Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Self-hating Arab

Arabs come in all different shapes and sizes – physically (obviously), ideologically, politically, religiously, philosophically, etcetera. We’re not all the same (shock, horror). But there's a particular kind of Arab out there that's pretty damn sleazy and contemptible because of their condescending nature towards the Arab world. They're known as the self-hating Arab. In political terms, the self-hating Arab is a neoconservative, Orientalist and colonialist who cosies up to the supremacist idea that Arabs are a backwards people, are unenlightened, uneducated and uncultured, and thus deserve to have the shit bombed out of them. They're either vague with their racism or outrageously blunt about it. And we all know at least one.

Self-hating Arabs feel ethnically cursed. They speak about Arabs in sweeping generalisations with a holier-than-thou attitude. They’re your typical anti-Arab bigot with ‘liberal’ Zionist tendencies who spout run-of-the-mill pro-imperialist slush, except they have Arab parents and lineage. And they probably appreciate the almightiness of tabouli more than your average racist nong ever could. 

Even though they hate being Arab, they like to proclaim that they’re Arab whenever they can in order to give their views some kind of legitimacy. The self-hating Arab conflates Islamic extremism with all things Arab and all things Muslim. And no matter how hard you try to explain to them that they’re peddling thoughtless crap, words like 'jihad', 'Islamism', 'terrorism', 'holy war', 'honour killings' and 'Sharia' become further embedded in their anti-Arab Islamophobic lexicon. They sound a lot like Dubya, his flag-waving minions and all far-right bigots across the world who are obsessed with ‘preserving’ freedom by denying it to everyone but themselves. 

Where does a self-hating Arab’s anti-Arab sentiment come from? I can’t say. Indoctrination? Mixing in with the warmongering crowd? Being deprived of babaganoush for many years? Built-up resentment because they can’t rock a kuffiyeh as well as the rest of us can?

What I do know is that the self-hating Arab believes it's almost the duty of the enlightened Western world to bring ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ to the Middle East. Especially when ‘democracy’ is brought about through coups, installations and corruption. They’re the kind of people who attempt to rationalise the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. To them, Western intervention is really the West ‘stepping in’ and undertaking a well-intentioned humanitarian venture to save brown people from…their resources? And crazy Muslamics. (I, personally, wasn’t aware that humanitarianism meant occupying, bombing, raping and imprisoning people and urinating on civilian corpses). They’ll justify these crusades with “these things sorta need to be done” – even in the name of a Wickedly Monumental Duping. To them, Arab people are criminals while NATO is a bastion of democracy, rainbows and glitter. These White Knight nations are only looking out for the masses in the Middle East, Asia and South America, after all.

Of course, there are plenty of non-Arabs around who subscribe to the same sort of thinking. But it’s particularly irksome when an Arab adopts that kind of bigotry. You would expect (rather naively at times) that they would have a more intimate understanding, more empathy, given their background. Their anti-Arabism is dangerous because they become spokespeople, ‘insiders’, for right-leaning chauvinistic extremists who forever look out for ways to make their racism seem okay. 

The self-hating Arab, like all supremacists, is also inconsistent when it comes to human rights abuses. People who are inconsistent are usually the sort who don’t care for or respect the universality of human rights. While, for example, parts of the Arab world are responsible for human rights abuses against women (given the strong patriarchal culture) – which do need to be (and are being) addressed – a self-hating Arab will conveniently forget the crimes against humanity, war crimes and years of colonialist suffering committed against the Arab people by intervening foreign powers and also frustratingly deny the fact that Western imperialism is majorly responsible for the Arab world’s detrimental state of affairs. 

And when it comes to Palestine and Israel, self-hating Arabs regard the conflict as religious and throw ‘Islamic terrorism’ around as though it actually has much of a place in a largely secular struggle. According to them, sixty-three years of struggle against apartheid, dispossession, occupation and collective punishment either a) happens for good reason or b) is the fault of Palestinians. Prominent Arab Zionists, including the likes of Ray Hanania, Maikel Nabil Sanad and Nonie Darwish (founder of Arabs for Israel) would say so.

If Western hegemony were the sun, self-hating Arabs happily sun bake in it. They're uber tanned. Crispy, almost. To them, the Arab culture is inferior. And while we all have our qualms with certain parts of the culture and Arab society, self-hating Arabs dehumanise the people and their ways. For example, while they attempt to pride themselves on choice and freedom for women, they cannot seem to tolerate the idea of women who choose to cover up either.

Really, imperialism and racism sucks. No one likes an anti-Arab, so imagine an anti-Arab Arab. Anti-Arabception. It hurts to think about that double-whammy.


Lina Adnani said...

While I don't disagree with you, I don't think that all self-hating Arabs are the way you describe them to be. It's not just about hating Arabs and everything about them... And not just denying massacres and what have you. I don't think that they're all that extreme. I think there are some self-hating Arabs that don't hate themselves for being Arab, and they don't hate Arabness... I can't tell you exactly how they are.... I simply think that there are less extreme self-hating Arabs who are unsure of what Arabs are in the first place... what THEY are... The kind of self hating arabs that think that Arabs need to better themselves, but NOT have western colonisers try and "fix" them.

Sorry if it makes no sense!

Anonymous said...

Like Lina I think the spectrum of "self-hating Arab" is a bit broader than you paint. I disagree with the term because in many cases I see it used as a pejorative to describe someone who concedes that there are faults with the political systems of many Arab nations. I see this kind of criticism as a healthy form of questioning rather than self-hatred per se. I think that as a group we can improve ourselves and I don't see that as a negative thing. The spirit of building and improving is constructive if anything.

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