Why The Media Constantly Targets the Middle East and Gulf States

Illustration by Rebecca Singleton

Last week, an American Muslim police officer was told to “go back to your country” while walking with her son in Brooklyn, New York. The NYPD officer had previously saved a baby from a fire and won a medal in 2014.

The negative connotation that the word “Muslim” carries is also the source of hate and violence against them. According to the Guardian, “The terms Islamic or Muslim are linked to extremism, militant, jihads, as if they belonged together inextricably and naturally.”

This complex study was conducted by the Kuwaiti government and based on interviews with media experts, concluding that the news coverage in the Middle East and the Gulf region is mainly based on anti-Americanism and terrorism.

The study found that “In many cases, the press talks and writes about Muslims in ways that would not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish, black or fundamentalist Christians.”

There are some extremist groups, but they consist of a small minority in the Middle East. The vast majority lives a normal life, working, studying, and coming back to their families, but the media does not cover their peaceful daily lifestyle. If you take a second to think, when is the last time you saw or read any benevolent information about Muslims and the Middle East?

The same study from the Guardian states that “TV news and documentaries have the strongest influence on people’s views of Islam, followed by newspaper coverage.”

  1. Lawrence Key, a writer for the Quora and a resident of the Middle East for the past 16 years, addresses how the media reports the “truth”, but the method chosen can give biased views to the audience perceiving the media outlets.

Key is currently living in Amman, Jordan. When asked if his new home is “bad”, Key said, “We are next door to Syria, which is currently experiencing a war. There have been terror attacks here. Yet, it’s almost always safe for me to walk on the streets at night without fear of being assaulted or robbed. My chances of getting killed by a criminal or my house or car being robbed or broken into are very low.”

One of the criticisms presented in his article is the simple fact the media does not cover the rest of the news in the Middle East, but focuses solely on violence and conflicts. In relation to this issue, Key states how the media should also portray the ordinary life in these regions.

For example, Israel has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, while Lebanon and Morocco are known for its nightlife. Sheikh Zayed Mosque has a revolutionary architecture, which blends Arab and Persian designs. Saudi Arabia has one of the most complex educational systems, where the government actually pays their students to go abroad and study. And then, we have oil.

Yes, it is true. There is a lot of oil in the Middle East, Africa and the Gulf nations. In fact, six out of the top ten countries with the biggest oil reserves are located in these regions. Oil is an essential natural resource we all depend on, which is abundant on those regions. Instead of viewing this as a positive business partnership, the media constantly attacks them under negative publicity.

Nicholas Gunnett, 28, who is studying sociology at SMC and also a veteran of the U.S. army, expressed how people sometimes do not see differences as a positive, but as a negative change.

“Because I think that they are seen by our society as ‘others’. They have a different culture than us. They have a different religion than us,” said Gunnett. “They speak a different language than any of the languages spoken here in the American continent. They dress differently. They are different. And I think people tend to see something different as wrong.”

Differences should not separate people, but instead be welcomed to construct stronger and culturally richer societies. When lived only within their culture, people, and the borders of their own nation, every country in the world would still be somewhat primitive. Why? Paper was invented in China, the modern alphabet developed by Egyptians, fiber optics born in India, radio in Italy, and most assembly lines are still based on Henry Ford’s manufacturing and production formulas from 1913. The world is interdependent.

The media has changed from an information sector to an outlet, which sometimes generates biased-views and even advertises propaganda. Some will argue every major journalist has somewhat of a bias. It is true journalists can give preference to which news to report and give their opinions on open discussions, but should focus on the reality and transparency of the news. For the sake of journalism.

Muslims are not the only ones criticized by the media. Israel suffers the same and is constantly reported negatively and condemned for its rough military approach. A BBC report from 2014 explains how Israelis were simply defending their own land against the British, and by doing so, were targeted by the Western media.

“In the closing years of World War Two and in the three years after it, the Jewish Irgun and Stern gangs who sought to force the British out of Palestine carried out a series of bloody attacks on British soldiers and officials,” the report stated. “Jews were labelled by the British as ‘terrorists’. The US press was much more muted, even sympathetic to the cause on anti-imperialist grounds.”

Jonathan Eyshi, 19, a SMC student from Florida, went to Israel for two months last year. “I believe it is because how societies look on Middle East, in general, always at a state of war, and therefore media portraits them as what people think they are. As a state of war, and not the actual beauty, which they have.”

“When I was there and what I saw, was that there is a lot of war and what the media is saying it not totally incorrect, however, there are a lot of times where the countries in the Middle East are at peace,” said Eyshi. “Therefore, there is no war at times. There are arguments, but no war. And there is a lot of beauty to the country, which they just do not look at.”