The “Middle East” Code

Cracking the Paradox

Rabab Maher

Whenever the expression “Middle East” is used, one conveys a

hidden message knowingly or unknowingly.

If you believe in Palestine, you may need to think twice before

using the term again.

Getting lost with time

In today’s world, some terminologies are misconstrued and

used automatically due to their embedment in the

subconscious, attributable to their incessant use with no

forethought or rethought to the message silently

communicated. Especially, when their descriptions and

definitions alter with the times to suit the era we live in.

The “Middle East” is one such term.

What is the “Middle East”? How many countries make up the


Iran. “the Palestinian Territories”. Cyprus. debate and uncertainties. No wonder! The term itself is unclear. descriptions and meanings giving way to much controversies. Saudi Arabia. and a terminology should be self-explanatory. Azerbaijan. Consequently. they do not. A definite fact though is this: the “Middle East” is not synonymous with Arabs and Muslims so refraining from making this one crucial error is a step in the right direction. Georgia. Armenia. Iraq. Pakistan and/or Central Asia. It all depends on whom you ask. There are countries universally agreed upon constituting the region: Bahrain. Oman. and yet it remains widely (and blindly) used. Kuwait. Turkey. Palestine.Many believe they know the answer to these two simple questions but alas. Others are debateable: North Africa – including or excluding Sudan. A brief elucidation . United Arab of Emirates and Yemen. it creates confusion in the minds of many. Qatar. Egypt. Jordan. With the years. Lebanon. Syria. Afghanistan. “Israel”. the “Middle East” has come to mean a sundry of definitions.

the “Middle East” breaks down to this ambiguity: the middle of the United Kingdom and India and east of London. in 1900. now engraved into the minds of many. research revealed it originated at the end of the nineteenth century during the colonial European era (the British empire). a time when they “ruled” the world and thought they were the centre of it – hence the term Eurocentric – with a major superiority complex. The Persian Gulf and International Relations. Remember Palestine? . in a piece entitled. a British Officer. It is supposedly the region between the “Far East” (China) and the “Near East” (Turkey) – the parochial view of the British that is – and was first used by General Sir Thomas Edward Gordon. “Easterners” and Muslims (many suffering from a grave inferiority complex) and the world all over embraced the expression without a second thought. Simply.Although it is not precisely clear who is essentially responsible for the neologism “Middle East”. and interwoven into languages and common use. The coined – and rather inaccurate – expression. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. Arabs. and later “reinvented” by an American in 1902.

Now. many Arabs and Muslims – Palestinians included residing in and out of Palestine – openly use a term for their own region(s) concocted by a “Westerner” as they criticise the . the terminology is nonsensical and what it alludes to in these current times. no thanks to the late Yasser Arafat who signed the 1993 Oslo “Peace Accords”. This is a key problem indicative of why the Arab and most of the Muslim nations still lag in almost everything. What was once Palestine is now “Israel” – a dictionary (and world map) should provide a glimpse of what Palestine has been reduced to. The message behind the expression when stated (written or verbally) is either Palestine is nonexistent or is reduced to mere territories. always waiting for others to solve their problems. Paradoxically. embedding credence to its insinuation and to the rights of the “Occident” over the rest of the world when words and phrases the “Occident” deemed appropriate are used. many may reconsider using it in view of the Palestinian cause. come up with the solutions and “save” them. Thus. Arabs and Muslims instead opt to blindly follow the “Occident” and sadly view themselves through its eyes. An inferiority complex Rather than using their own intellects and reclaiming what is theirs. geographically and logically. one many deem worthy of advocacy.

May be the time has come to use terms like the “Arab nations”.ways of the “Occident”. For there to be hope for a promising future and a renaissance in both the Arab and Muslim nations. free from various interpretations and connotations. the haze subsides. America and Europe. Saturday. create better terminologies. Better still. they need to be equipped apropos simple matters and knowledge. “Muslim-populated countries”. One place to start is being aware of the terminologies used. A terminology should be used when it is precisely defined. etc. instead of the “Occident’s” self-centred “Middle East”. like Africa. “Muslim nations”. the meaning is patent. and the message conveyed is unequivocal. 25th February 2012 . they chant songs of support for Palestine whilst using the term “Middle East” and silently acquiescing its lack of place or recognition in the world. This way. their own history and present to prepare for their future. their derivatives and what they connote and denote to avoid the insidious slope into oblivion – as is the case with Palestine.