Paper instructions:Perhaps largely due to the media’s portrayal of people in the Middle East, it is not unusual for many people who live in Western society to have certain specific stereotyped images of people who live in the Middle East region. For example, some may assume that the Middle East is full of angry, camel-riding, bomb-making Arabs. What a lot of people do not realize is that such stereotypes are often created based on media images of war (from the news, movies, etc.) and many of us have not been exposed to the cultures of the Middle East without the context of war.
Do you know?
Other than Arabs, many other ethnic groups such as Armenians, Persians, Assyrians, Bedouins, Turks, and others populate the Middle East. In fact, the Lebanese are derived from the ancient Phoenicians.
Lebanon does not have any deserts (or camels), and more closely resembles Greece than the countries like Iraq. In fact, Lebanese are known for their forests and cedars. That’s why they have a cedar tree on their flag.
Most Muslims are not extremist and are just as afraid as many Westerners—if not more afraid—of the extremist groups that exist in the Middle East.
Arabs and other Middle Easterners are well known for their hospitality and will welcome many foreigners with open arms, food and drink, even when they don’t really have the means to do so?
Many Arabs and other Middle Easterners relish leisure time, especially time with family and with large groups of friends (in contrast to spending time alone with an individual companion). The night life is cherished and many stay up late to enjoy it. Even in places like Saudi Arabia (which in the Middle East is referred to commonly as KSA–Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), private parties replace pubs and people will travel to Bahrain for clubs on the weekends.
There are Middle Easterners who are embarrassed to admit their heritage to others when traveling or chatting online with people in the West because they feel that others perceive them to be a terrorist?.
For this discussion on Middle Eastern cultural stereotypes, please address both of the following two question sets in separate posts.
Cultural Stereotypes: There are many other cultural observations that we could add, but use this list above to stimulate your thinking about your own cultural stereotypes and what you know about the actual cultures.
What are cultural stereotypes? Do you have specific perspective and or images of Arabs? Jews? Muslims? Christian Arabs? etc.
What are your thoughts/perspective on portrayed images of women in the Middle East? How do you think these were formed?
Can you picture life in the Middle East without imagining a war?
2. Find information online about the culture, women and life in a specific part of the Middle East.
How does it compare with your own cultural habits? What’s different? What’s similar?
Marriage Customs: View the two videos in the Module about marriage rights in the Middle East. Divorce Iranian StyleOpens in anew window discusses Iran’s divorce laws, which are based on Sharia or Islamic law as the country is an Islamic republic since 1979. Meanwhile, the video on Cyprus: Island of Forbidden LoveOpens in a new window shows how a country has cornered the market on civil marriage for people in Lebanon and Israel, as it’s extremely difficult to marry someone outside of your religion and sect in these countries. In fact, even when George Clooney married a Lebanese DruzeOpens in a new window, he was forced to have a civil marriage and could not marry her in Lebanon. Do you think such laws and attitudes towards marriage, divorce and family shape your own thoughts about the cultures there? If so, how? How do you suppose such attitudes and laws might affect these cultures?
Life & Culture:
Sam Alexandroni (2007, October). No room at the innOpens in a new window. New Statesman, 136(4867), 48-49. [Entertaining article about the debate surrounding khat chewing, a mild stimulant, in Yemen. Khat is an extremely addictive drug whose popularity in Yemen is wreaking havoc on society. Unlike alcohol, it is not forbidden by Islam, but its effect on the social ethos has made the practice taboo.]
AHMED, S. (2008). WHAT IS SUFISM?Opens in a new window. Forum Philosophicum: International Journal For Philosophy, 13(2), 233-251.
Gerard Russel (2014, Sept.) Islamic State’s Dire Threat to Ancient FaithsOpens in a new window. The Wall Street Journal.
Gerard Russel (n.d.) The ReligionsOpens in a new window. Gerard Russel blog. [This is an overview of some of the ancient religious groups which exist in the Middle East.]
Two traditional Lebanese foods: Mujadara and red cabbage salad.
Two traditional Lebanese foods: Mujadara and red cabbage salad. Photo Credit: Used with permission of Sarine Kevorkian 2014
Women in the Middle East:
NCAFP. (2012). Arab Women and the Future of the Middle EastOpens in a new window. American Foreign Policy Interests, 34(3), 149-166. doi:10.1080/10803920.2012.692279
“The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea, 2007. [This novel was written by a young woman in Saudi Arabia about dating and relationships among young female women in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is a light, fun novel and has been compared to the Middle Eastern’s version of Sex and the City. It gives a good insight into male-female relationships in the kingdom as well as other cultural attitudes. It was published in Arabic in 2005, but was quickly banned in Saudi Arabia.]
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