In an attempt to distract from the overwhelmingly coronavirus-focused media storm that is likely barraging all of your phones, I want to discuss some harmful misconceptions about the Middle East and introduce a new addition to my column.
In mainstream media, radical Islam that is practiced by terrorist groups like ISIS is often conflated with conventional Islam, leading to the oppression of Muslims in society and providing yet another avenue for fearmongering. In reality, Islam, like so many different religions otherized by the media, is one that preaches peace, equality, and education. While my column so often focuses on the downsides of what is happening in the Middle East and the many terrorist groups that reside inside of it, it’d be wrong of me to not take some time and ensure that I do not perpetuate any of the negative stereotypes that mainstream media often portrays.
At the end of each of my articles, I will be showcasing a prominent Middle Eastern art piece in order to take away from the stereotypes of violence that surround the Middle East. With this choice, I hope to help dispel the problematic notion that people who live in the Middle East and those who practice Islam are violent. Despite what is too-often emphasized in popular news outlets in the United States, Islam is no more of a strict or austere religion than Christianity. At IYPF, we strive to rise above the tropes of mainstream media that stereotype marginalized groups and report only on unbiased truth. As a Jewish person myself, my aim would be to play my part in preventing others, both of my religion and not, from falling into the fallacious, bigoted mindset that labels Muslims as an inherently violent people. I hope that this new addition to my column will help to support the objective reality.
In my new logo, designed by the IYPF’s new graphic designer Claire Fennell, three pieces of art are featured. The first piece is titled Bustan Al-Ma’refa (The Orchard of Knowledge), by Shakir Hassan Al-Said. The second is 1. Pomegranate Tree of Life by Anne Shams, and the third is Impossible Dream by Laila Shawa. Both Bustan Al-Ma’refa and Impossible Dream are by artists of Middle Eastern descent, and while 1. Pomegranate Tree of Life was not created by someone of Middle Eastern descent, it was created in order to portray the beauty in the co-mingling of Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures.