Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is there a racial, cultural or religious bias to reporting on piracy?

One of the downsides to my work looking into global piracy and presenting it to the public is the negative feedback I sometimes receive. It's an occupational hazard of putting yourself out there, that those who disagree with your perspectives will rant back, usually anonymously.

For the most part the haranguing comments I receive are quickly delegated to the trash bin, owing to the often ill-informed nature they present. (Advice to my critics: slow down, take a deep breath, and compose your thoughts. Bad punctuation and grammar, run-on sentences and the random use of CAPITALIZATION undermine anything you have to say.)

At any rate, I do give these missives some thoughts, even before deleting. I recently received one that was surprisingly well-written. Here's what was emailed to me:

"'Terror' on the seas? How subtle. It must irk you some, when your intellectual contortions to flatly blame piracy on Islam are contested so aptly in real media sources. What is your background, anyway? Maybe we can find a source for your obsession with attributing the worlds ills to black people. I mean muslims."

That I am blaming all the world's ills on black people is an odd sentiment, but there you go. As for piracy, it is not confined to Africa, not by a long stretch. And as anyone who has followed my postings here should know, I have never blamed piracy on Islam. Indeed, I have not even blamed it on the Somali people (see my post from last month, for instance). Islam has absolutely nothing to do with the pirates operating from Somalia, Indonesia or Nigeria, or anywhere else where there is an Islamic community. The Muslim mariners I have met in East Africa who have been held hostage by pirates were not given any reprieve because of their religion. The Malaysian fishermen I spent time with in the Strait of Malacca endure endless attacks from Indonesians who share their faith.

Pirates care little whether one is Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. Be they Asian, African or American, these brigands are criminals who prey on the weak, whether that is foreigners or their own people. Religion? It is unimportant.

The only bias that I bring to my work is that of my concern for the plight of those affected by piracy. This includes mariners of many faiths and cultures, as well as ordinary people ashore in various nations.

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