Claims of xenophobia and racism as a UK-based magazine provokes an identity that makes up around 500 million of the world’s population.
Global outrage has been sparked across social media after the latest issue of The Economist featured controversial illustrations deemed racist by Arabs worldwide.
Social media users have called out the British magazine for “xenophobia” for its depiction of an Arab, using a traditional men’s headdress with a wick to signify a bomb.
The graphics attempted to paint an image of the de facto Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS, though Arabs worldwide took offence to the depiction.
One such image is of an Arab man, signified by his white robe and headdress, with a belt in the shape of a bomb. Another is of an Arab man whose body is in the shape of a bullet.
Another image distorts an image of an eye and eyebrows to make the latter look like a sword. The fourth image is of a supposed face of an Arab man (distinguished by his headdress) whose face is drawn by a lit match, symbolising terrorism.
The blanket depiction of Arab identity sparked anger by Arabs online who took to Twitter to shed light on what has been described as a “bigoted” move.
“This magazine cover is racist. There are thousands of Arabs who wear the head cover (hatta w a’gal), there are many ways to allude to an image of MBS without having a clear illustration of an Arab resembling a bomb. Truly shameful depiction,” a user expressed.
Others pointed towards long and documented accounts of ‘otherisation’ methods of Arabs and Muslims in the western media, usually highlighted through false depictions and radically racist narratives.
Another user said: “Every illustration in TheEconomist latest issue is a re-inscription of racist, xenophobic western media depictions of Arabs as violent terrorists and barbarics. These graphics are dangerous as they imprint right onto the psyche of readers. It’s very shameful-tho unsurprising.”
Such marginalising narrative has served many political leaders in using military interventions to, as infamously phrased ‘bring democracy’ and ‘civilisation’ to many parts of the world.
Former United States President George Bush’s used differences in the world in terms of civilisation, pitting the west versus the other, specifically versus Islam as means to justify his “Global War on Terror” approach.
Post 9/11 era, Bush created a new world enemy: terrorism in line with Islam, i.e. “Islamic terrorism.”
The former US president also did not hesitate to throw around words such as “terrorists” operating in “deserts” and “jungles“, further deepening what is deemed to be an orientalist lens that has prevailed in western narratives of the Middle East.
One Twitter user viewed the publication as “another cultural contribution to the long-established Orientalist tropes of ‘Muslim rage’ and the other deficiencies and pathologies of the ‘Arab Mind’.”