For almost two decades, our media has been a non-stop chorus of chaotic voices, reminding us of the turbulent situation in the region of the Middle East. This commentary and reporting all comes through a dangerously narrow, ethnocentric lens that distorts the views of Americans, and indeed, all western nations on the issue.
But what is to be done? Clearly, much of the Middle East is tumultuous, to put it lightly, and the United States isn’t helping.
Donald Trump’s recent order to drop a gigantic bomb in Afghanistan, aptly titled the “Mother of All Bombs” after its official acronym MOAB, is a dreadful and misguided continuation of policy that was present through the Obama administration as well.
Bombings, such as this one by the United States, are done in such a way which often results in the murder of innocent civilians, including children, and will not help stabilize the region. It will not make Americans, or anyone else, safer.
What could be more radicalizing than a hostile foreign nation dropping bombs on innocent families? In doing just that, time and time again, and for many years, the United States has been giving radical extremists some of the most potent fuel they could have.
When it comes to the Middle East, the United States is no stranger to picking sides in situations where there are no good guys. By pulling out of these situations, in which we often take the role of an armed aggressor, we would be doing more to promote stability than any amount of bombs could ever hope to accomplish.
The government and military cite their concern about the innocent people in the Middle East, so they send their bombs and strike their drones into the region, which then kill countless innocents. The whole thing is no more than a sham.
If we really cared about the innocent people in the Middle East, we would take more of them in, and encourage other stable countries to do so as well. By taking in refugees, while not bombing innocent people, the United States would be showing a genuine act of humanitarianism. This cuts off the violent fuel for radicals who are so eager for us to be the aggressors that we so often are.
As a nation, we must put forth a message of genuine solidarity for those who are struggling in the region. This solidarity would not include dropping bombs on their children, but taking them in and working with leadership in countries like Syria to seek stabilization.
America’s own interests are at stake here as well. With our bombs fueling generations of new radical extremists in the Middle East, drawing the hatred of more and more people to our nation, we are putting the safety of Americans in jeopardy.
This is particularly true for Muslim-Americans. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that six in ten Americans have never even had a conversation with a Muslim. Out of the same report, it was found that the majority of Americans (fifty-seven percent) know little about the Islamic religion, and twenty-six percent know nothing.
This means that, for many Americans, their only view into the window of the Muslim world is through what they see on the news, which, of course, mostly portrays Muslims as violent extremists – a small minority of the Muslim population.
This ignorance, in combination with the saturation of violent imagery associated with Islam as a whole, may cause the already rising number of anti-Muslim hate crimes to rise even more, as our cruel and misguided actions in the Middle East continue to radicalize more people against us.
Last year alone, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by sixty-seven percent according to the FBI. These unjust and violent crimes against fellow American citizens are only going to get worse, and become more commonplace, unless we take more productive and dramatic actions to stop them from being tolerated in our country.
This involves us taking a role in people’s perception of Islam, which would be improved if the United States stopped all this business of dropping bombs. We could be working harder on improving its own communities so that Muslim people, both citizen and refugee alike, could be better integrated into those communities.
This strategy works brilliantly in other nations, like Scotland, for instance. Muslim citizens there are among the happiest in the world, according to the Economist. A survey conducted by Ipsos Mori in 2010 reported that the majority of Scots believed Muslims are well integrated into everyday Scottish life.
They build mosques with Scottish inspiration. They have a stronger grasp of economic power. Islam in the Scottish community is overall pervasive and accessible to every citizen, giving these peoples the visibility that they lack in the United States.
Following their model, it could certainly work in the United States as well, but only if we would bother to put in the effort needed to make these changes happen.
With growing unrest, it would certainly benefit all of our citizens, and our country as a whole, to put aside this demonization of the Middle East. As violence escalates in the Arab Spring, no world leader or even individual can afford the ignorance that has led us to such controversy in the first place.