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16 November 2015
No one likes to be judged, but we like to judge the way that people think or dress. Based
on our judgment, we put people into stereotypes. We don’t think that we are misjudging these
people, and we also don’t think about the consequences of misjudging these people. When we do
this, we don't think about how we will affect their feelings and the way they will think about us.
Stereotyping Arabs has negatively affected me, and I would like to discuss: incorrect stereotypes,
the consequences of stereotyping, and what I learned.
Whenever I see a movie or a TV show that has something about Arabs, I immediately get
angry and turn off the TV or leave the movie theater. These movies and TV shows are always
giving an awful and incorrect picture of Arabs, making all of us look like an insane and hateful
community that always plans to blow up people, and therefore, most movies and TV shows are
stereotyping us as terrorists. According to The Human Breed Blog, “The extremist Islamic
Jihadist comprise minorities in the Arabic region. The majority of the Arabic population are not
different than any other culture and share with the rest of humanity their love of life and peace.”
Another stereotype about Arabs is that men control women, and women don’t have any
right in the Arabic law. This is a wrong and highly offensive stereotype; men and women in the
Arabic countries don’t have any control over each other. Women have the same rights that men
have, and in some situations, women have more rights than men. We have a shared and loving
relationship like any normal 21st century marriage. For example, in an Arabic marriage women
have the choice to work or be a stay-at-home mom, and if she chooses to be a stay-at-home
mom, the man will have to provide for the family. This shows us that men and women have the
same rights as each other.
Another important stereotype is that most of the Muslims are Arabs. The Muslims in all
of the Arabic countries are estimated to be around 322 million and they are only 20% of the
world population of Muslims (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee). According to
The Human Breed Blog, “less than 20% of the world’s Muslims do reside in Arabic countries.
The total population of Muslims in Arabic countries (all 22 countries) is 322 millions compared
to 205 millions in Indonesia, 178 millions in Pakistan, 177 millions in India, 148 millions in
Bangladesh, 75 millions in Nigeria, 74 millions in Iran and 74 millions in Turkey.” we can
interpret from that that Arabs don’t represent Islam. Also Islam does not represent all Arabs;
there are Arabs who are Christians, and Arabs who are Jewish.
The most common incorrect stereotype about us is that we are all rich. Most Arabs are
not rich; we live a simple and modest life like everybody else. We work, we don’t own fancy
cars, and we save up to buy a house. According to Global Connections, “While there are
individuals in the Middle East who have certainly become very wealthy because of oil, the
majority of people in the region are either poor or middle class.”
These incorrect stereotypes have led people to change their way of thinking about us.
Whenever there is a terrorist attack, Arabs are assumed to be the first suspects. For example,
when the inhuman attack on 9/11 happened, the U.S government blamed Saudi Arabia without
any shred of evidence linking Saudi Arabia or any other Arabic countries to the attack; with that
outrageous accusation, the U.S media named Saudi Arabia responsible for this attack. After
almost ten years, the U.S cleared Saudi Arabia from any responsibility, but the media didn’t care
about this news, and only one or two newspapers reported this news.
Another consequence of stereotyping Arabs is the way that people tend to treat us.
Whenever I go to a public place and talk to my friend in Arabic, people look at us uncomfortably
and whisper things. We can only interpret that they are scared of us or have a problem with us.
As a result, we feel unwelcome in these places and we leave.
I used to think that stereotyping people is a good thing, I would always judge people by
the way they seemed to me. For example, I used to avoid having conversation with people who
looked like nerds just because they looked like nerds, because it was easier than getting to know
them. But when I experienced the effect that stereotyping has on me, I had to change my mind.
After I changed the way that I looked at them, I started to speak to them and I saw them for what
they were really like. Now some of my best friends are nerds. According to Global Connections,
“By recognizing the stereotypes we hold about others and others hold about us we can begin to
understand each other better and communicate our positions more clearly.”
I have interviewed two of my Arab friends Mohammed Alobaidi and Abdullah Al
Somah, I asked Alobaidi if he had been affected by Arab stereotyping before. Alobaidi said,
“Yes, I had been affected by stereotyping before. I remember when I was living in the dorms, my
American friend had asked me if I had owned any slave. I was very shocked. I told him we don’t
have slaves in all of the Arabic countries. I asked him why did you think that we had slaves? He
told me, ‘I saw a TV show called (American Dad!) that had Arabs buying slaves.’” I asked
Alobaidi how he felt about that. He said, “I was more disappointed than angry. I expected more
from my American friend. I also didn’t know why the American TV show would give these lies
about us. Was it hard to google ‘Arabs’ and see that we live a modern and sophisticated life!”
Alobaidi’s feelings toward these incorrect stereotypes are very similar to the way I feel whenever
I see a movie or a TV show that represents Arabs in a bad way.
I asked my other Arab friend Al Somah the same question. He told me, “Yes, I had been
stereotyped many times before; mainly because I had a long beard. I had been stopped and
searched many times by airport security. I had also been accused by two drunk people to be ‘a
terrorist.’ After that I said to myself ‘The beard must go.’” I asked him how did he feel about
shaving his beard just to not be accused of being a terrorist. He said, “I get why some people
might think that I am a terrorist just because I have a beard. They had seen a lot of terrorists who
have beards on the news or in movies, and they think that only terrorists have beards. But what
they don't know is that most of the Arab men have beards, and it’s considered a good thing that a
man will grow his beard; it’s a sign of a good religious man that only wants peace.” This is also
similar to what I have talked about earlier; Al Somah had been stereotyped as a terrorist based on
the way he looked, a look that had been expressed in a bad way by the media.
If these stereotypes about Arabs were accepted as truth, all Arabs will be stereotyped as
rich, Muslims and terrorists who don’t give women their rights. Also, Arabs are not going to
tolerate this false stereotyping, and a lot of problems are going to happen. All of these problems
are because of the false stereotyping that people have of Arabs.
Today I have talked about stereotyping Arabs, and how I have been negatively affected
by stereotyping as an Arab in three ways: incorrect stereotypes, the consequences of
stereotyping, and what I learned. Stereotyping people based on the way they dress or the way
they speak, or by their religion, is wrong. And should not be something that people do. Also if all
people stereotyped one another, it would be hard to understand each other. people would have a
wrong impression about other people, and many negative consequences are going to happen.
Alobaidi, Mohammed. Personal interview. 15 Nov. 2015.
Al Somah, Abdullah. Personal interview. 14 Nov. 2015.
“Facts about Arabs and the Arab World”. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. 29
Nov. 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Global Connections. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
The Human Breed Blog 26 Mar. 2014. Web.
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