Are ‘They’ Worse than ‘Us’? (RELS 348)

In a nutshell the news material discusses how the Je Suis Charlie movement’ is actually worsening the socio-political problem; which is also linked with a religious aspect. The author actively suggests that the movement in response to the Paris terrorist attack rather creates an ‘us’ and “them” atmosphere— a division between the west and the Islamic Middle Eastern peoples.

This article personally enlightened my thoughts. When the Je Suis Charlie movement happened, honestly, my opinion sided more with ‘their’— the movement’s —side. It changed the way I thought; for the author is relatively unbiased as he does not lean towards one side or the other. He presents a perspective that wisely accepts the faults of both sides and persuades the readers to realize that each side must realize the wrong doings of their own actions.

The phrase that captured my mind was when the author introduces how active supporters of Je Suis Charlie movement can be translated as:

“ ‘We’ in the West are rational, good, modern and free (just don’t bring up the sordid legacy of colonialism, slavery, religious wars, etc.), while “they” are backward, bad, irrational and violent “.

The West is not the rational, good, modern, and free when we examine various points of the historical timeline. For example, the 1963 White Revolution was sparked mainly due to Iranian nations feeling threatened by the influence of west. They felt that the West were imposing western culture to their ways of life—largely embedded in religion—upon the Middle Eastern countries. Moreover when you take a look at the 1970s ‘Oil Shock’, partially, it was due to the Middle Eastern countries collaboratively to ‘revenge’ against the West and European countries that had been exploiting them for many years in history. That is, the ‘Seven Sisters’, which were seven major oil corporations—owned by Americans and the British—controlled 90 percent of the world’s petroleum reserves and exported them throughout the world and profited immensely. On the other hand, the Arabs did not and could not have the means of oil and gas extraction; leaving the Americans and British to jack them all to profit. Eventually OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) would halt and disallow the extraction of oil and petroleum by foreigners. Considering such events, it is quite possible that the Middle Eastern countries are now at the stage where it cannot withhold its fury against the West and particular European countries for any longer.

Perhaps such historical tensions and a build-up of historical events that disadvantaged certain groups in the Middle East, and the neglect of the opinions of the Arab nations has what lead to such atrocious acts in the 21st century—9/11, Boston bombing, terrorization of House of Commons, Je Suis Charlie movement, and many more. Indeed when we observe such acts committed by the terrorists of the Middle East, it is convincing to view them as “backward[ed], bad, irrational and violent”. However, the West and particular European countries must remember that they too have acted as such; conquering, colonizing, and imperializing all over the world, which too makes them “backward[ed], bad, irrational and violent”.

The difference in the world that we live in today is the widespread knowledge and value of protecting human rights. The most dramatic change is the role that the media plays. Therefore I am suggesting that this may be why the Middle Eastern terrorists are seen to be ‘worse’ when they commit violent acts of terror today than when the people of the West and Europe did in the past.

As I have discussed thus far about the way in which we tend to conceive and judge certain groups of people, it is supported by Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism. For example, in his book Orientalism, Professor Sut Jhally (from the video we watched) informs that: Said specifically argues that the way the West and Europe looks at the countries and the peoples of the Middle East is through a lens that distorts actual reality of those places and those people. He call this this lens—through which we view that part of the world: Orientalism; a framework that we use to understand the unfamiliar and the strange, to make the people of the Middle East to appear different and threatening. Furthermore, Said, emphasizes how the media; journalists and influence of Hollywood movies on their portrayal of Middle Eastern people immensely impact how the rest of the world sees them.

Reading this article on the Je Suis Charlie movement was a reminder for me that: there are two sides to every story. It is a very simple phrase to understand, but nevertheless; its implications are often undermined or ignored completely. The ability for the general population to perceive both perspectives properly; is further hindered by the media. The moment something is said about something—right or wrong— it rapidly bourgeons throughout the world. Subsequently, everyone has their piece of ‘lens’ they like to look through. The Je Suis Movement adds fuel to fire as it re-emphasizes the division between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Or, as the author puts it: it shows ‘them’ “how great ‘we’ are, and how despicable ‘they’ are, all over again”. Both sides must put their guards down and at minimum seek ways to respect each other’s boundaries.



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