As someone who does not know very much about Syrian refugees and the lives of those escaping their countries, I found this week’s sources quite interesting and informative. The article The Dispossessed was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The visuals and graphics that inform readers about refugee numbers in various countries were shocking. The problem is that Lebanon, in addition to several other countries, do not have the room or resources to continue housing these “dispossessed” folks. The large numbers of migrants to these countries are affecting their economies’ development and political stability, and the affects can only become more burdensome. In general, I believe this article does a good job of highlighting the issues and conflicts about these refugees. The comic is helpful for visual learners, as it shows the tribulations the refugees had to overcome. However, after watching My Escape, I feel a bit differently.
My Escape is a compilation of stories and personal experiences shared by several Syrian refugees. These stories and interviews are augmented with videos and pictures taken on the cell phones of the refugees themselves. Being able to see the real, raw, and uncut videos of the journeys some of the refugees experienced was eye-opening for me. I learned that there are smugglers who are paid by refugees to be trafficked out of the country. While this sounds helpful in theory, it appears that most refugees are actually scared of these smugglers due to their controlling, “sinister,” and threatening dispositions. Some refugees are transported via overcrowded boats and some are crammed into fuel tanks of busses with little to no flowing air supply. Additionally, some hiked through mountains and deserts to flee their countries in hope of a better life elsewhere. The smugglers essentially saw these refugees as a source for potential cash – if they disobeyed or fell behind, they could be sold back for money. One refugee even claimed that dealing in organs of refugees was common. In this sense, I feel that the comic did not really accurately reflect the true torture these refugees undergo. Regardless, after watching My Escape and reading The Dispossessed I am truly moved by the incredible journeys many refugees experience, hoping they can live freely and be respected in another country.
The article Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation by Nathan C. Funk and Abdul Aziz Said discusses the issues of intercultural confrontation and intercultural compatibility and how they affect conflict transformation. The authors begin by discussing intercultural confrontation and the dimensions within this topic: images of the “other”, the construction of differences, and the supposed hatred of the West by Muslims. The images of the “other” is explained further as the self vs. other perspective – similarly to the articles from last week. “… habits of selective perception in which negative interactions are remembered while more positive encounters are forgotten” seems to be common and is something that should be addressed. The self vs. others concept was one that particularly fascinated me when we discussed aid for Africa in the first part of the semester. This type of outlook is one that is not progressive and will continue to contribute to divisiveness in the future. The authors write “… Islam has come to represent the ‘irrational’ for Westerners – a symbol for that which cannot be understood, and must therefore be distrusted and controlled. The Muslim world is reduced to a set of forms and images that appear in essence to be antithetical to Western ideals, goals, and values. This generates a temptation to recoil from all things Islamic, and to project a self-image of superiority….” (Funk & Said, 2004). All in all, these stereotypes, images of “other” and general self vs. other perspectives must be changed for there to be any real progress in the relationships between the West and Islam.
After discussing intercultural confrontation, Funk and Said explain the idea of intercultural compatibility in terms of: affirmation of shared values, differentiating between revivalism and terrorism, and fundamentalism as a shared problem. To start, it is important to note the shared values that those of the West have with Muslims, such as, a respect for learning, desire for peace, esteem for toleration, and partisanship on behalf of human dignity (Funk & Said, 2004). It is also important to distinguish between revivalism and terrorism. According to Funk and Said, Islamic revivalism is “a movement to renew the Muslim communities from within through public reaffirmation of Islamic values… [it] manifests a constructive concern with matters of social justice, political participation, and cultural authenticity…” (Funk & Said, 2004). This is different and not to be confused with terrorism, “the use of indiscriminate violence for political purposes… channels feelings of crisis, besiegement, and despair into acts that are intrinsically destructive in character” (Funk & Said, 2004). Once these two concepts are understood by Westerners, the perspective on Islam and Muslims may change and be better accepted. Finally, the authors encourage readers to understand that fundamentalism is a shared problem – not something that only Westerners disagree with. They write, “Fundamentalism implies a closing off of the ability to listen to the ‘other.’ Yet a return to the larger frame of a culture and its humane values, always present if sought for, can open up the space for understanding, cooperation, or at the very least, mutual respect” (Funk & Said, 2004).
In general, I agree with this type of conflict management. I think it is important to rid of the “self vs. other” perspective and try to focus on positive encounters and common ground between different groups. Once this can happen, positive changes and developments can happen between the West and Islam.
Caryl, C. (2015). Refugees are flooding countries that can’t protect them. Will the levies break? The Dispossessed Issue. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161662-dt-content-rid-31263792_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/The%20Dispossessed.pdf
Funk, N. & Said, A. (2004). Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation. Retrieved from: https://bblearn.missouri.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3161661-dt-content-rid-31263465_1/courses/SP2017.GERMAN.4810.01/Funk%26Said_91IJPS.pdf