someone in the attacks, I am truly sorry. But please remember that there were Muslim people who died in the towers as well. These people had Muslim families and Muslim relatives. We are all affected the same.
Also remember that for some people around the world, 9/11 happens every day. Terror like this, inflicted, purposeful terror, is a daily occurence. EVERY. DAY. Think about that. Would we even be able to deal with horror like that every day? We have to stop looking at the world through a purely American or Western lens and realize that our attitude about what terror is is inaccurate and harmful to many people, including ourselves, because it shapes the way we do politics and business overseas.
And now, I am going to go and get ready for bed since I have an 8am tomorrow, but I will leave you with this, a clip from "What Would You Do":