The term ‘Middle East’ was coined by the British colonialists about the Arab nations east of Eastern Europe and west of India (Bilgin, 2004). Around the 1850s, the British India Office (BIO), which was controlling the politics and economy of the nations around the Persian Gulf and India, used the term ‘Middle East’ about the region between Arabia and India. But it was in the early 1900s when the term became common in world politics after Alfred Mahan, an American military scholar and naval strategist, used the term the Middle East in his article “The Persian Gulf and the international relations” (Lacider, 2007).
Around the 1850s, British colonialists were interested in controlling the area around the Persian Gulf and were interested in establishing a common name that would designate the entire area to protect their interest against the advancing Russians (Bilgin, 2004). From this time in history, the term has always been used about the Arab nations around the gulf, with attempts to exclude Israel from the list of countries under the ‘Middle East.’
The western world has always used this name about the Arab world that seems to be against their so-called ‘democratization’ and peace in the Middle East. It is evident that the name has been used as a genuine term in world politics, but hose hidden meaning is predominantly anti-Semitism (Bilgin, 2004). Arguably, the term ‘Middle East’ does not serve the Gulf States in political and economic sides and that this term is an unfair label for many of the Arab countries, and should not be used in a modern context.
The expression of the term ‘Middle East’ is largely a label developed by the western world about their perception of the Arabs and the Arab world. According to Laciner (2009), the term does not refer to any geographical region like Africa, Asia or Europe; it does not refer to a political agreement like the Arab league, and neither does it refer to an economic union like the European Union. Therefore, the main question here is ‘what does the term ‘Middle East’ present, and why is it in use?’
The best answer to this question can be derived from the Eurocentric perspectives on the Arab world, the conflicts between the Arab world and Israel (the western ally) and the anti-Semitism nature of the western approach to the world politics. The western world has gone to the extent of including some Arab nations outside the Gulf region in this terminology. According to Davison (1998), the western world has gone to the extent of including Sudan, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and other nations in northern Africa. This extent always comes within the western definition of the term ‘Middle East’ more when there is a conflict involving the Arabs.
For example, the conflicts in the western parts of Sudan involving the Arabs and some black Christian communities attract the attention of the western media, which normally include the conflict in the so-called conflicts in the. This is an example of anti-Semitism because the Afro-Asiatic culture of Sudan is different from the Arab culture of Palestine and the Arabic-Persian culture of Iran. So, why are these regions and peoples classified under a common term? The best answer is based on the anti-Semitic perceptions of the western media and the western world.
According to Hassan Hanafi (2007), the expression of the term ‘Middle East’ which is an old British colonial label based on the western perception of dividing Asia between the Arab world and the other cultures, is significantly a projection from outside rather from a description of a geographical region.
Hanafi argues that the term is in use by the western world to regard the Arab nations about the western ‘self,’ which is similar to ‘classical orientalism.’ He argues that the western perception of the Arab world as the ‘Middle East’ is a power relationship expressed in cognition, with the purpose of describing an area of western interest and perhaps rejection based on racial factors.
Within the modern context of globalization, the western perception of the Arab world appears to drift towards creating a globalized region where their interest is safeguarded by a common agreement. In particular, the western world attempts to include the region within the new context of globalization to create an area where Israel, rather than Egypt, plays a central role in modernization (Hanafi, 2007). Hanafi argues that this term has a purpose of locking out the Arab culture from globalization and the new world order.
In his article ‘is there a place called the Middle East?’ Laciner (2009) argues that the actual meaning of the term in the modern world describes an Anglo-American intervention, where America has a ‘zone of interest.’ Alfred Mahan himself believed that the ruler of the world would be the power that rules the seas; beliefs that make the western world develop an interest in the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf. This is a clear indication that the term has its origin and usage from the western perception of the Arab world and a hidden interest in controlling the Arabs, their world, and culture.
In conclusion, it is evident that the term ‘Middle East’ does not refer to any geographical region, political union, or economic union. It is a name originating from colonialism and currently in use by the western world as it attempts to interfere with the Arab world and affairs.
Bilgin, P. (2004). Whose ‘Middle East’? Geopolitical Inventions and Practices of Security. International Relations 18(1), 26-31.
Davison, R. H. (1998). Where is the Middle East? Foreign Affairs 38(1/4), 667-668.
Hanafi, H. (2007). The Middle East in whose world? Nordic Society for ern Studies. The fourth Nordic conference on ern Studies: The in globalizing world.
Laciner, S. (2009). Is there a Place Called ‘the Middle East’? The Journal of Turkish Weekly, 2, 1-4.