Tag Archives: stereotypes

Cartoon: Those People Dress Funny

I get a kick out of Americans’ attitude that we’re all special snowflakes who dress exactly the way we want to because we embody the American ideal of freedom of expression, as if we don’t just witlessly wear whatever the stores are full of. I mean come on, pants? Sarongs would be much more comfortable.

Drew this on MS Paint with one hand; my cat was sleeping on my left hand. Poor little thing got a couple stitches today.


Filed under hijab

“Arab Shooting Gallery”

I recommend these posts about the portrayal of Arabs in video games.

Representing Arabs in Video Games over at Sociological Images and Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games at Digital Islam.

from the Sociological Images post:

Majd A.-S. sent in a link to a review at The Brainy Gamer of the Wii videogame Heavy Fire: Special Operations, which was released last week. Michael Abbott, the reviewer, starts by saying that he doesn’t find First-Person Shooter (FPS) games inherently problematic, but that after playing the game he found this one disturbing. He suggests it should be renamed “Arab Shooting Gallery.”

Notice that the game specifically points out that it has a “destructible environment”; not only can you kill enemies, you can make sure you leave the surrounding city as demolished as possible. Woo hoo! Fun!

At Sociological Images I also found this post about really awful anti-Arab, anti-Muslims, and anti-Hispanic signs in Pennsylvania. I’m tempted to believe this was somebody playing with an online sign generator.

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Filed under arab, arabic, bigoted idiots

The Opthalmologist Politician

He’s the second son of a politician father. He’s an opthalmologist. He’s Bashar al-Asad, not Rand Paul. I was trying to draw more parallels, but information is sparse out there. For example, Bashar al-Asad is known for having a hot wife, and I can’t find a picture of Rand Paul’s wife. Why do Muslims Christians keep their wives under wraps?!

Also, Bashar al-Asad speaks three languages. Rand Paul, just the one. Bashar al-Asad was instrumental in introducing the internet to Syria. Rand Paul is an endless internet comedy machine.

TSA screeners and Arizona policemen should note al-Asad’s stereotypical swarthy foreigner looks. He’s as dark as a, well, a sheet. His eyes are, uh, blue. And he’s a diminutive, uh, six foot two. Hmm. May have to rethink.

The internet is a wondrous thing. I was looking around for good photos to illustrate this post, and supplemental information about Rand Paul and Bashar al-Asad, when I found pages dedicated to outing al-Asad as the Antichrist. Furreal.

The first week of March 2009, I started checking on the internet for videos that support the “Truth About Islam” paper I had been writing. I’ve discovered what I believe is at least 51% chance to be “The Beast=The Antichrist of Revelation.” He is Bashar Al-Assad the President/ Dictator of Syria. Please Google “al-wahash Syria” and see what you come up with!

The first part of March 2009 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Israel, the Obama administration said that they wanted to re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria and have Syria sign a peace treaty with Israel. Thus, I think there is a 51% chance that Syria will sign a 7 year treaty with Israel by 2012 (the year Obama runs for re-election) which means Jesus Christ may set foot back on earth at least by 2019. Syria is the main sponsor of both Hamas and Hezbollah. Both terrorist groups have their headquarters in Damascus, Syria. Isaiah 17:1 says . . . the city of Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins.

When and if I determine that my educated guess is wrong I will post it. Until that time comes all my studying about “Islamic Truth” and the end of times points to Bashar Al Assad, President/Dictator of Syria! Email this to all your Christian friends.

Oh internet, when it comes to cuckoo yip-yap, you never run out.

UPDATE: Asked around a bit and found out that Patrick Seale, a journalist who specializes in the Middle East, wrote a biography of Hafiz al-Asad. On the first page of the biography, available at Amazon.com, it says:

Around the turn of the century, an itinerant Turkish wrestler came one day to a village in the mountains of north-west Syria and, in a voice which rang around the hamlet, offered to take on all comers. A powerfully built man already in his forties stepped forward, seized the wrestler by the middle, and threw him to the ground. ‘Wahhish!‘ , the villagers cried admiringly. ‘He’s a wild man!’ Their champion’s name was Sulayman. From then on he was known as Sulayman al-Wahhish, and Wahhish remained the family name until the 1920s. This was Hafiz al-Asad’s grandfather.

