Thursday, June 14, 2007

Arab Values

I was reading some article in the Dustour news paper where they interviewed some people about the subject of "Interracial" and inter-religious marriages.

One of the people interviewed started mumbling about the Arab values and the inconsolable difference between Arab culture and Western Culture.

Needless to say, this got me really annoyed. You see, there is a general assumption about the static nature of Arab values and culture. On top of it there is the misguided belief that values are shared between people in the various Arab countries or even within the same country.

First of all, I would like to get one thing straight, the values were always changing at different points in history, going from one extreme to the other, pretty much like a pendulum. For instance, the era that produced "A thousand and one nights" can be one example of a rather "liberal period." And then the rise of Wahabis in the Arab peninsula can be considered the pendulum swinging the other way around.
Another example is Jordan itself, it was more liberal up the mid 80s and then it went through a period of conservatism which we can not rid ourselves off even to this day.

Secondly, moral and cultural values differ between the different Arab countries and also within one county or even city; West Amman is "liberal," whereas east Amman is not. Amman as a whole is more liberal than say Maa'n.

Then we look at countries; Jordan is more "liberal" than Egypt or KSA, but less so than Syria or Lebanon. For example, a lot of Jordanians might get a cultural shock if they went from Jordan to Lebanon. And a lot of the Lebanese would consider the Jordanians culturally retarded when they visit here.

Third, a lot of the so called Arab values have not even survived to the 21st century. Most people have lost their honesty, generosity, and many other things that are parts of the core of Arab values. The only thing that people mean when they talk about "Arab values" is the relationship between the sexes, and drinking and they leave all the real important issues unmentioned.

So in view of all of the above, the talk of Arab culture as static and a none changing fact taken for granted is not only misguided, but obviously a sign of historical and cultural ignorance. The core of Arab values is not what people are talking about.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as your general logic goes, I'm in complete agreement about the assumptions people make about their 'collective' identity, and what this identity allows them to do vs. what it forbids them from doing.

That said, I disagree with labeling them 'misguided'. Every group of people regardless of its size, strives for a sense of cohesion that drives it to create a code of conduct, if you will.

Pitting 'retarded arabs' against an enlightened west is inaccurate and unfair at best. Even extremely liberal societies in the west have a collectively identified cultural cues that help them function as a whole without expunging the individual. The debate is on reference and not the need. Not agreeing with your culture (or what other people decide is common) doesn't really make it less legitimate.

7:47 AM  
Blogger ma7joob said...

it always gets on my nerves when ppl start talking about how great arab values are .

hmm , just open your eyes and look around and you'll how "great" owr values are :/

5:42 PM  
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