March 08, 2008
MENA & Race
Worthy of discussion and comment, a comment by Nisreen Malik in Comment is Free (The Guardian) on Race & the Arab world, from a Sudanese perspective. The comments sadly are fairly unenlightening, but certainly the issue of "race" and colour in the Arab World (or perhaps the Arab & Islamic Worlds, etc) is worthy of some reflexion. Of course nothing there is "new" in a sense, but it is good to return to such tihngs now and again.
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Racism is a HUGE issue in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. I dont believe I have ever encountered racism like I have in the Middle East.
At least here in the USA and Europe racism is not usually as open and as accepted as it is in these areas. In the Middle East it is out in the open for everyone to see and almost no one sees the need to be quiet when expressing it.
Another instance of where Islamic lands are not so "Islamic".
Thanks for posting.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at March 9, 2008 12:36 AM
Racism in the Middle East and North Africa reminds me of Brazilian racism, c. 1970s (or now I suppose). An ideology of supposed mixing and equality disguises unexamined racist beliefs.
It's also, especially in the East, mixed up with out and out tribalism (sometimes the bloodline trumps the colour as well I would note - perhaps often if the bloodline is right).
However, I agree, due to its being "unexamined" (from within, not outsiders) in general, people openly express rather nasty attitudes. What is moderately amusing now and again is hearing self-same person touting Islam's superiority over Religion X in the area of colour and race, after having expressed at some point earlier fundamentally racist attitudes.
Really queer, actually. Well, Beni Adam, Beni Adam.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at March 9, 2008 07:03 AM
The bloodline OFTEN trumps skin colour, I think, in those tribal societies where bloodlines matter. Where they do not, of course, not.
The Darfur tangle is, as you (L) have pointed out before, an excellent example. It is portrayed as white-on-black, run as a race issue by US activists, and a good number of the participants say the same (not only for outside consumption). But looking purely at skin colour, just about everyone involved is in fact pretty darned black.
Posted by: alle at March 9, 2008 10:08 AM
In the Sahara, I remember seeing a person with substantially darker skin than Condoleeza Rice mock her for being black. As far as he and most other people in town were concerned, the colour of his skin had nothing to do with whether he was black or not - what counted was his non-sub-Saharan patrilineal ancestry (ie, not being descended from slaves or serfs, at least through the male line.) That said, I doubt he would have been considered white on the coast, no matter where his forefathers came from...
I also noticed that, in local usage, 3unsuriya (the usual translation is "racism") mainly meant "discrimination against people of another tribe" rather than "discrimination on the basis of colour". Is that true in other tribal areas?
Posted by: Anonymous at March 9, 2008 02:26 PM
Yes, Patrilineal ancestry trumps actual skin colour in most instances.... but not all, and the skin colour is an overlay on other issues.
Again, reminds one of Brazil in the end.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at March 9, 2008 02:48 PM
racism = power + privilege + prejudice
It would be interesting to read in-depth about the race-power dynamics in MENA.
Posted by: Leda at March 29, 2008 04:20 PM