Whoever coined the term “Ignorance is bliss” is an absolute idiot. Ignorance is not bliss. In fact, ignorance leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to fear. Fear leads to bias and hate. So I am here to present to the American public the top 10 things that Arabs want non-Arabs to know about them. If you remember these, then Arabs will not look at you as a “Dumb American.”
As an Arab Christian myself, I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “When did you convert?” I would be a very rich man. About 10% of the Arab population is Christian. Yes, we are a minority, but we are still there and have been Christians for 2,000 years. I’m not sure how good the average American is at geography, but Jesus is from the Middle East!
2. Falafel, Hummus, and Shawarma are Arabic foods, NOT Israeli foods.
A couple of months ago, I was talking with an American girl about Middle Eastern food. She told me that she loves falafel and she used to eat it a lot because she has Israeli friends. Please, do not ever say that to an Arab. Israel was created in 1948, and I can say with complete certainty that we have been eating hummus for much longer than that.
3. Arabs and Jews HAVE NOT been fighting for thousands of years
Arabs and Jews have been fighting since only 1948, when Israel was created. In fact, Jews left Europe to the Middle East because Arabs historically treated Jews better than Europeans did. Jews are Semitic people, and so are Arabs. We are actually closer to each other than Europeans.
4. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other Islamic militant groups DO NOT reflect the views of all Muslims
Yes, you see these guys on the news all the time. But they are huge minorities and not popular at all. The Middle East is much more secular than you would think. In an American equivalent, it would be like the Westboro Baptist Church serving as a reflection on all Christians.
5. Smoking hookah is nothing new
Hookah is the new thing. Hookah bars are everywhere near college campuses, and its popularity among our youth grows by the day. But from our perspective, you’re a little late to the party. I don’t remember the last time I went to a family function and there was no hookah lit up and ready to go. If you are fortunate enough to smoke hookah with an Arab, be prepared for the licorice-tasting goodness that is Double Apple flavor.
6. When I say that I am from Palestine, that doesn’t mean Pakistan, and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean Israel
If you really want to make a Palestinian mad, just ask if he is from Israel. Your result will not end happily, I can assure you that. And it is Palestine. Not Pakistan. Please know that we aren’t the same thing.
7. There’s a right way to say “Iraq”
We aren’t asking for you to use the hard beginning and ending that the word “Iraq” has in it. Just remember, it is “E-rock” rather than “I-rack.”
8. Persians aren’t Arabs
Persians hate this too. We are completely different people. We come from completely different backgrounds. Yes, we have the same skin tone and are ridiculously hairy, but we are not the same. We speak Arabic, and Persians speak Farsi. They might sound the same, but they aren’t even close. And, to be honest, Persians have the better kabob (sorry Arabs).
9. “Lebanese food” is Arabic food
If you have a Lebanese friend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. “Traditional Lebanese food” includes hummus, tabbouleh, and kibbeh nayyeh (yeah, it’s raw meat). But this food isn’t specifically Lebanese. We all eat that food. Don’t let them fool you when they say “Lebanese food,” because that is just a cover for Arabic food.
10. We love to party
Forget Vegas. If you want to go party, go to Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheikh, or Amman. I promise that you will have the time of your life. Don’t believe me? If you have an Arab friend, just wait until they get married. Arab weddings might be the best parties that you will ever go to. If you don’t have an Arab friend, just crash an Arab wedding. There will be so many people there that they probably won’t notice you.