Foreign in location, not in lifestyle

JOSH BABCOCK | Evergreen columnist

Extremists. Violence. Terrorism. It’s unfortunate, but in America we associate these words with a place and it’s quite clear what part of the world we’re talking about.

Although many Americans know about the Middle East through Western media coverage of war, the truth is most of those residing in the Middle East share the same interests as those in the states.

With all of the political and domestic turmoil occurring in the Middle East and with pictures of crumbled buildings and explosions plastered on the news, it’s hard to believe its citizens are just like us.

The reality is we’re more alike than many could ever ponder as I learned from a class forum that allowed me to connect with students and recent graduates via Facebook.

Mohammed Hussein is a 24-year-old software quality assurance analyst from Sana’a, Yemen who recently graduated from college.

 “(In Yemen) People go to work every morning, markets and stores are open at dawn, kids go to school,” Hussein said.

Hussein finds himself staying up late at night to write, which is where his true passion lies. Those late nights then result in him rushing to his job as an analyst every morning.

 “I have been very interested in writing articles about different topics like politics, human interests and other stuff,” Hussein said.

Currently, Hussein is applying for scholarships so he can return to school for his master’s degree.

 “I want to save some money, get married, and then travel to study my MA,” Hussein said.

For Hussein, a typical day in his shoes is not much different than a 24-year-old in any of the western powers.

Mehdi Al Lawati is a freelance writer from Muscat, Oman. Many parallels can be drawn between his life and the lives Americans lead on a daily basis.

Although he recognizes some cultural differences, Al Lawati said, “Americans should know that the Middle East is not entirely a war zone, here in the south of the Middle East we have Dubai and people from all over the world do business there.”

On weekends, Al Lawati usually gets home past midnight and at that time of night his only worry is hasty drivers.

From the way Western media’s words and imagery design our perceptions about the Middle East, many Americans would expect far more violence for Al Lawati on his way home – more than any bad driver could ever inflict.

However, Al Lawati’s night and an average night in America would have more comparisons than contrasts.

You may expect people on the other side of the world to share some of your interests, but not many of us would ever expect that person to be from the Middle East, especially Iraq.

However, there are many who find happiness living in the Arab nations.

Tawar Qadri is a 20-year-old full-time petroleum engineering student who lives in Iraq. Her hobbies include swimming, photography and travel.

“Usually Americans think that girls and females in Iraq are not allowed to have this freedom of travelling and following what they really like, but I love swimming, travelling and exploring and I am not even restricted to follow any of my hobbies,” Qadri said. “I am having a happy life and I enjoy my time around people here.”

The news makes this tough to believe, but Qadri’s hobbies are no different than those of Americans.

In an article by The Oregonian, the hidden truth about the Middle East’s and the West’s shared interests is discussed by Pacific University professor David Boersema.

According to Boersema, in the Middle East people read “Harry Potter,” go bowling and enjoy standup comedy.

Despite the many miles that separate this nation from the Arab nations, Boersema said, “They’re just people,” in regards to those who live in the Middle East.

Boersema is right; in Bahrain, Reem Mohammed is a 25-year-old reporter at Bahrain TV and she thinks the media really gives Americans the wrong idea about the Middle East.

 “People with different cultures and religions live together and respect each other (in Bahrain),” Mohammed said,

Mohammed said although the main language in Bahrain is Arabic, most Bahrainis also speak English.

If Bahrain wasn’t similar enough to Western culture, when it comes to a society’s evils that guide Western judgment, Mohammed said, “As you know in every country there is good and bad people.”

Mohammed’s word is true, but it seems growing up in a Westernized culture blinds us from the brightest minds the Middle East has to offer and bears us to only witness the most heinous.

– Josh Babcock is a senior communication major from Pullman. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.