Sunday, March 4, 2007

How easy it is to put hatred on a map

A Good Article Contributed by Datta

Our guilt in this sectarian game is obvious. We want to divide our potential enemies

By Robert Fisk

"Why are we trying to divide up the peoples of the Middle East? Why are we trying to chop them up, make them different, remind them - constantly, insidiously, viciously, cruelly - of their divisions, of their suspicions, of their capacity for mutual hatred? Is this just our casual racism? Or is there something darker in our Western souls?

Take the maps. Am I the only one sickened by our journalistic propensity to publish sectarian maps of the Middle East? You know what I mean. We are now all familiar with the colour-coded map of Iraq. Shias at the bottom (of course), Sunnis in their middle "triangle" - actually, it's more like an octagon (even a pentagon) - and the Kurds in the north.

Or the map of Lebanon, where I live. Shias at the bottom (of course), Druze further north, Sunnis in Sidon and on the coastal strip south of Beirut, Shias in the southern suburbs of the capital, Sunnis and Christians in the city, Christian Maronites further north, Sunnis in Tripoli, more Shias to the east. How we love these maps. Hatred made easy......

We did the same in the Balkans. The Drina Valley of Bosnia was Muslim until the Serbs "cleansed" it. Srebrenica? Delete "safe area" and logo it "Serb". Krajina? Serb until the Croats took it. Did we call them "Croats"? Or "Catholics"? Or both on our maps?

Our guilt in this sectarian game is obvious. We want to divide the "other", "them", our potential enemies, from each other, while we - we civilised Westerners with our refined, unified, multicultural values - are unassailable. I could draw you a sectarian map of Birmingham, for example - marked "Muslim" and "non-Muslim" (there not being many Christians left in England - but no newspaper would print it. I could draw an extremely accurate ethnic map of Washington, complete with front-line streets between "black" and "white" communities but The Washington Post would never publish such a map.

Imagine the coloured fun The New York Times could have with Brooklyn, Harlem, the East River, black, white, brown, Italian, Catholic, Jew, Wasp. Or the Toronto Globe and Mail with French and non-French Canadian Montreal (the front line at one point follows the city Metro) or with Toronto (where "Little Italy" is now Ukrainian or Greek), and colour the suburb of Mississauga green for Muslim, of course. But we don't draw these Hitlerian maps for our societies. It would be unforgivable, bad taste, something "we" don't do in our precious, carefully guarded civilisation......

And we go on talking to our Sunni monarchs in the Middle East - we listen to their raving about the "Shia crescent" - no wonder we hate Shia Iran so much. And we go on dividing and scissoring up the lands, and printing more and more of our racial maps and I do wonder most seriously if we wish to promote civil war across this part of the world, and you know what? I rather think we do."

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