A single word that can bring so many negative thoughts to so many people, from around the world.
A word that can turn a smile into a frown, in a blink of an eye.
A word that many people are ignorant about.
Yes, I’m an Arab.
No, I’m not a terrorist.
No, I’m not oppressed.
No, I’m not ashamed.
Sometimes when I tell people I’m from the Middle East, I get a lot of curious questions and expressions.
“How do you speak English so well?” We have schools back home.
“Wow – You don’t look like an Arab!” So, I’m supposed to look a certain way?
“Did you take off the head wrap when you came to the U.S?” I never wore one. P.S. It’s called Hijab.
“Pakistan?” No, Palestine.
“Dubai? Qatar? What are those?” Beautiful countries.
Why do so many people have negative and ignorant thoughts about one of the most beautiful and historical areas in the world?
MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is filled with cultures and traditions that are worth centuries. MENA is not an area where women are always crying for help and from abuse. MENA is not an area where bombs are 24/7 falling down from the sky. MENA is not an area where you will always be afraid if you’ll wake up the next day with soldiers or ISIS knocking on your door. MENA is not only a Muslim-based area. (Fun fact: Indonesia is the largest Muslim populated country in the world, followed by Pakistan, India and then Bangladesh.)
My questions to you are: What country doesn’t carry trouble? What country doesn’t have men abusing their women? What country has a complete safety? What country doesn’t have homelessness? What country doesn’t have some sort of corruption? What country … What country … What country?
Some might now assume that I’m justifying abuse, murder, and inhumane actions. No, I’m not. But. all of these things are not based on a culture, a country or a tradition. It’s humans that are creating that painful and disgusting pain.
It’s a human harming another human.
Hearing people being afraid of traveling to MENA brings so much sadness to me. “Even if I got a great Job offer in an Arab country, I will not go. It’s dangerous, scary and disgusting.” No, sir. The Arab world is not disgusting, scary or dangerous, but your thoughts are. MENA has so many different cultures, languages, accents, traditions and so much more.
Women work freely, men work freely. Kids get an education. Arabs know geography. Arabs can speak up to two, three languages and sometimes more. Arabs travel. Arabs laugh. Arabs joke around. Arabs can have fun too.
Arabs are human beings … Just like you.
Did you know that ‘Al-Khwarizmi, for whom algorithms are named, is known as the developer of modern algebra?’
Did you know that Islam is ‘one of the first world religions to place particular emphasis on bodily hygiene?’
Did you know that ‘the first modern hospital with nurses and a training center was in Cairo?’
There are so many things that the Arab and Muslim community has offered the world. Yet, some people (a lot of people) are aggressive, angered and have so much hate towards an entire community, an entire culture, an entire religion. Why?
Judging based on what you see in the media is sad and ignorant. The media can portray a small drop of an entire ocean and community, therefore I ask you not to judge. I ask you to stay curious. I ask you to travel and see. If you still would like to judge, then judge when you’re there, judge when you see it with your own eyes, judge when you hear stories from more than five people of the Arab world. Do not judge when you are sitting in front of a screen, reading or watching a small spec of an entire culture.
Stay curious and ask questions.
Stay educated and learn a bit more about the beauty of other cultures, traditions and other religions.
I shall leave you with Salam,