Media,  Middle East

The “Muslim Rage” meme

In the wake of Newsweek’s infamous cover last month, Bob Garfield of NPR’s “On the Media” and Middle East scholar Marc Lynch discussed the lack of nuance and context in the coverage of the recent anti-American violence and protests in the Middle East and North Africa.

Lynch notes that the Western media generally ignore larger protests over such mundane (to Westerners) matters as domestic corruption and economic fairness. After the notable failure of the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons to provoke much outrage, he wrote last month at Foreign Policy:

[T]he Arab uprisings make it harder for a single issue to dominate the public agenda than in the past. In 2006, the Danish Cartoons could dominate politics for weeks on end because it provided a useful political issue for a variety of Islamists, and most Arab regimes found it convenient to have popular anger directed at Western targets. But now there are so many other issues competing for space, and far less patience for any attempt to monopolize the arena. Syria demands attention at the regional level, of course, but local issues are the most potent challengers for attention. In Yemen a few days ago, for example, more than 10,000 came out to demand an end to the immunity for prosecution granted to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Jordanians are protesting about new internet restrictions. Egyptians and Tunisians have a lot on their political mind. What is more, intense domestic political competition means that other political forces have little interest in allowing one Islamist trend to define the public agenda. A sign seen in Benghazi today reading “Our Revolution Will Not Be Stolen” could have stood in for the attitude across many of the region’s now well-entrenched activist communities.

…Last week showed that the extremists hoping to spark a clash of civilizations are still there. Who thought they weren’t? But their relatively poor showing suggests that something has changed. And part of that may be that even if U.S. policies remain unpopular, there’s no longer a seamless narrative of a war on Islam which makes sense to ordinary people.

Update: Although there have been some thoughtful comments disagreeing with Marc Lynch, the thread has mostly turned into off-topic competitive Muslim bashing. So I’m closing it.

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