Talking about Muslims these days is a heated topic. You will provoke the person that paints everyone in a religion with the same brush, and you will provoke the person that wants to accept everyone despite their background. So how does the media get it right?
The answer is, they don’t. The mainstream media won’t even talk about this.
When analyzing how Muslims participate in their religion in the Middle East, most Western countries will play a clip on the afternoon news of the pilgrimage to Mecca, of the approximately 1.5 million Muslim people who reenacted the steps of Muhammed. And rather than talking about why they take these steps, they speak about how dangerous it is, about the stampedes, they show clips of stampedes in 1990, 2004, 2006 and 2015, where many lost their lives. Rather than talk about the sacred, we discuss the gore.
Comparatively, every year, more than five times the amount of people that take the pilgrimage to Mecca take part in one of the largest marches around the world, the pilgrimage of Arbaeen.
Why should you care about this? There aren’t any stampedes, no mentions of deaths of hundreds of people walking around a square building in a mosque. You should care, because, like most people in the world, ISIS hates it.
The pilgrimage to the city of Karbala, Iraq, last year attracted around 22 million people and it did not make the news. 22 Million. Many of these 22 million people were Shia Muslims, a branch of Muslim’s hated by ISIS as they do not follow what ISIS believes. These people walk for weeks, along roads that are targets for suicide bombers.
So why go? The pilgrimage is a symbol of peace and hope. It commemorates the death of Muhammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who was beheaded by Yazeed, ruler of the Umayyad. Yazeed, much like ISIS, threatened people with violence and death if they did not follow his rule. Imam Hussein is a symbol of peace and the sacrifice many will give in order to stop those who would oppress us.
The 22 million people that walked towards Karbala however were not completely vulnerable. Though they walk near ISIS controlled territory, along the way, 24,000 soldiers and police (many volunteers) protect the people from ISIS. There are also thousands of tents along the way where people are fed, given water, massaged, given health care, diapers, phone calls, their clothes washed…whatever they need so the pilgrims don’t need to carry anything as they walk.
So, what’s the bet that when August 30 rolls around this year, there will be a smattering of news articles on how dangerous the pilgrimage to Mecca is, but when we get to November 9, and there’s a chance for people to see one of the world’s largest organized marches against ISIS and oppression, that your television will be talking about something else. After all, if it doesn’t show people dying, is it really news worthy?
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