Earlier last week, in a shootout, a 25-year-old Texas gunman opened fire on the student body at an elementary school in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and 2 adults. He was eventually shot by law enforcement as he barricaded himself in a classroom with his victims.
A few days earlier in the United States, in Buffalo New York, an 18-year-old white man wearing a bulletproof vest opened fire on a supermarket, killing ten people, including a security guard, and injuring three others.
Four people were killed Wednesday in a shooting at a Tulsa medical building on a hospital campus. St. Francis Health System has closed its campus due to the situation at the Natalie Medical Building. The Natalie building houses an outpatient surgery center and a breast health center. Aerial footage from a television helicopter appeared to show first responders transporting patients on a stretcher away from the hospital building.
But the surprise of all surprises, none of the media or news agencies was quick to put a label on these two offenders. There was no shouting of a “Christian” extremist or terrorist in any of the titles. And there shouldn’t have been.
But if a member of Islamic had been involved, then I have no doubt the immediacy of the faith that would be attacked with headlines screaming “Muslim Terrorist” or extremist “Islamist” goes on a killing spree, killing the innocent. And the coverage would have been extended.
This brings me to the point of this column.
Information ministers from several Islamic countries meet regularly to address growing negativity in the global press against Islam and its people. Many questions and ideas are raised and final resolutions are agreed upon as they separate.
But is what they offer enough? Little mention is given to the fact that although we have journalists and writers, almost all of them are confined by the editorial limitations of the languages of the world.
The media profession in Saudi Arabia needs to focus more because, in my opinion, it is always looking for the light. Although it has emerged from mundane reporting as a bland dish of date production in a remote village in a remote province of this country, it still lags behind professionals versed in languages other than Arabic.
And therein lies our fault
We can shout all we want at the Western media’s blatant double standards. But we lack the coherence to prepare a generation of capable graduates in the field of political science and international relations, students who might one day be tempted to practice a profession in the media and in languages that carry understanding beyond beyond our borders.
A generation that is able to correct biases, not by spin, but by factual evidence and in language understood by those who assume those biases. Granted, most news today moves quickly through social media channels, but someone has to put the words and phrases together for such entries.
A relative recently told me that he was unsuccessful in securing a scholarship for his daughter in the media field because a bureaucrat told him bluntly that these fields of study were considered unimportant. This ministry may flatter the staff it prepares for higher education, are we all going to become only doctors, engineers or computer scientists?
We are losing the media war, not because we do not hold control in Western media, nor because we do not have a collective approach of Islamic countries to combat the growing distortion of media by the global press. It is our own inability to recognize our shortcomings and our inactivity in the face of this problem.
There are among the Arab youth of today those who wish to venture into this profession. But without appropriate support, their desire remains an elusive dream. And in a profession whose virtues require you to be active, they are quite the opposite…reactive!
Why not work on promoting our messages through the writing of our own highly skilled, rather than the vassals of Western PR firms or the demonstrations of a bunch of raving thugs?
Honest and unbiased reporting of events in a factual manner, an art that is fast disappearing in a world of fake news snippets would lead to better understanding among people of all nations.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena