WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A MODERN ARAB WOMAN
Scarlett was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, moved to the
United Kingdom, but has since moved back. Her novel Clouds
and Earth is now available. For more of Sayde visit
her website = http://www.sayde-scarlett.com/
modern Arab woman, I want people in the United States to know
that the Arab world is changing, and cities in the Middle East
look more like modern American cities every day. I had the opportunity
to live and work in America, Europe and the Middle East and I
want to take this opportunity to dispel some of the misconceptions
I have encountered
are just like you.
to school and work. We crave the latest iPhone, dream of Mr. Right,
love great clothes, have hobbies, and love buying shoes and
watching trashy TV. We get our hair and nails done, we fall in
love, get our hearts broken, want that promotion at work, like
eating junk food, enjoy music, watch movies, enjoy walks on the
beach . . . I could go on, but don’t forget our shared humanity.
We are just like you. Although your news channel may only focus
on the Middle East when there is some tragic incident, please
don’t forget that most of us are just trying to live and
let live whilst making ends meet.
Muslim women feel empowered by the veil, not subjugated.
West, I have often encountered the common misconception that Muslim
women accept the veil like it’s some sort of collective
syndrome. I have spoken to a lot of folks, even the most educated
and enlightened among us, who believe that Muslim women know they’re
being subjugated and accept it. I have rarely encountered people
who see it as most Muslim women see it — a positive. I live
in a country, the UAE, where women do not have to wear the veil.
Some do anyway because they genuinely like it. Women here take
pride in their Abayas: they are expensive pieces of clothing that
can adapt to trends and patterns, and women spend a lot of time
and money on these valued pieces of clothing.
all Arabs are Muslims.
everyone in the Middle East is a Muslim is like saying everyone
in America is a Christian. Stop it. The picture is far more complex.
Just like there are different sects of Christianity, there are
also different sects of Islam like Sunni, Shi’a, Ismailis
and Ibadi to name but a few. From Druze, Orthodox Christianity,
and Zoroastrian: the Middle East is as religiously diverse as
Europe or America.
On a similar note, not all Muslims are Arabs. I remain staggered
by how often I encounter the misconception that the Middle East
ethnically homogenous mass. Many people from Turkey and Iran would
be offended by being called Arab. I have met many Arabic-speaking,
Muslim North Africans who identify as African rather than Arab
— make no assumptions.
are embarrassed and frightened by terrorism.
often come across the misconception where people think all Muslims
are ‘ISIS lite.’ They believe that other Muslims are
extreme, but are broadly sympathetic with terrorists like ISIS
and the 9/11 bombers. I can assure you that this is deeply untrue.
Every time I see that there has been a terrorist atrocity on the
news, I pray that the perpetrator is not an Arab or someone with
a Muslim name. I find it excruciating that people associate Arabs
solely with terrorism. My generation may not realize that this
is how the Irish were viewed from
the '60s to the '90s, during the Troubles — the phenomenon
of Muslim terrorism is more recent than many assume. The likelihood
of an American teenager and an Arab teenager being radicalized
is more similar than you may think.
don’t assume that the escalation of violence isn’t
just as frightening to us. We are nearer in proximity to the affected
and as the Mosque bombings in Yemen this March and in Kuwait show,
a supposedly shared religion means nothing to terrorists.
culture is not necessarily Muslim culture.
East is a culturally diverse place. The food is great (it’s
not just all chicken and rice!). The music and dance is soulful.
poetry and literature is romantic and moving. The art is colourful
and beautiful. While many see all aspects of Arab life intertwined
Islam, you don’t have to be a Muslim to appreciate any of
these aspects, which are cultural rather than religious.
Middle East is a beautiful, fun place to live.
half Emirati and half English. I hold a European passport and
I could happily live in Europe if I ever wanted to. I have, however,
chosen to relocate back to Dubai, where I grew up. I feel as though
the career opportunities for a recent graduate are far superior
than anywhere in Europe right now. I also feel that the quality
of life here is much better than in London. I know that Dubai
is unique in the Middle East, but the cities in Kuwait, Bahrain,
Qatar and Oman also offer unexpected opportunities as well. Since
moving back to Dubai, I’ve found myself with more free time
and more money to do my hobbies . . . and better weather to do
you have it, folks! There are many Arab women like me, going about
our day-to-day lives in the Middle East in a way the average
American woman would find eerily similar. I know that there are
a lot of political problems in the Middle East, and I don't ignore
them. But since they get so much more airtime on the news than
the good things happening here, I wanted people to be aware of
the fuller picture. The truth is that we have more in common with
the rest of the world than we have in difference.