Hajj Representations in the East and West

Posted on December 7, 2012 by

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Introduction:

Media such as the news and newspapers are meant to inform people about events going on. Western and Eastern media do not differ in that sense. However, the way that they portray information is different due to the differences in the audience. One of the biggest events in the Islamic faith is the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca to worship for a few days during the 12th and final Islamic month, Dhu al-Hijjah. There noticeable differences in how the Eastern and Western news sources cover and report on the Hajj, especially in pictures. Western news sources seem to be more informative and approach the subject with more caution while the Eastern sources report more in-depth about the religion and go against some of the Western stereotypes. For example, the Western media shows praying in pictures much more than Eastern sources. Differences like this allow for analysis of pictures about the Hajj. Although there are some continuities between Eastern and Western sources, the Western media reports on the Hajj differently than the Eastern sources and the differences are shown in pictures in many popular news outlets.

Western pictorial representations of the Hajj:

 

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In news sources from the west there were many similar pictures throughout the sources. For example, this picture of the mosque at sundown was a very popular one. It was in half of the sources’ pictorial representations of the Hajj. I think the reason that this picture was so popular is because it looks so 

picturesque. The picture is from the sun setting on the final day of the Hajj, Eid Al-Adha representing an end to the Hajj. I also think that this picture is popular is because it looks foreign and calm. Not only is it calm, it is reinforcing the stereotype that everything in the Middle East has domes

Imageand appears religious. This picture reminds me of Aladdin because of the shape of the buildings and how foreign it looks. There is a strange continuity between these two photos and I think that it resembles how the public views the Middle Eastern buildings.

 

 

ImageImageNot only are there pictures of religious figures, there are also overwhelming amounts of pictures of people praying. These pictures of people praying are the most popular pictures in the albums. It is interesting how the Western sources include so many pictures. I think that there are so many pictures of people praying because it is not the “traditional” praying that us Westerners normally see. These pictures are very stereotypical Muslim because people are bowing and praying towards mecca and that’s how we normally picture the Muslims praying. There is a huge continuity between albums with these pictures and that is not surprising. They are trying to inform about what the Hajj is and we associate it most with this type of praying. The media is enforcing stereotypes in these pictures because they are showing so many people praying wherever they can. I think that many people associate Islam with this praying. It is interesting how there are so many pictures of people praying, but I think that is because it is what people think of when describing Islam.

 

 

ImageFinally, there are pictures of people on top of the Mountain of Mercy near Mecca on the final day of the pilgrimage. The caption of the picture is focusing on the “instability and havoc” in parts of the Middle East. It is interesting how the caption of the picture is focusing on the instability of the religion rather than the hajj itself. This picture, however, is a recurring picture throughout the albums. I think that this is a recurring picture because of the positives of it. It looks like the people are relieved to have completed the hajj. This picture, going along with the pictures above is showing people in their traditional religious attire. Although it is enforcing the stereotype that all Islam people dress like this, it is showing the people in religious context. I think that this picture is popular because it is showing relief of the people. There is a little “feel good” aspect to this picture and I think that people enjoy seeing that.

 

 

Continuities Between Eastern and Western Sources:

ImageThis picture represents a continuity between Western and Eastern sources. I think that the pictures of the Kaaba are the one of the most important of the hajj. It is why the people are travelling to Mecca and the goal of the hajj. It is no surprise that both sources represent this pictorially. I think why this picture is so popular in both Eastern and Western sources is because of the way the picture looks. It looks like the people are swirling around the Kaaba in a cool way. The way that the camera captures the people moving around it appeals to the audience while informing about the Kaaba. Many Western people, however, may overlook the importance of the Kaaba while the Eastern audience may know the significance.

 

ImageThis is another recurring picture in both Eastern and Western news sources, although more popular in the East. It is a picture of the mosque in Mecca which the Kaaba is located in. I think that this picture is so appealing is because of the appearance. It looks like there are thousands and thousands of people accumulating in the mosque, worshipping. This picture also looks pretty modern. I say this because of the lights and many of the buildings surrounding the mosque. I think that because it is modern, it is going against some of the stereotypes that Islam is an ancient religion. Although the Eastern audience does know what the importance of this picture is while the Western may not.

 

Eastern Pictures:

ImageThis is a picture that Western sources did not display. The final day, Eid al-Adha, people sacrifice cows and other livestock. It is interesting how the Western sources do not display this picture. I wonder if it is because they are scared of what people will think of the sacrifices. It is important for Islamic people because it is one of the final days of the hajj and represents when God placed a ram before Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son. It is weird that the Western sources do not display this picture because it is one of the major days of the hajj and is of great importance.

 

ImageThis is a picture from Al Jazeera representing the final days of the hajj. This picture looks pretty Western I think because it is of an old Arabic looking man with a beard. When reading the caption for the picture, I think that he is supposed to appear to be a holy man. The caption is talking about the final days where the people symbolically stone the devil. Although it looks like a picture a Western source would post, I think that it is still fitting for an Eastern source. I think it still fits because people in the east experiencing the hajj know the true meaning of it. When looking at this picture, they won’t see a foreign looking man who is stereotypical like a Westerner would see it. They might see just a normal looking man on the hajj. I think that is a major difference in the ways that audiences view the pictures as well.  

 

ImageLastly, this picture of the Qur’an only makes an appearance in the Eastern sources. It is striking how there are no pictures of the Qur’an in the Western sources since it provides a foundation for the faith. If the Western sources are to be reporting on the hajj, one would think that they would include the holy book. This shows that the West may not understand the hajj and are scared of its meaning. The book looks so foreign to the majority of the viewers and they may not know that it is the holy book of Islam.

 

Conclusion:

In the pictorial representations of the hajj, there are many prominent differences while only few similarities. It is not a surprise that there are repeating pictures of the Kaaba in both sources because it is so central to the hajj. What is interesting, though, is that there are no pictures of the Qur’an in the Western sources. The Western sources, in summary, are more informative and try to capture the whole essence of the hajj. They provide much more broad pictures which may look more familiar to the viewers. The pictures are not controversial in any way and in most cases back up stereotypes. The difference between Eastern and Western sources is that the Eastern sources show more specialized pictures. The pictures that they show do not enforce any of the Western stereotypes and show more pictures directly related to the religion. This goes to show that the Eastern audience is much more fluent in the religion. This matters because if the Western sources are just showing the same stereotypical pictures, their audience will never know the true essence of the religion. The viewers will just keep thinking of Islam the same way and will be shielded from the religion. This matters for the East because maybe they are doing the same thing with Western religions like Christianity. Although they are not showing any stereotypical pictures relating to the hajj, they may be for Christmas, for example. This goes to show that there is some overlay between the pictures of Eastern and Western sources, the Western media portrays the hajj differently through pictures than the Eastern sources.  

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