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News & Analysis

Consumer orientalism in the corporate media

Umar Shahid

The Western corporate media are masters of disinformation. Their ideology is well known: everything Western is superior and others’ culture, philosophy, ideology especially those of Muslims, are inferior. Their particular target is Islamic Iran because it stands for clear Islamic principles.

Two weeks ago, the pro-British government Sky News channel with a history of faking reports put out a 12-minute report from the Islamic Republic of Iran titled “Inside Iran — Special Report.”

Sky’s report is a classical example of caricaturing of Muslim societies through an orientalist perspective.The report, with often out-of-context and prejudiced terminology, projected a familiar narrative: people looking and behaving similar to Westerners are progressive, intelligent, and free, but those with Islamic inclinations are irrational with little support among Iranians.

Spending time on analysing evident biases in the report like the portrayal of anti-US government slogans as being against the entire population of the US, would serve little purpose. Instead we would like to dissect the contemporary orientalist use of consumerism as a propaganda tool against Muslim societies and analyse how Muslim societies could counter the consumerist narrative that is used to portray Muslims as “backward” and “incompetent.”

In the third minute of the report, the Sky pundit almost ecstatically declares that “…in a brand new shopping mall Iranians can indulge in a love of consumer goods.” The entire shopping mall segment of the report paints everyone in the mall as representatives of “real” Iran, namely an Iran that the Westerners can easily understand through love of consumerism. Positive change is defined in terms of opportunities to buy and consume things and the presence of civilization in the report is manifested through the camera’s focus on Western company names and products.

It is true that today Muslim countries lag behind Western countries in manufacturing and quality production of crucial products, partly because most Muslim countries are ruled by NATO-backed autocratic regimes interested in self-enrichment rather than serving the public or providing them facilities. The second aspect though is self-inflicted. It consists of the mistaken understanding among some Muslims that Islam requires a complete abandonment of worldly matters while focusing only on the hereafter. The Qur’an clearly commands the committed Muslims to supplicate to Allah (swt) for the best of both worlds; the obscurantist Wahhabi narrative dominant in many Muslim societies often ignores the Islamic requirement for improving the condition of humanity in this world to attain divine pleasure. This narrative is naturally exploited by imperialist media outlets that want to project Islam as a backward religion.

How can Muslims counter the above imperialist propaganda narrative? The answer to this question lies in two approaches. First, at the theological and philosophical levels, Muslims must routinely remind themselves that Islam promises salvation in the hereafter for those who make people’s affairs easy in order to earn divine pleasure, whether through developing medicinal remedies or technological tools. Second, when possible, Muslims living in Muslim countries should give preference to using domestic products. Manufacturing of quality products will not occur overnight; organizations must be given a chance by the populace to improve and this can only be attained by allowing them to stay in business.

To counter the orientalist perspective in the corporate media it is necessary for Muslims to pursue an intellectual and economic revolution. Both have to be done simultaneously. However, there is a major obstacle to following this path and that is the presence of a political caste, always externally backed, interested in self-enrichment rather than prioritizing the public good. This situation creates a dilemma in most Muslim societies where politics cannot be delinked from non-political matters. Too often, necessity dictates that everything has to somehow be politicized, but in this case material progress is often slowed. This situation creates intense debate among grassroots movements in the Muslim world: should politicisation be avoided and other matters prioritized or should political garbage be cleaned up first in order to progress in other spheres. If one looks at the significant scientific, manufacturing, and educational progress made in the Islamic Republic of Iran after the Islamic Revolution, the answer becomes pretty clear. The Islamic Revolution freed the minds of the people of Iran from the mental slavery of the West. True, initially, their progress was haphazard but with time, they gained confidence and were thus able to achieve remarkable progress in many vital fields.

One can cite examples of stem cell research, aerospace technology, and electronics and nuclear fields to understand how the scientific community in the Islamic Republic has taken major strides in achieving great breakthroughs. Decades of Western sanctions, in fact turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Islamic Republic. As the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei has repeatedly stressed, the people, managers, and decision makers of the Islamic Republic must develop a resistance economy. That is the only possible route to maintaining and preserving the independence, integrity, and Islamic character of the system in Iran.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 7

Dhu al-Qa'dah 29, 14372016-09-01

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