Who are the Arabs? Basically, they are people who speak Arabic and the ones residing in the Middle East. Often, Muslims and Arabs are used interchangeably but they are two different terms. Immersion activities have been conducted to have a full grasp of the culture being studied. There were differences observed but basically the rule of respect applies for all groups of people and races. My interviewee had made an impact on me, showing compassion towards other racial groups. Moreover, he shares how he manages to maintain his culture and tradition despite the fact that he is not in his own country .
In Focus: On Arabs, Cultural Heritage, and Racism
Cultural group studied: Arabs
May 12, 2007
May 18, 2007
May 27, 2007
June 2, 2007
June 3, 2007
– The name of the interviewee has not been revealed for his own and family’s sake. He opted to be called Mr. C.
– Mr. C, 40 years of age with 3 children and has a stable food business.
– The gatherings and community services attended are the ones spearheaded by Mr. C.
– Not only is his family successful in business, Mr.C has also been a great help to the Arab society in their place. He provides employment for his fellow Arabs for them to do away with robbery and terrorism.
– As mentioned, he is not just after the welfare of his fellow Arabs but he is also involved in activities aimed at their holistic development.
It has been a great experience to know him. After drafting this paper, my notions about Arabs have been changed substantially. Because of the news at television, I myself associated this race with terrorism and killings. I perceived them as individuals who are ruthless, who kill mercilessly just to serve their self-seeking benefits.
I was hesitant in working with the Arabs, due in part perhaps to the bad impressions I have associated with them. I was also thinking if he will allow me to conduct a study about them, and fortunately enough I was able to conduct this interview and meet a good soul in him. The interviews I had conducted with Mr. C has been very pleasant. It was in the form of free-flow conversation. I have also noted that while he does not use so many words or stories, his actions radiate the goodness in him.
With this immersion, I was not only able to mingle with Mr.C and his family but to a wide variety of Arabs who are continuously struggling for equal rights and respect from society. During their gatherings, I was also able to taste Arab food. Their food was quite unusual for my taste. Some food served were good but some were very spicy. In addition, gatherings were a venue for checking on their friends and relatives. Also during these sessions, it is as if they are at their own country. They can still recall memories about their country, and even good childhood memories. They also share the same sentiments when people seem to discriminate them for the mere reason that they are Arabs.
I opted to engage myself with their various activities because a one-day interview would not be enough to fully grasp their culture. I have noted that even the 5 days that I spent with them would not be sufficient in fully comprehending their distinct culture. It gave me the chance to be accustomed with their culture and norms even within a short time period. Overall, this was a frutiful and unforgettable cultural encounter.
Ethnicity has been an important issue since time immemorial. Different people have different cultures and must be understood and respected in all its aspects. The differences of each resulted to multi-faceted output but usually ends with indifference. It creates barriers for the group, restricting good relationships among people due to intercultural obstacles. Each has a different culture and environment fostering the growth of an individual, thereby inculcating in him the roots of his culture (McGoldrick, 2005).
Collins et.al (2000) stated that culture has been a measure of individuality. Individuals are confined with their own mindset, taking their race and culture as superior. Differences from what is common would mean inferiority. The issue of who’s who remains to be a real and pressing issue. And yet the only feasible means to resolve such indifferences is to learn to respect and understand each cultural difference to build on more good relationships for people with different culture.
Culture is a complex construct that needs to be intimately understood. For this immersion, Arabs would be focused on. Who are the Arabs? In these modern times, movie images and news cause Arabs to be at best, little understood. Arabs are often tagged as exotic bellydancer or the hooded terrorist. Because of these images, people have formed erroneous notions about them. One grave misconception is their constant association with terrorism and with drugs (Lewis, 1993).
Hourani (1991) writes that Arabs are those who speak Arabic as their native tongue. The Arab world must not to be confused with the “Middle East”. While Arab and Muslim history are closely associated, they are different. Arabs have been misconstrued as those composing the Muslim world. There are significant non-Muslim Arab communities and most Muslims are, in fact, from large non-Arab countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and many of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. There are also large Arab and non-Arab Muslim communities in North America.
Arabs are known to be generous, humanitarian, polite and loyal. These traits are often associated with them. As what Mr.C had mentioned, they are humanitarian contrary to what the news had been reporting that cause them to be perennially perceived as merciless killers. Moreover, from the community services done, it has been shown that willingness in each of them to help the other members of the Arab community is apparent. Mr.C and his business does not solely aim for the welfare of his family but also for his fellow Arabs. His fortune is not only benefitted from by his family, but by other members of the Arab community.
They have a rich cultural heritage from religion to the natural sciences. From my experience – that is, the interviews and immersions that I have participated in – the intricate designs in their furniture showcased their superb artistic skills (Lewis, 1993). During our short conversation, I have noted that Arabs were very proud of how their culture had an impact on their lives. They have a deep appreciation of their cultural heritage. Their way of dressing has been one of the most famous hallmarks of their culture, particularly for Arab-Muslims. One can still spot them wearing just a piece of the usual costume worn in their country. Finally, their cultural contributions have also been adapted cross culturally, that even their manner of dressing and accessories have gained acceptance and even popularity in the fashion world.
