Written by Sanne Rezk, former programme associate for Africa and West Asia. If you have questions, please contact Refilwe Moahi, current programme associate for the region via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To recognise a shared history which has led to similarities in culture, tradition, political realities, and resistance to oppression, while also renouncing colonial terms, we propose naming this re gion Africa and West Asia – with two main reasons.
First, we refer to Africa as a single, unified entity to break from the colonial and racist practice of separating and naming North Africa as separate and ‘racially superior’ to ‘sub-Saharan’ Africa. This division is a legacy of orientalism and a Europe-centred view, where the lighter skinned people living in northern Africa are considered to be more developed and civilised than the darker skinned people on the rest of the continent.
Moreover, while it is true that people in Africa’s northern region have a lot in common with people in West Asia, they are also bound to the rest of the African continent by geography, culture, and history. Other factors that unify the continent are religion – both Islam and Christianity are widespread throughout and a shared colonial history has led to the arbitrary division and creation of nations and their subsequent liberation struggles.
Second, we propose to refer to Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen as West Asia. The term ‘Middle East, first used in the 19th century by the British for what was until then called the Near East, reflects a Europe-centred view of the world in which European countries were considered politically, economically, militarily, and intellectually superior.
Naturally, many ethnic groups live in regions that go beyond contemporary national borders; something West Asia has in common with the entire African continent. Many of these ethnic groups share the experience of the struggle for an independent state, so, by referring to Africa as a single unified entity and by no longer using the term Middle East, Mama Cash breaks away from the Europe-centred view.
1. See more about the colonialist and racist ideology behind the separation of in the separation at these links: http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category.php/features/79215; http://www.jstor.org/stable/4006476?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents ;
2.Orientalism is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Asian and Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Asian and Arabic cultures as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous. Edward W. Said author of the book, Orientalism, defined it as the acceptance in the West of “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny and so on.” Taken from http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism
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