It’s a well-known fact that the media does a great job in reporting news from around the world, which can help inform us about vital issues. But it has been infamously known to also miscommunicate. In fact, it came to such a point in miscommunicating that Professors such as Jay Blumler and Michael Gurevitch unanimously agreed that there now exists a crisis in public communication.
Why am I mentioning media? Because that has been and still is one of the primary ways we learn about the world and its people. It has therefore become a very strong influential force globally which can contribute in creating fear, confusion and frustration for fellow travellers.
I’m not going to shy away from addressing how we feel travelling through non-Muslim countries as Muslims as well as Muslim countries. Our experiences as the general public, is equally as indicative of the truth as is the media. Hence the reason why social media should be taken seriously, especially when important issues are addressed by people. Whilst social media can also be abused, it does help alleviate a lot of the problems the media is known to overstate and exaggerate.
My issue is not the representation of Islam, Muslims, hate-filled speech, terrorism, bigotry and other related things on the media. My issue is, the lack of representation.
There are far too many instances of charity work, harmonious communities, everyday life and achievements that is completely ignored when it comes to media. Because of all the negative portrayal of Islam on the media, viewers can easily be enforced into believing that this is the binding and holistic truth.
Religious wars, violence and terrorism are all despicable acts and something that everyone should be condemning. Members of many faiths can be blamed for atrocities they inflicted around the world and fortunately there are many people who have and are addressing this vital issue.
However, I wanted to focus on everyday life as a traveller and our encounters with people of diverse faiths and even no faith from around the globe.
I can happily and proud-fully say, I have never experienced any form of negativity from anyone around the world due to religious differences. Fine, we may have a discussion about certain intricate religious matters, but that’s all its ever been. It never has come to a point where I feel belittled because of my religion. The same goes for me the other way round; we try to keep an open mind when it comes to diverse beliefs, cultures and lifestyles when travelling as that should be one of the reasons we travel; to learn about others.
Being different is a beautiful thing. Without diversity, life can get pretty darn boring. No one likes monotony. We enjoy witnessing the changes in lifestyles, religions and cultural practises as we move from one country to another. It’s refreshing and a chance to get to know one another. People have always been fascinated to see my wife and I, and have even gone out of their way to help. In both Muslim and non-Muslim countries I have experienced polite and positive behaviour. What matters to them, is that you are human. That’s all!
Of course there are negative people everywhere and some can cause you to become distressed, but I’ve realised that this is more to do with personalities, greed, cheating and anger.
Even if I sense someone does have a warped notion of me in their minds, I’ve observed that the encounter alone eradicates that.
Travelling has made me realise that the world is filled with awesome people. Awesome people who want to sit down with us and exchange stories over a meal. I have socialised with friendly Jews in Jerusalem, friendly Confucianists in Malaysia, friendly Christians in Spain, friendly Hindus in India, friendly Muslims in Turkey and friendly Sikhs in Dubai. The list goes on! Some of the nicest people I’ve met were atheists or even agnostics and instead of this becoming a cause of division, it became a foundation for us to talk and discuss.
It’s not always about the people. The buildings in a city can say a lot. Years ago when we were in Malaysia, we drove past 3 buildings all next to one another; one was a Mosque, the other a church and the other a Confucianist temple. This is something I witnessed in many other parts of the world also. In Macedonia, Spain, Turkey, USA & Canada I observed religious buildings belonging to different faiths all within close proximity to one another.
For those who are maybe wondering, ‘what’s the punchline?’, here goes. One of the greatest things that has wiped away my ‘fear of others‘ is travel. When I travel, there are confrontations. With confrontations comes education and learning. By learning and educating myself about others, I pick up on many commonalities and that alone allows both parties to depart with a smile.
I think in this day and age when the media is rampant in negatively stereotyping certain demographics, we should travel as it will allow you to see the reality behind everyday life between people from all backgrounds. This alone will rid you of any negative image you may have about a certain group of people.
This article was written to share my positive experiences and help me focus on becoming a more ethical traveller.
Saied Reza Ameli and Islamic Human Rights Commission (2007). The British media and Muslim representation : the ideology of demonisation. Wembley: Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Cottle, S. (2000). Ethnic minorities and the media : changing cultural boundaries. Buckingham England ; Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Blumler, J. and Gurevitch, M. (2002). The Crisis of Public Communication. Florence Taylor And Francis Ann Arbor, Michigan Proquest.