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According to a study conducted by the London-based Arab Media Watch organization, the predictive searches suggested by the Google search engine with regards to the word “Arab” for the most part are a negative depiction of Arabs.

The results of this study which were also reported by the BBC suggested that the Google predictive searches when questions like “Why are Arabs…” and others are asked result in negative or stereotypical options for questions about Arabs. For example, in the case of the question “why are Arabs…” the predictive results include answers like rich, violent, and stupid, and even more insulting variations.

This is disturbing news, and is a result of the negative stereotyping and profiling of the image of Arabs and Muslims in fiction, which is something that has been going on for decades. There is no better place than the internet to reflect these negative stereotypes that go against the concept of political correctness.

We talk a lot about the injustice of the West towards us and their negative and stereotypical portray of us, and how western films and literature continuously portray Arabs in an ugly manner.

In contrast, only a few of us acknowledge that this is something that is not unique to the west. We also stereotype others, portraying the entire west as a brothel or a hotbed of prostitution and drugs, with the streets full of the children of adultery and immorality. We portray their entire artistic output as nothing more than a means of promoting fornication and an attempt to lure and corrupt Arabs and Muslims. There is an excerpt from the infamous pamphlet of Jalal al-Alam that claims that “the leaders of the West say destroy Islam and annihilate its followers.” There are also many satellite television preachers who record sermons of hatred; all of which deepens the trenches of hatred that separate us from our fellow human beings.

There are those among us who hate natural contact with others; and the same applies to the West. There are also those among us who hate our negative portrayal and stereotyping; in the end there is good and bad in both camps.

Wouldn’t it be better if we acknowledged that there are groups or individuals amongst us who could be characterized as being “so violent” as was one of the predictive results of the Google search?

Their violence is not limited to taking up arms and planting bombs, but also a violent and narrow and constrained ideology. It is the Muslims themselves who are the victims of this violence, rather than the west or the east. The most recent example of this ideology can be seen in the “horrifying” fatwa issued by a fanatical cleric who said that it was permissible to kill anybody who promotes “[social] mixing” [between men and woman] on the grounds that anybody who promotes this idea is an apostate. With just one stroke of his pen this fanatical scholar has managed to abolish the rich juristic debate surrounding the concept of social mixing, and this is a debate that many prominent jurists and intellectuals have taken part in.

Such examples exist among us and in all Arab and Muslim societies, with such fanatical clerics enjoy implicit and explicit support. It would be better for us try and change the reality of the situation; only then will our image begin to improve. Those preaching hatred against the West would then be left out in the cold without an audience. Therefore any talk about why others hate us is nothing more than [meaningless] weeping and wailing.

To put it simply, our image will not change unless our reality changes first.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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