To give a background of sorts — we work in a multi-cultural publishing house. Our colleagues — full-time, part-time, freelance and extended company — hail from a whole load of different countries: Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Poland, Britain, USA, Bahrain…
And this is what we have noticed of the Arabs. They can be funny and kind and friendly and helpful (rarely all of it at the same time!) and occasionally professional. But they are not often aware of the world beyond their comfort zone, nor are they open minded.
We have colleagues who have worked with us for nearly five years, and know little or nothing about the other cultures they are exposed to. We have Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and non-Arab Muslims working together.
But to them we are all collectively known as ‘non Arabs’ who eat unappetising food (real rich coming from someone who lives on macaroni and foul beans) and speak a funny tongue. And culture? Whatever could that be?
They never once wish us for Diwali or Christmas or Onam. Not even when we thrust some goodies on them for the occasion.
Every time we have an official lunch or an office get together, the ‘non-Arabs’ indulge their intolerance by opting for an Arab cuisine restaurant. Because if there is one thing ‘they’ can really do better than the rest of us put together, it is sulk and crib.
However, for the sake of peace and harmony, and also because the rest of us don’t mind different experiences, we go with what pleases them. We organise Iftars and celebrate Eids.
The worst of it is that they take our accommodations for granted.
Yet, what I feel towards them is not anger.
It is pity, and a gleeful sense of superiority.
A race that has contributed so much to astronomy and mathematics, and who were known for their adventurous spirit and explorations, is now reduced to a bunch of ignorant, narrow minded and insular people.
When we talk about their authors, their food and their landmarks, why do they never show curiosity about the different cultures they interact with daily?
They can’t even accept that non-Arab Muslims may have a different way of practising their religion. It’s their way or haram**case point below**.
In fact few of them show interest in other Arab nations, even. So where is the question of wanting to know more about Poland and Nepal?
They know Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. But please!!!!!!!!!!!!
As I said… every bit of indifference they display is for me a point scored on behalf of the society, religion and culture that moulded me and people like me.
** Case 1: We were discussing a contact we knew at work. The guy is a Hindu, married to a Muslim. And immediately, barked a colleague… oh, she is no Muslim. When we tried explaining that in India there was provision for people of different faiths to marry without conversion, he turned a deaf ear to our explanation and maintained that if the husband was a Hindu, then she can’t be a Muslim.
** Case 2: I described a friend as a devout Muslim — meaning she prays, and believes and does charity and observes Ramadan. The response: She can’t be, because she doesn’t cover her hair, and wears blouses that expose her hands.