The first time I read that I thought the Turkish wrestler was the grandfather, but now I’m pretty sure that the villager was the grandfather. At any rate, if the origins of this name are true, it makes the apocalyptic theories of unhinged Christians look a little more ridiculous than they already did.

The reason I care is that the apocalyptic Christian argument that Bashar al-Asad is the antichrist partially rests on the claim that his family’s name was originally al-Wahash, ‘the Beast.’ So this anecdote that opens Seale’s book pulverizes that line of thinking. Well, I guess it wouldn’t for some people.

The Hans Wehr dictionary’s full entry on the noun/adjective وحش reads as follows:

waste, deserted, lonely, dreary, desolate; wild, untamed (animal);–(pl. وحوش and وحشان ) wild animal; wild beast; game; monster; beast (fig., also term of abuse)| الوحوش الضارية the predatory animals, the beasts of prey

Which is just one more illustration of how people who only know one language (average Americans) leap to wrong assumptions when confronted with words and terms from another language.

UPDATE: Rand Paul isn’t an opthalmologist in the strictest sense of the word. He is not accredited with the American Board of Ophthalmology, but rather by a small board of his own creation, which is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties – the governing group for two dozen medical specialty boards. Huff Post story here.

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Filed under arab, arabist, Syria

Harmful Stereotyping

This is offensive.

I hate to see stereotypes like this. Young American women aren’t generally this stupid. 😉

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Filed under arab, arabian, arabic

Ooooh, Exotic

Kathleen Parker, whose name means “pure,” wrote an op-ed this week in the Washington Post. It kind of had something to do with the events in Iran, but not that much. Mostly it’s bad stereotypes about how ‘they’ oppress ‘their women’ more than we do. Really, there’s very little substance to her article, it kind of reads like one of my more mediocre blog posts, and I wouldn’t ordinarily blog about something like this if she hadn’t gone and played the exotic name card.

It starts with this:

There’s a “new” old name suddenly in circulation that is both filled with ancient history and ripe with a revolutionary spirit for today’s game-changing events.


Well known to Muslims, Fatima az-Zahra was one of four daughters of the prophet Muhammad. Today, Zahra is also the name of two important, outspoken women of Iran.

And ends with this:

In Arabic, Zahra means “The Shining One.”

In English, we’d call that a beacon.

First off, Zahra is one of the most common names in Iran, possibly the number one name for girls, so it’s hardly a coincidence that there are two Iranian women named Zahra in the news right now. Let’s see how this would play:

There’s a “new” old name suddenly in circulation that is both filled with ancient history and ripe with a revolutionary spirit for today’s game-changing events.


Well known to Americans, Guinevere was the tragic wife of the ill-fated King Arthur. Today, Jennifer is also the name of two important, outspoken women of the United States.

And “ancient history”? We’re only talking about 1400 years ago more or less, not something lost in the mists of time. This is not a “‘new’ old” name at all, nor is it suddenly in circulation. Unless by “in circulation” you mean vaguely on the radar of a typical apathetic American who has no Persian acquaintances.

Here’s another Zahra who has been in the news. Why not mention this Iranian Zahra?

In 2006, Ebrahimi became the centre of an Iranian sex tape scandal when a videotape of a woman having sex with a man was leaked to the internet and released on DVD. She subsequently became the subject of an official investigation handled by Tehran’s hard-line chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and may face fines, public lashing or worse for her violation of Iran’s morality laws.

The unnamed man on the tape, who is suspected of releasing it, reportedly fled to Armenia but was subsequently returned to Iran and charged with breach of public morality laws

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi denied being the woman in the film and dismissed it as a fake made by a vengeful former fiancé who used studio techniques to form a montage of incriminating images designed to destroy her career.

Rumors of an attempted suicide were also denied by Zahra with a public message: “I just want to tell my country’s people I am alive. I am thinking about the strength of Iranian women and will defend the respect of the girls and women of my nation.”

Plus, Arabic has a word for “beacon,” and it’s not Zahra.


Filed under arabic, arabist, names

A Culture that Honors Martyrdom

Sometimes you’re reading along, internally nodding your head, and then you hit that one sentence, that one clause, that sets your nerves clanging. A clause like this one: “…particularly in a Middle Eastern culture that honors martyrdom…”

The article is otherwise great and I recommend you read it, Why Dissidents, Freed From Prison, Often Choose the Path of Most Resistance. But that clause is what inspired this post, which looks like it’s going to end up much longer than I originally thought it would.

A month or so ago I had a post mentioning the Shi’a Muslim holiday of Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein Ibn Ali, who died in the Battle of Karbala. He was not killed over his Muslim faith, as he and his army were fighting other Muslims, but because his supporters were fighting with the Umayyad Caliph Yazid’s supporters over who was the rightful Muslim ruler. So he was not a martyr to his religion, but to his nation.

The Sunni Muslims don’t even have a martyr figure at all. Christians, however, have a whole bunch of them. A calendar full of them and much, much more. I think you could even fairly say that crucifixion imagery amounts to honoring martyrdom.

Martyr is a word we don’t use much in the US. It’s kind of old-fashioned, definitely churchy. Wikipedia has a page on Christian martyrs:

The lives of the martyrs became a great source of inspiration for the Christians and their lives and relics were greatly revered. Second century Church Father, Tertullian wrote that “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”, implying that the willing sacrificing of the martyrs lives leads to the conversion of many more.

Here’s a skimpy list of Christian martyrs.

Today I learned there’s something called a martyrology, which is a is a catalogue or list of martyrs arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts.

Islam has nothing like this.

I’m seeing an amazing difference of opinion on how many Christians have been martyred lately, from an estimate of over 170,000 per year to just a few thousand a year. Here’s a notable quote from this page:

Have there been more martyrs in this century than in all others combined, as the current quote suggests? During this century, we have documented cases in excess of 26 million martyrs. From AD 33 to 1900, we have documented 14 million martyrs. So, yes, this quote is correct.

On the other hand, martyrdom has been on the decline for the past decade. The current rate is 159,000 martyrs per year — down from 330,000 per year at the height of the cold war.

I also found the site of this organization, the Voice of the Martyrs, (web address ‘persecution.com’) that wants to, among other things

emphasize the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of atrocities committed against Christians and by remembering their courage and faith.

Wikipedia’s page about martyrs even included a high school student at Columbine High School, who rates as a martyr apparently because she was asked if she believed in God right before she was shot.*

But enough about the church kind of martyr (although you wonder why this isn’t enough yet to conclude that the US has a western culture that honors martyrdom). An astute colleague pointed out to me that in the US we use the phrase “ultimate sacrifice” instead.

When you look at it that way, we have two national holidays honoring martyrs, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and monuments all over the country honoring those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many other countries have national holidays to honor their soldiers who have died in war, and many of those countries call that holiday Martyrs Day.

Here are a few of the countries who have a national Martyrs Day: Panama, Albania, Burma, Armenia, Vietnam, India, Tibet, Israel. One of those is in the Middle East, anyway, but I don’t think it was what the author had in mind when he mentioned the Middle East culture that honors martyrdom.

Anyhow, that’s how one little clause led me to hours of Googling. In an otherwise very nice article, there was one little niggling phrase that was aimed at making Arabs seem strange, harsh, brutal. Wanting us to think Arabs are not like us, they don’t value their lives, they don’t love their children as much as we do. Backing up the arrogant assumption that we have evolved a little bit more than those people over there who dress like George Lucas’s Sand People.

As serendipity would have it, a friend sent me the link to this article today. From it:

I wish more Americans had an opportunity to get to know Muslims. Then they would not be susceptible to the silly anti-Muslim propaganda that is floated by some right-wing Christians.

Muslims are good folks. One fellow e-mailed me quite convinced that Muslims lop off the heads of every infidel they meet. I’ve been a guest in the homes of many Muslim friends, and the only thing they lopped off were extra servings of lamb.

Racism is a monstrous injustice because it imposes a stereotype on millions of innocent individuals. The only real solution is education and broad experience.

Disclaimer: I know that Arab doesn’t equal Muslim and vice versa.

*Apparently this has been debunked, and the girl who was asked if she believed in God survived the Columbine shootings.
Special last-minute bonus link: Which Pope am I?


Filed under arab, arabist

Allah’s Fire by Chuck Holton and Gayle Roper

This is not a review, just a series of observations.

I expected this book to be full of misinformation about Arabs and Islam. Well, it had a good deal of that, but I did not anticipate how much Christian glurge there would be. As for the romance novel aspect, by the end of the book all the romantic protagonists have done is exchange “a kiss that kept her warm all night.”

There’s weird inconsistency in the few Arabic phrases the authors include. They get some short and basic Lebanese phrases right, but they write “Allah Ak’bar” with a totally gratuitous apostrophe and, as mentioned in a previous post, were amusingly wrong about how one would say, “The followers of God’s will.” (Ansar Inshallah is not it).

Inshallah is a complete sentence. It means “If God wills,” but someone probably told the authors it meant “God’s will.” If there really were an Arab terrorist group with “inshallah” as part of its name, imagine how that would play into the hands of zealous FBI and CIA agents. Everyone who said “Inshallah” would be a terror suspect. What am I saying? That’s how it is already.

The Arabs in this book are mostly residents of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Each and every male character among them would rather kill his daughter with his bare hands (or the scimitar he assuredly must carry everywhere–he’s Muslim, right?) than see her get an education.

The female protagonist, Liz, who is surprisingly, offensively ignorant of Islam despite having spent half her life in Beirut, laughably compares women’s role in Islam unfavorably to women’s role in Christianity. She offers no cites for her misapprehensions.

Liz herself is a grown woman who refers to herself a girl in her email address and likes her mom best when her mom is doing traditional womanly things like making tea and serving baklava.

Liz believes that God and Allah are two completely different things, and that Allah is bloodthirsty and full of hate. It puts me in mind of the paradigm in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia novels, where the dark-skinned, scimitar-wielding, crescent-afficionado Calormen worship the evil god Tash, and the virtuous, light-skinned Narnians worship the noble Aslan; but if there should be such a thing as a Calorman who isn’t evil and violent, he’s really worshipping Aslan, while if a Narnian is a bad boy, he’s really worshipping Tash–even though they don’t know it.

Except to Liz, even if you’re a sweet and virtuous young person, if you worship Allah, you’re wrong wrong wrong.

I had to resort to Wikipedia to refresh my memory on the Narnia books, and in doing so I found this page, Medieval Christian View of Muhammad. Lots of good stuff here.

Facts such as the Muslim belief that [Muhammad] was unlettered, that he married a wealthy widow, that in his later life he had several wives, that he ruled over a human community and was therefore involved in several wars, and that he died like an ordinary person in contrast to the Christian belief in the supernatural end of Christ’s earthly life were all interpreted in the worst possible light.[1]

Medieval scholars and churchmen held that Islam was the work of Muhammad who in turn was inspired by Satan. Muhammad was frequently calumnized and made a subject of legends taught by preachers as fact.[9] For example, in order to show that Muhammad was the anti-Christ, it was asserted that Muhammad died not in the year 632 but in the year 666 – the number of the beast – in another variation on the theme the number “666” was also used to represent the period of time Muslims would hold sway of the land.[8] A verbal expression of Christian contempt for Islam was expressed in turning his name from Muhammad to Mahound, the “devil incarnate”.[10] Others usually confirmed to pious Christians that Muhammad had come to a bad end.[9] According to one version after falling into a drunken stupor he had been eaten by a herd of swine, and this was ascribed to the reason why Muslims proscribed consumption of liquor and pork.[9]

Ha! Muslims ruled Spain alone longer than that (781 years). Take that, medieval Christians.

Speaking of 666, there is someone currently trying to convince credulous audiences that it was never the number of the beast at all, but a vision of the written word “God” in Arabic that was revealed to John of Patmos. None other than fake person Walid Shoebat. I won’t link to anything that could possibly benefit him, but here’s a blog with more info. There are people who take this seriously.

And now I’ve found a whole bunch of blogs to peruse. What a lot of different points of view there are out there.

What some Christians think Allah looks like

What some Christians think "Allah" looks like


Filed under arab, arabic, arabist, bigoted idiots, books, Islamic relations, language, religious conflict, translation