Homogeneity of the Middle East Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1468 Words
Date:  2022-08-23

Introduction

Around the globe, there is a popular misconception surrounding the identity, cultural background and history of the Middle East. In the west, the misconception lumps the people of the Middle East as a single homogeneous group of people with a shared religion, political status and general way of life (Laqueur, 2016). Any reference to a Middle Easterner would generally view the person as an Arabic speaking Muslim with an extreme or strict often-medieval interpretation of the teachings of the Quran. The Middle East is a vast region that encompasses modern-day Egypt, Turkey and stretches all the way to Iran with the biggest country geographically being Saudi Arabia (Fisher, 2013).

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In a majority of western news stations, the phrase Middle Easterner is often bandied around to refer to anyone originating from the region. However, unlike other regional connotations, the term points to a commonality between people from the region and views them as inseparable culturally. The phrase creates a racial bias as most misconceptions about the Middle East were formed based on the recent seismic global events most notably 9/11 that reinforced negative views concerning the region (Laqueur, 2016). In truth, nothing could be further from the truth.

Origins

To begin with, the term "middle east" came from a Euro-centrist view that depicted areas around China as the Far East so naturally, the modern-day region encompassing Syria, Iraq e.t.c had to fall in the middle between the two regions (Fisher, 2013). The term is thought to have originated from the British India office to describe the region between Eastern Europe and India. During the medieval times, it was referred to as the near east. The British then subsequently named their colonial possessions within this geographical area as the Middle East thus catapulting the phrase into mainstream use.

Political Demographics

Recently, due to the increase in immigration to the western world from this part of the world and other developing regions, far-right groups have used the term Middle Easterner to refer to the aforementioned narrow description of the people from this part of the world (Fisher, 2013). However, the region comprises of many different peoples with distinct histories. The area is home to more than fifteen nations, therefore, making the broad term 'middle east' irrelevant from a national or political point of view as no single sovereign entity refers to itself using the term.

In addition, the many different nations employ varying forms of governance to administer their respective regions. While it is true that there exist cross-cultural ties between the many countries that from the middle east, the boundaries between most states are well defined and in some cases are bitterly disputed leading to conflicts in the past (Guazzone, 2016). Saudi Arabia, for example, is an absolute monarchy with a hereditary system of governance where leadership is passed on from one member of the Saud family to the next. In contrast, Turkey, Israel as well as Egypt have developed varying forms of democratic governance structures in place. Therefore, there exists no political homogeneity within the region, which is as diverse as any other is.

Religion

Another popular misconception is the amalgamation of the Middle East with the Muslim world into one unit. Whereas Islam first developed in in the Arabian Peninsula with Arabic as its Lingua franca, the majority of adherents to the religion actually live outside the region with Indonesia having the largest number of Muslims anywhere in the world (Chidester, 2018). Politically, nations in the Middle East do not have a synchronized foreign policy towards the rest of the world but actually have competing Geo-political goals that are at odds with each other more often than not.

Demographics

The people of the Middle East are often grouped together as Arabs, and while a good proportion of them identify themselves as such, many of them belong to other distinct groupings. Mistakenly, the phrase 'Middle East' and Arabs are at times used interchangeably to refer to the same entity while in fact the two terms denote different faction's altogether. Some of the countries with sizeable Arab majorities include Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (Chidester, 2018). Persians, an Indo-European people that speak the Persian language as well as its variants, populate Iran.

Additionally, Kurds who speak Kurdish and stretch to parts of eastern Turkey (Guazzone, 2016) inhabit parts of northern Iran and Iraq. Other notable groups who are non-Arabs include the Turks occupying modern-day Turkey and the Israeli in Israel. As earlier stated, another often mentioned misconception is the intertwining of Islam with the area. Although Islam is the major religion practiced in the region, other religious sects do exist within the Middle East (Fisher, 2013). As a matter of fact, the three largest monolithic religions date their origins to the region and have their holiest sites within the area. The geographical location can be termed as being religiously diverse.

Cultural Identity

In the west, Islam is synonymous with Arabs as being the main group who practice the faith. Actually, of the total global Muslim population, only a fifth are Arabs while the rest, four-fifths, are non-Arabs (Chidester, 2018). Huge numbers of Jews live within the middle east not only I Israel but also other parts of the wider Middle East. Enclaves of Jews can be found in Damascus as well as the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Middle East is also home to large numbers of Christians who can be found in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel (Fisher, 2013). Egypt houses a good number of Coptic Christians who date back to the fifth century BC. Therefore, the Middle East is far from being a homogeneous religious region but is instead a melting pot of different sects and faiths.

Culturally, the Middle East has a wide range of practices based on religion as well as a modern-day western culture that has found widespread appeal across the world. A huge number of western commentators associate the middle east with what they would regard as medieval practices such as the beheading of criminals under sharia law for certain crimes or stoning (Chidester, 2018). Under other extreme interpretations of Islamic law, public stoning has been witnessed in parts of the region. Some states also forbid women from driving, engaging in the political discourse of their nations as well as requiring that all females cover their heads or/and faces.

Whereas these accusations may be true, they do not universally apply to all nations that are located within the Middle East. Only a handful of countries have enacted strict Sharia law in place such as Saudi Arabia (Laqueur, 2016). Additionally, women are now allowed to drive in all nations across the region as the last remaining country (Saudi Arabia) to do so recently abolished the practice. Most nations such as the United Arab Emirates have greatly expanded freedoms where women can own property and participate in the economy.

However, the treatment of women varies from country to country where some nations such as Pakistan have had female prime ministers. Contrary to popular perception, most of the countries in the region have a functional judicial system modeled around the western system. In addition, eighty percent of the population within the Middle East is literate, and education is mandatory for all children regardless of their gender or background, which applies to a majority of the countries (Laqueur, 2016).

Due to the recent terrorist attacks in the western world, the perception has been built that people from this region of the world have a negative attitude towards western nations more so the United States (Laqueur, 2016). While this may be true in some cases mostly surrounding western political decisions, the vast majority of Middle Eastern people embrace the modernity championed by the United States, and its culture is popular in the region. The popularity of western culture can be seen through the uptake of western brands such as coca cola and screening of American movies in the area.

Conclusion

The Middle East has many different peoples, , religions, languages, and cultures. Only a small majority of people in the region have a narrow interpretation of Islamic law Sharia. Myths surrounding the homogeneity of the region as well as its culture will continue to exist for some time, but more cultural and educational exchanges will lead to an easing of some of the extreme views regarding the Middle East.

References

Chidester, D. (2018). World religions in the world, 1, 1-4. Retrieved from: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?pid=S1011

Fisher, W.B. (2013). The Middle East (Routledge Revivals): A Physical, Social and Regional Geography, 2, 110-310. Retrieved from: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781134481699

Guazzone, L. (2016) The Middle East in Global Change: The Politics and Economics of Interdependence versus Fragmentation, 10, 23-95. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.ke/books?

Laqueur, W.Z. (2016). The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History, 3-7, 3-113. Retrieved from: https://content.taylorfrancis.com/books/download?

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Homogeneity of the Middle East Essay Example. (2022, Aug 23). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/homogeneity-of-the-middle-east-essay-example

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