Wanted: More Arabs to be like everyone else
By Ray Hanania
I know we Arabs are special. But sometimes, we need to be like everyone else.
What do I mean by that? I mean that in order to be able to influence the world around us, we need to work within the system in the world, in our Arab cultural societies, and in the countries that we have adopted.
Arabs don’t do that very well. We hate the word “assimilate” because to us, it means sacrificing something that is unique and important to us, our Arab identity.
But assimilating, participating and “working from within” do not mean we have to surrender our Arab identity or compromise our pride. In fact, learning how to work in someone else’s system should increase our pride. It definitely will improve our effectiveness as voices in our world.
The Olympics are a good example of how the Arab World is failing to engage the rest of the world on their terms.
During the past two weeks, athletes from 88 countries, which is a record high, are competing in 98 Winter-related athletic games such as Skating, Skiing, Hockey, Curling, Bobsleigh and Luge.
There are 2,862 total athletes competing. Only four of them come from Arab countries, two from Lebanon and two from Morocco. Israel has five athletes competing. Russia has 226 and the United States has 230. Turkey has six. Hong Kong has one.
What’s pathetic is not that Lebanon and Morocco only have two qualifying athletes each in the games, but that the other 20 Arab countries have none.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be watching the games and cheering for the winners. And they will see everyone, but no one from Jordan. No one from war-torn despotic Syria. No one from Egypt. No one from Saudi Arabia. No one from Iraq. Twenty Arab countries are not involved. Even Iran, the copyright holder of the epitaph “The Great Satan,” has five athletes in competition.
Why are there not more Arabs? Some will say that it’s because Arabs don’t like snow and we come from lands covered in sand. That’s intuitive but dumb. Others will argue that the Olympics are little more than a Western orchestrated “beauty contest” that celebrates physical achievements rather than intellectual achievements.
That’s not even a good excuse, considering the Olympic were founded by the Greeks in the Mediterranean, which consists mainly of Middle East and now Arab countries.
So what’s up Arabs? The Olympics are held every two years. The Winter Olympics featuring Winter games, are being held now. In 2012, the Summer Olympics featured different games and entries from more Arab countries.
In 2012, a total of 17 Arab countries entered into athletic competition. Coincidentally, 2012 represented the 100th Anniversary of Arab participation in the Olympics.
That was good, but not good enough. All 22 countries should have been represented.
The first female athlete from Saudi Arabia made her entrance to the Olympics, running in a track competition. Sarah Attar, who holds both American and Saudi passports, wore a Hijab and clothing that covered her entire body, save her face and hands. Although her dress made it difficult to compete, and probably accounted for her last place showing, the fact that she tried is noble. It’s admirable. It should be applauded.
Lately, Saudi Arabia is showing to the rest of the Arab World that women have a place in modern societies and in today’s world as leaders. It would have been great if 17 Arab countries participated in the Winter Olympics, too.
Four billion people from around the world will watch segments of the Olympic Games, which began on Feb. 7.
What other event can a nation make a statement that reaches 4 billion people?
But it requires that Arabs set aside this self-imposed censorship in which we refrain from participating” because “participation” is often defined as “assimilation” and “assimilation” is mis-translated into “disappearing”. Arab culture will not disappear if we start engaging other people in other societies by being like them.
The Arab World doesn’t think much of public relations and strategic communications as a means of reaching the rest of the world. They should. They won’t buy a full page Ad in the New York Times to lobby Americans to support Palestinian rights, for example. They won’t send athletes to compete in events that are defined as “Western corrupted.”
But the Arabs will complain when American does something we don’t like, or if Americans fail to stand up for Palestinian civil rights.
If you want Americans to respect Arab views, we need to respect Americans. That means becoming a real part of American society. We have to make a sacrifice and be as American as the Americans.
Arabs claim that they are willing to make great sacrifices to achieve justice, but they won’t make sacrifices of pride, like teaching their children to learn English first before learning Arabic.
Sacrifices for the betterment of our people. In a world where perception is reality, and how you look influences the decisions of others, we need to look, act and sound like the people we want to influence.
That’s the real sacrifice Arabs refuse to make. The Olympics are a great place to start.
We need to dress like the West, speak like the West, live like the West and engage in the activities and events that we associate with the West, if we plan to convince the West that we are right. That our causes are just. That they should support us.
Arabic won’t go away, if we do this. But if we don’t, Palestine might be gone
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and managing editor of The Arab Daily News atwww.TheArabDailyNews.com.
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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