By Lillian Nahar

The War on Terror and Islamic extremism must be met with a war on misinformation. From the halls of the United Nations to the halls of academia, the mass media pressrooms must create a new conversation centered on educating the masses on basic facts about the Middle East. We can no longer remain misinformed, being sold biased and prejudiced discourses that have misshaped our understanding of the land and the peoples in the Middle East.

The Middle East is not one country, but comprises of 22 independent sovereign nations. It is a region of the world that is located on two continents: Asia and Africa. The countries are Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, and Palestine (located in Israel), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Not all people from the Middle East are Muslims. The three most influential world religions (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) originated from the Middle East. They are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism.

Many Americans, due to misinformation, believe that individuals from the Middle-East are ISIS terrorist card-carrying members. This is not true. ISIS is not the voice of the masses of any country nor do they represent the views of the Arab world as a whole. The misinformed public discourse in America often refers to ISIS as the voice of the Middle East. ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, led by a self-proclaimed leader named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He has several thousand followers who share a very radical ideology. The population of the Middle East is approximately 205 million. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his ISIS followers make up about 0.0098% of the population in the Middle East. It is preposterous to think that less than one percent of a population can speak for 205 million.

This negative discourse about the Middle East has helped shaped the world’s view of Middle Easterners. Some research has revealed how news correspondents’ misconceptions of Arabs permeate media reports, our minds, and our homes through mass media coverage. The O’Reilly Factor has focused much of their reporting on Muslim extremism and making ISIS synonymous with the Middle East, reinforcing stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs, and deepens American’s fear of them. In the November 2014 issue, The Guardian reported that many media outlets have anti-Muslim bias. We must petition the owners of media conglomerations to have those misrepresentation addressed. We must be willing to boycott them if they continue irresponsible journalism.

Countless died at the hands of white leaders of the Klu-Klux Klan, yet America as a nation of people is not demonized for the actions of a few. So why should the majority of the Middle East be saddled with blame for the actions of only a few who share ISIS ideology? In all nations, there are pockets of people with radical views who have caused harm to others, but we must keep the actions of the few from labeling an entire region of peoples.

ISIS is a barbaric, ruthless organization that has beaten and killed countless innocent people, but so has the Klu-Klux Klan. We cannot let ISIS be seen as the voice of the people in the Middle East, no more than the world could charge every American with the ideology and/or the crimes of racist radical groups.

We have as a nation once again missed the mark in understanding the difference between a religious group representing a specific ideology and entire peoples living in a region of sovereign countries. They are not the same. To believe that all Middle Easterners are terrorists is as preposterous as to believe that, white police officers traded their white sheets and cross burnings for a police uniform and a gun, patrolling black communities. We can only succeed as a unified voice in educating those with harmful misinformed views. We must all unite to educate the world with the truth, in order to facilitate real change.