Thursday, May 13, 2010

Harsh View of Arab Family

Rima Mehri

Rima Mehri, an Arab from Lebanon, writing "Is the Arab world a graveyard for love?" for The Boston Globe (May 8, 2010), presents a rather harsh view of the Arab family:
Take the regular Arab [who is] surviving corrupt governments, political turmoil, religious intolerance, struggling economies, terrorism, and ask him what love is.

He'll say, "My family."

And yet this sacred institution lies at the heart of the instigation of fear, mistrust, and rejection of other sects. More than any other social ailment, sectarianism has turned the Arab world into a graveyard for love.

Typically, if your partner does not come with the correct religious label for the family, then it isn't love. It's more like an assault on the family honor, a social disgrace, and complete disrespect for culture and roots.

If you intermarry, you are usually ostracized for being a traitor to your parents, religion, and community. And suppose you can withstand the pressure, what happens to love when your children are rejected as second-class citizens?

Many of us come to the West to escape the intolerance of the Arab world. We get the education, acquire new attitudes, and broaden our perspectives, but we are shoved back to the starting point the moment we return to our communities.

The West makes us and the East breaks us again.
Ms. Merhi doesn't specify the the Muslim Arab family, so one could infer that she means that the problem with 'Arab' families is a cultural rather than religious one, but she keeps refering to religion as a factor, and happens to say this:
Certainly there are Arabs who would not intermarry out of religious convictions. The attack on Islam in the West makes many Muslim Arabs more protective of their religion.
This implies that the Muslim Arab family has tighter restrictions on its members, but it also blames the West by asserting a common Muslim accusation, namely, that there is an "attack on Islam in the West." The assertion is left unexplained here, but it often includes attacks on Islamism as attacks on Islam, which would be an interesting conflation to examine more closely since it implies that the Muslim making the assertion sees no difference between Islamism and Islam.

I don't know precisely what Ms. Mehri meant by her assertion of this Muslim meme, and she might not even be Muslim, but I'd like to see her explore her own obscure assumptions on this point. By "attack on Islam," does she mean the invasion of Baathist Iraq, the war against such Islamists as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the hunt for Islamist terrorists, the laws against veils and burqas in Europe, the ridicule of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, the rare, random physical attack on a Muslim, or all of these together? Would these all add up to an "attack on Islam" that "makes many Muslim Arabs more protective of their religion" and presses them to tighten the bonds and boundaries of the family?

Or does the problem lie more with the Arab Muslim family itself, as Ms. Mehri's article otherwise seems to imply without quite explicating.

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