On July 15 this past summer, I was in London spending the evening with friends before leaving for Turkey the next day. Suddenly, my phone started blowing up with messages and calls from friends in Turkey. Fearing that it was another attack in Taksim, I immediately answered the call.My friend told me to stay silent as she pointed her phone camera at a TV broadcast of a popular live news channel in Turkey, TRT. I listened cautiously as the reporter talked in a stiff and crackling voice, setting out guidelines and curfews that were requested forcefully by the Turkish military, as the coup d’etat began.
I turned on CNN to gather more information, from a western source, but to my disappointment there was no mention about the coup. Minutes passed by and I waited impatiently as the CNN reporter prevailed to talk about the Nice attack that had happened a few days prior. After about 45 minutes the reporter finally switched gears and shared information about the coup in Istanbul. The coverage of the coup repeated similar information for about an hour and then ended with the report that the Turkish president was asking citizens to stand against the coup and fight.
As I looked through Snapchat and Instagram that night, I was flooded with photos and videos of the growing crowds in the streets of Turkey, as well as pitch black photos representing the death and oppression of that night, as a sign of respect. Alas, none of these posts were by people who were not of Turkish nationality. In the next few days, the media and broadcasters only covered the resistance of the Turkish citizens for a couple of minutes, until the news of the coup was made obsolete and seldomly mentioned over the next few weeks.
Rarely do I come across any headlined articles concerning the attacks in the Middle East. Every day millions of Syrians are in anguish due to appalling living conditions and bombs in their towns. On New Year’s Eve, 39 people were killed in Istanbul. All of these stories are reported, but they don’t garner the same attention as attacks based in the West. These stories from countries in the Middle East infrequently make headlines and by the next couple of days, the stories have usually vanished completely.
The Western media is invested more in stories about western attacks than the attacks and stories from the Middle East, since the Western media is naturally ethnocentric. In addition, people also views attacks in the Middle East to be more predictable, than Western attacks due to its location and history, which leads to the Middle East and the severity of these deadly assaults being overshadowed in the media.
Due to its ethnocentricity and assuming nature, the media informs its viewers about the episodes in the Middle East, but it fails to make a sufficient analysis of the situation and the factors that impacted the attack or duress, and unfortunately the story does not receive the attention that it deserves from the media.
The lack of analysis and attention from the media affiliated with episodes from the Middle East can lead to dangerous and false pretenses that the Middle East is plagued with uncivilized brutality and violence. Although ASL is a community that is aware of the events in the Middle East without falling into the artifice of the brutality and violence, there are still cases in which the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Middle East’ are associated with terrorism and ferocity.
Growing up in a country with a Muslim majority in the Middle East, I was never a victim of misconceptions of Islam as it is part of my culture. However, in my first year alone of attending ASL, I had heard a myriad of comments that misinterpreted my culture and religion, due to lack of knowledge and awareness of the meaning of Islam and the culture in the Middle East. In the following years, I came across such phrases like “Islam means killing in Arabic,” “Muslims don’t believe in God, that’s why they are all terrorists,” or even “The Middle East has developed a violent culture of killing due to the decrease of secularity,” which was actually a phrase I was surprised to hear only a few years ago by a fellow classmate.
Fortunately, these are only a few misdemeanors made by a handful of students which have faded and diminished over the years. Nevertheless, there are still cases in which most of the student body is not aware of the full episode in the Middle East as well as Middle Eastern culture, due to their lack of knowledge that is influenced by the Western media.
The ethnocentric nature of western media as well as its lack of analysis and attention for episodes from the Middle east, leaves many western countries in oblivion about the extent of most Middle Eastern events. Furthermore it negatively influences ASL’s perception of the Middle East and Middle Eastern culture.
Written by Staff Writer Naz Ozturk (’19)