Monday, October 20, 2008

A Post by a Young Egyptian living in North America

Living in North America for the past seven years, I have found a group of people who have remained more united than any race or culture I have ever witnessed while living in the Middle East. Whenever one member of this group is down, it seems like fifteen of his/her kind are ready to pick him right back up. Communities of this race are more closely-knit than any other of the ethnic communities on the continent. The reason I haven't witness this group earlier in my life is because I've never lived in the vicinity of a significant enough group of them. If you haven't figured the race out by now, I'm not talking about Native Americans, but rather, the Jews.

Every summer, a group of wealthy Jewish entrepreneurs donate millions of dollars to a program entitled Birth Right in which North American students of Jewish decent are given free airfare and full board at a relatively nice hotel in Israel where they are taught more about their culture and heritage. Don't get me wrong, I think the fundamentals of this program are completely absurd considering it is much more the "birth right" of Palestinians who lived on that land to have access to their own homes than it is for a bunch of students who don't even speak Hebrew and know close to nothing about their heritage and just want a free trip to a region they've never even come close to. One or two of my Jewish friends (yes, I have Jewish friends), blatantly admitted that it was a complete brainwashing scheme to convince these North Americans with a bright future to be "more Jewish" and more loyal to their background. But as much as I hate the program, I simply can't help but to admire the sense of cultural pride that underlines it.

Coming back to my Arab roots, I am lucky enough to have found a small group of Arab friends that I have really come to love. One Saudi, one Lebanese, one Jordanian, and two other Egyptians. Keep in mind that my group of Anglo-Saxon friends (whether Canadian, American, or European) numbers in the double digits. The reason I have become close friends with so few Arabs isn't because I haven't found or met any, but rather that I am completely turned away from the majority of the Arabs I meet. For example, when I let someone know that I'm Egyptian, instead of receiving a warm "ahlan wa sahlan", I usually get a smart-ass response making fun of the typical Egyptian accent. This might make it sound like I have no sense of humor, but if you know me, you know that's not the case at all. The thing is, under this remark, I can actually sense an underlying bitterness that I don't even understand. Another time, one Arab was describing to a group of us how his roommate had moved out of their apartment without even paying the last months' rent, and another Arab was quick to say "oh, the Syrian? What did I tell you about Syrians man, you can't trust them." Now can you blame me for having only five Arab friends?

My goal here isn't to try to rally up Arab pride and unity in order to become a strong "force" in the world. Don't get me wrong, that would be great, but if Nasser couldn't accomplish that even to rally up against Israel, then I doubt my luck will be any better. Rather, think about the issue and relate it to your own lives. Do you have subconscious anger or distaste towards fellow Arabs? If so, what's the reason and is it necessary to hold on to that grudge? You might find that this sentiment is based on a stereotype of just one or two people from that country that you have had a bad experience with. Also, regardless of your feelings towards the Jewish race, wouldn't adapting some of their positive traits be much more productive than sitting around and watching them strive as a community? Think about it.

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