By Sherri Muzher
It’s been said that the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the ILLUSION OF KNOWLEDGE. And when it comes to the Arab World, there seems to be many illusions – illusions that have brought people oceans apart. I call it the Arab Ocean’s Eleven.
(1) Allah. Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. This is no different than the Spanish calling God “Dios” or the French saying “Dieu.” The word Allah came before the religion of Islam was even established. Because Muslims of all ethnicities believe God spoke in Arabic, all Muslims use the word Allah. But go to any Arab Christian church — Allah is who is honored.
(2) Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs. Many people use the words interchangeably as if they were the same thing. They’re not. One is an ethnicity; the other is a religion. In fact, the largest Muslim population is in Indonesia, a non-Arab country.
(3) Arabs hate us and our way of life. The sad reality is that there are Arabs languishing in prisons for seeking out democratic reforms in their respective countries. And for our nation, it’s never been about democratic ideals for the Arab World but rather our national interests. And Arab regimes that play the game are guaranteed their preservation. It’s been that way since the days of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
So the issue isn’t that Arabs hate our way of life; it’s that they are being deprived of our way of life by regimes supported by our government.
(4) Judaism and Zionism. Judaism, the first of the three great monotheistic religions, gave the world the wise words of the prophets, as well as the Ten Commandments. Zionism was founded by Theodor Herzl, an atheist, in the late 19th century. Zionism aimed to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was born in Palestine (1948). The land and accompanying human rights violations continue to be issues today. Palestinians and other Arabs have a problem with this political ideology, not the Jewish religion.
(5) Oil and the related wealth are concentrated in the Gulf region of the Arab World. Most other Arab nations are less wealthy and rely on other industries to sustain themselves, such as through tourism or agriculture.
(6) Arab women. Women in the Gulf region of the Arab world are often held up as being representative of all Arab women. Indeed, the Koran has been manipulated in those countries to prevent women from driving and taking part in their government. But it’s a mistake to assume that this is true in all Arab countries. In fact, women have taken on very strong roles in war-torn countries like Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, be it politically or in society. In terms of day to day? Most Arab women “wear the pants in the house.”
This is not to say that there are no issues of equality for women. There certainly are. But the women wish to affect changes on their own. They are more than capable.
(7) Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. There is wide mistrust for both throughout the Arab World. Their repeated call for violence against American and European targets has been condemned, most recently as October 23, 2010 in Metro-Detroit.
In addition, there is a deep dislike for Bin Laden and his periodic invocation of the Palestinian issue –often a popular rallying cry to increase support. In fact, Palestinians have been adamant that they want nothing to do with Bin Laden.
(8) Palestine and Pakistan. Palestinians are from Palestine; Pakistanis are from Pakistan. Palestinians speak Arabic and Pakistanis speak Urdu.
(9) Iran is not part of the Arab World. Iranians (or Persians) speak Farsi; Arabs speak Arabic. Most Arab Muslims are Sunni; most Iranian Muslims are Sh’ia. Arab views on Iran’s leader Ahmadinejad range from admiration for his fierce nationalism to suspicion of Iran’s goals for the region.
(10) Palestinian Christians. Many people have been led to believe that the Palestine v. Israel conflict is a Muslim v. Jewish conflict. The reality is that several of the early Palestinian revolutionaries were Christian, and Christians suffer as much as their Palestinian Muslim brethren under a brutal Israeli military occupation. This explains why they have always been united in the struggle for liberation. The conflict isn’t so much religious as it is nationalistic and human.
(11) Arab Diversity. Every Arab has a specific heritage, be it Palestinian, Lebanese, Algerian, etc. Think of Latin America, where they all speak the same language (Spanish, except in Portuguese-speaking Brazil) and most share the same religion (Roman Catholic). In the Arab world, they all speak Arabic and most are Muslim. Nonetheless, each country has its own dialect, foods and customs. Mexicans and Argentines differ, as do Syrians and Egyptians.
The famous Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once wrote, “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.”
The above eleven drops do not contain secrets but they will hopefully make the ocean a little smaller and less choppy.
– Sherri Muzher, JD is Director of the Michigan Media Watch. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.