Aug 15, 2010

How about a geography lesson?

So I was searching Google Images for pictures of Arabs to add to some of my posts, I observed something interesting.

When you search for ‘Arabs’, Google’s algorithm suggests ‘Muslims’ as a related search. Two things come to mind here…

A. Google tells us: search for Muslims to get better results of Arab pictures.
B. Arabs don't have many images worth seeing.

Of course I am being silly here. Algorithms are designed in a unique way. But, Google, really? No other suggestions come to mind?

When you search for Indonesia, which has the highest population of Muslims, this is what Google suggests:

A search for Israel? Nope, no mention of the Jewish faith.

Only the Arab world seems to be associated with religion. Quite common since 9/11, no? 

Back in June and following Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, most of the headlines, if not all, read: 'Obama addresses Muslim world'. Hmm! What about the 26,000,000 Christian and Jewish Arabs? What about the atheists? No love for them? 

Here’s a small geography lesson:
  • Indonesia has the highest population of Muslims.  
  • Nigeria has the second highest population of Muslims.
  • None of the top four countries with the highest population of Muslims are Arab.
  • In the top 30 countries with the highest population of Muslims, only 10 are Arab.
  • There are 25,000,000 Christians and 900,000 Jewish people in the Arab world.
  • Geographically, this region is called the Middle East and not the Muslim World. At least this what my geography schoolbooks in Kuwait taught me.
  • Islam is neither a nationality nor a race.  
Interesting paragraph from an article I read long time ago: 
Just last week, I heard somebody describing a person as "looking Muslim." People don't generally look Muslim, just like they generally don't look Christian. They might look Arab, but even that's questionable because there are many races that live in the Arab world. Needless to say, Muslims in the Middle East look different than Muslims in Africa or Indonesia. Source. 
Dear world, can we not confuse geography with religion anymore? Thanks.

P.S. Click images to enlarge.


Chaotic pOsha said...


well even Google has a stereotype problem!!

nice observation. thanks for sharing.

KJ said...

Mo, I found something even more alarming.

If you search for "arabs" on images on you get the Muslims suggestion. Change it to,,,,, etc, you won't get those suggestions.

So is it that Google suggestions to Americans ( that Arabs = Muslims?

Arabianism said...

@Chaotic pOsha Thanks for the comment. I agree about the stereotype.

Arabianism said...

@KJ - Wow, I didn't bother to check that. That is indeed alarming. WTH Google?!

Danielle said...

Really great observation. What can I say? I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that we don't really anything about world history, religion, or geography in the states. I should send this to all of my friends back home and give them a lesson! I can almost one hundred percent guarantee that they don't know that the Middle East has Christians and Jews! Keep up with the insightful posts!

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