For Arabs, family is very important and they are all fond with children. During the gatherings that I have attended, children were present and adults love to watch them perform, be it either singing or dancing. On the contrary, Americans deem individuality as critically important. The latter have this notion that individuals are the primary movers of nation building followed on a secondary note by the family. The family is just next of their priorities, next to their personal amibitions and agenda. Furthermore, Americans are busy building on their good careers instead of banking on building a good family (Race and History, 2007).
Mr. C manages to balance his career and family. In addition, he opted to have his business to have more time with his family particularly with his daughters. I can still recall the smile upon his face, as he sees his daughters singing or dancing. It is similar with other Arabs, where one can clearly see how ardent they are when it comes to their family. Some even make resolute decisions to leave their country and work offshore hoping to give better lives for their children. He also cited how negatively affected he was when his daughters went home crying because their classmates started teasing them because of their race.
He was very fond of his childhood memories because he was able to spend it in his country. He was not able to experience isolation from other kids since all of them are the same – of Arabic origin. He left Pakistan at the age of 25 and he cites that the decision to live in the United States was a difficult one. His experiences about work and his journey to success were not easy. He himself felt racially discriminated and he deeply resented this.
For the Arab society, men and women are not of equal footing. In so far as they are concerned, males and females are different and unequal. On the other hand, for the American society, everyone must be equal and share similar rights. Arab women are docile individuals perfecting the responsibilities of wife and a mother. American women, on the other hand, want to be treated fairly and have struggled constantly for their rights. The duties and responsibilities of women are not just confined to being a mother and wife. They are free to take on other duties as well, balancing everything (Miles, 1989). With regards this issue, I have observed that the wife of Mr.C was classic example of an Arab woman, busy dealing with household responsibilities, addressing her family’s needs while Mr. C is preoccupied with being a good provider for the family.
For certain people, life’s journey is controlled by fate. All their actions have been addressed with an infinite being, believing that all things are possible as long as it is allowed by the one who controls life. For Americans, they do not believe in fate; instead they uphold that they control and take charge of their lives. The infinite being can guide them, yet the final decision would depend on the individual (Fernea et.al, 1997). Particularly with Arab-Muslims, one can see their devotion in giving praise and thanking “Allah” for the all the blessings given to them. Those from Western cultures do advocate faith and religion, but not with the intensity and devotion with which Arabs practice them. Moreover, such faith is manifested in both their words and deeds.
During the immersion activities, Mr. C. reiterates on his prayer, on how grateful he is that their “god” had blessed him with a good life and family. He also shares his blessings by helping his fellow Arabs who are in need. The community service that I attended was an outreach for his fellow Arabs.
Each and every race owns their own system of rules, culture and traditions. Adapting to their culture and tradition entails time. This is particularly true as we have been so much acculturated with our own norms and traditions and this causes us to be blind with those practiced by other groups. Respect is crucial; the differences cannot be solved by implying on what each wanst or by criticizing others’ cultures, or by claiming superiority. What is necessary and should be forthcoming is the recognition that each one is unique and yet have equal rights in so far as being respected and acknowledged is concerned (Miles, 1989).
The image of Arabs as dangerous people ought to be modified if not totally eliminated with continuous effort. We cannot curtail the right of media to produce shows concerning Arabs but hopefully we can encourage that the good side of Arabic culture be emphasized and further dwelled on. The deeper reason while some of them opted to become terrorists may also be tackled to fully understand them (Lewis, 1993). With the chance to meet up with them, the humanitarian side of them has been observed and appreciated. Some of them are compelled to become terrorists because they feel discriminated and they empathize with other Arabs who suffer from merciless killings. Some of them have gone desperate about why the world had become so dangerous to live in, and since gradual change is impossible, they stick to the drastic change that involve violence.
Each of us has been called to come back to the basics – culture and religion. The ideals that each group has must be reformed for betterment of all, contributing progress for the society and humanity as a whole. All groups are created equally; the skin color, body built and height of an individual are not pertinent criteria for superiority and should never be causes for one to feel inferior to anyone. Respect is gained, so if one wants to be respected, he should be respectful to others himself (Hourani, 1991).
Mr. C has caused me made me think and reflect pensively about cultural issues. I thought that I had respect for diversity since I opted not to participate and was preoccupied with matters that exclusively concern me. With this activity, I was awakened by the reality that I was indifferent and passive. These will be of no help; actively and proactively, I ought o guard the rights of our brothers and sisters and show them that all of us deserve respect and be held with integrity and high regard.
Collins, M. Noble, C., Poynting, R. & Tabar, S. (2000). Kebabs, kids, cops and crime: Youth, ethnicity and crime. Sydney: Pluto Press.
Fernea, E. & Robert A. Fernea. (1997). The Arab world: Forty years of change. New York: Doubleday.
Hourani,A. (1991). A history of the Arab peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lewis, B. (1993). The Arabs in history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McGoldrick, M., Giordano, J., Garcia-Preto, N. (2005). Ethnicity and family therapy (3rd edn.) New York: Guilford Press.
Miles, R. (1989). Racism. London: Routledge
Race and history. (2007). Retrieved last June 13, 2007 from http://www.raceandhistory.com/historicalviews/09122001.htm