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Finding MENA: Why it Matters

It’s the end of the week and you’re taking the bus home. You pull out your phone and as you scroll through the current news, you feel as though you are transported into another world. In the theatre called the Middle East, shootings and screams are common scenes. In Yemen, a war rages on. In Iraq’s public market, the background noise is not the hustle and bustle of the market place, but explosions and cries. In Syria, civilians are accustomed to the sight of corps on their streets and children sleep to the sound of bombs over their heads.Then you lift your eyes from your screen and look outside the window. Birds are chirping. The gentle breeze is ruffling the trees’ leaves. You hear your stop being called out. You exit the bus and continue with your routine.

Often, the breaking news in the Middle East seem a world away. However, history teaches us that these seemingly distant events can not only reach us, but strike us close to the heart of our own political, economic, and daily affairs. When OPEC flooded the market, it deeply plunged the price of oil, drowning out Canadian oil companies and causing tens of thousands in the oil sector to lose their jobs.

When the civil war in Syria displaced civilian families, European and other countries suddenly found millions of refugees at their doorsteps, settling in and unsettling their local residents. When we see them, the first thing we notice is not their souls or their struggles, but their conspicuously different attires, accents and behaviour. Their difference makes them more difficult to connect with and turns them into targets of racism. Their numbers make them more difficult to accept and turn them into preys of our insecurities. However, if we understand their culture and perspective, we will be able to embrace the diversity they bring and utilize it, turning them from burdensome to beneficial. Only then will these unwanted guests in our house become beneficial partners in our home.

When we hear about ISIS attacks in France, in Belgium, in Turkey… fear and anger stir within us. These emotions may cause us to act out in extreme or irrational ways, to redirect our anger to innocent people, to spread hate, to cause divisions, to relinquish our freedoms.

Thus, in our globalized world, distant events can affect our own countries, our families and our personal perceptions. Regardless of our major of study or nationality, it is imperative that we all understand these issues. The UBC MENA Club provides a platform to better understand these issues and each other. Knowledge is a ray of light and to gain a comprehensive knowledge and wholly understand an issue, we must analyze it from all angles. Always you will see a dark shadow if the light comes from only one side.


Fatima Al-Fahim is the founder and president of the UBC Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Club. She is a fourth year Honours in International Relations with Political Science student and has a Minor in French.

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