5 Things You Should Know about the Middle East


Ugh. Terror everywhere. James Foley. 21 Martyrs. Charlie Hebo. Youtube beheadings left, right, and center.

No matter where I turn, I see the signs of Isis’ sick public relations strategy: film us killing, or be killed. Maybe it seems like new news to some, but the conflict in the middle east actually has its roots in events that are centuries old. Just because it’s making news now doesn’t mean the issue is any bigger or any more or less relevant than it’s ever been.

Recently, I’ve heard quite the gamut of opinions about this. From the gist of “Isis is pure evil” to “It’s all America’s own fault because most of terrorism is only a response to occupation—and America’s occupation of Iraq was screwed up and unjust.” The truth is probably somewhere in-between.

One thing that stuck with me, though, is the knowledge that in the past year, the number of executions of locals, of moderate Muslims, far outweighs the number of executions of foreigners. It’s just that when one of our own get killed, it’s a way bigger deal. So the bloodshed is largely borne by people who are in the midst of Isis’ horrid regime, not by us who are still safely on North American (and European, Asian, Australian…wherever) soil. Maybe some thoughts from a couple of Middle Eastern ex-pats could shed some light on this issue for you. I know it did for me.

So I’m republishing a post that I wrote in Converge Magazine one year ago—a post that I wrote before the proverbial s*** hit the proverbial fan. It’s got a wee bit of context, and may answer a few questions that you have about where and why stuff is so screwed up right now over in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia…and on and on. Because those who have a right to speak about this are really those who are closest to the conflict.

This post was first published in Converge magazine in December, 2013:

Lessons on the Middle East from a Couple of Strangers

Stripped of my carry-on luggage by a trim no-nonsense stewardess, I squeeze through the aisle to find my seat, 19C. I sense alternately curious and judgemental gazes sizing me up as I scan the row numbers. My sensitivity is an old irrational tick. I shake it off. I wonder who my seatmates will be for this five-hour haul. I pray they won’t smell. Then I realize how selfish I’m being and pray that I won’t smell.

A broad, angular Arabic youth and his slightly senior companion greet me at 19C. Instead of my usual perfume-laden, WASP female seatmate, I’ve been granted a chummy, chatty middle-eastern pair of men. Good, I think. They’ll keep each other occupied and I can have the flight to myself.

But no. As I flip open my notebook and prepare to apply serious mental energy to my hovering deadlines, I overhear the Arabic conversation next to me drift in and out of accented English. “So you just flew in from Australia? How long were you there?” the older man asks the younger one.

“Just less than a year. I was studying.”

The conversation continues, and it dawns on me that the quick-flowing tonality of their Arabic belies the meeting of two strangers. I can no longer restrain my curiosity, and I interrupt. “So you two guys know each other?”

To read the rest of this post, mosey on over to Converge Magazine.