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So -- When is an Arab an Arab?
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redeyes



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
Posts: 252

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:08 am    Post subject: So -- When is an Arab an Arab? Reply with quote

Ostensibly, it seems like a ludicrous question -- but it's one I'd like to ask people about.

So -- When is an Arab an Arab? And when is someone who has lived in the Middle East for thousands of years -- not an Arab and why not? Is "Arab" then, synonymous with "Muslim" in the ME?

The questions arises in my mind, because in my 20 years in EFL, I have taught many people from the Middle East of all three Abrahamic faiths and sometimes been surprised at who doesn't like the tag, "Arab" :

Now, let's start off from the premise that 3,000 years ago, the vast majority of people in those areas now called the Middle East, Levant or Gulf would have been either Jewish,heathen or pagans -- after the arrival of Christ's doctrine, then many of those same pagans and Jews in those same areas would have become Christian over the centuries, due to either social or economic or political pressures.

After that as we know after the time of Mohamed, there was a mass swelling of the numbers of Muslims who were excellent proselytisers and powerful conquerors. So, huge numbers of those who had been Jews, Pagans or Christians in those very same areas -- would have converted willingly as an economic, social move, or been compelled to convert by force.

However --- all the Middle Eastern Jews I have met from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, without exception-- would never dream of calling themselves Arabs -- even though their ancestors too , feasibly may have been Muslims or Christians at some time in their history,and they are certainly from the same gene pool as their Muslim and Christian brethren ,having lived in the same areas for thousands of years.

Many of the Christians I know from the Middle East seem very uncomfortable indeed being called Arabs -- and many clearly see themselves and their history as something very distinct from the term "Arab." I know Lebanese Christians who take real offence at being called Arabs, even though they too are certainly from the same gene pool as their Muslim and Jewish brethren in the very same areas.

But of course, ALL the Muslims I have met from the Middle East, without fail, are happy to call themselves Arabs -- of course they are. Why would they want to deny such an obvious , self evident thing?

But -- between a hundred and five hundred years ago or more -- those very same Arab Muslims -- are highly likely to have been Jews, pagans or Christians who had been forced to convert.

You see my point? Why are Middle Eastern Jews and Christians so rejecting of the tag "Arab" -- whilst Muslims immediately accept it -- even if those very same Muslims who accept it as self evident had surely been Jewish or Christian themselves a few hundred years ago?

So -- When is an Arab an Arab? And when,and why, is someone who has lived in the Middle East for thousands of years -- not an Arab? Is it a shifting defintion, depending on political flux and affiliation?
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lebanese Christians always claim their country is the Levant, and are most miffed about it being incorporated into the Middle East when they weren't looking.

Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian and Iraqi Christians obviously consider themselves Arab. Some Egyptian Copts might claim they were Egyptian, not Arab, but so presumably would some Egyptian Moslems.
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007



Joined: 30 Oct 2006
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Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:55 pm    Post subject: Re: So -- When is an Arab an Arab? Reply with quote

redeyes wrote:
So -- When is an Arab an Arab? And when,and why, is someone who has lived in the Middle East for thousands of years -- not an Arab? Is it a shifting defintion, depending on political flux and affiliation?

Well, it is like asking when is a Turkic a Turkic or when is an American Indians an Indian, or when is a British is a British?

Well, here is my formula when an Arab is an Arab:

An Arab is an Arab when it satisfies the following conditions (100% probability):

1. His mother and father are Arabs (Biologically/Genealogically)
2. His mother tongue is Arabic (Linguistically)
3. He belongs to one of the Arab tribes/country (culturally/historically)

And , I add this with 50/50 probability:

4. He belongs to a country in which the Arabic language is the official language! (Politically)

You notice that religion has nothing to do with it!

Now, let me ask you this:

When is an American an American?
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jdl



Joined: 06 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When he says he is, Bubba.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Arab is anyone whose native tongue is Arabic when we use the term in English. So, I think it is an outside term that concerns us while it concerns them not at all.

I found that many Muslim Egyptians considered themselves Egyptians, not Arabs. When I questioned this, they said that "Arabs" were those that lived in the "Arabian peninsula." The same with the rest of North Africa that speaks Arabic, but they are Africans. (something it is rare to have an Egyptian claim ownership of)

Most of the Levant could be considered the northern reaches of the Arabian peninsula... and we all know about the Lebanese permutations of identity.

VS
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jdl



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All settled then.
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scot47



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ethnicity is one of those questions that gets more complicated the more you look at it. "What is an Arab ?" "Who is English ?" is another good one. And as for "British" that is a huge can of worms.

By the way, Furtive Feline 007, "British" is an adjective. The substantive in Modern English is "Briton" - although never used. In colloquial langiage there is "Brit", first used in Northern Irealnd as a derogatory term.

So we can say "He is British" but not "He is a British".

the same applies to "Irish"

"He is an Irish" is not correct !
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007



Joined: 30 Oct 2006
Posts: 2684
Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
By the way, Furtive Feline 007, "British" is an adjective. The substantive in Modern English is "Briton" - although never used. In colloquial langiage there is "Brit", first used in Northern Irealnd as a derogatory term.

So we can say "He is British" but not "He is a British".

the same applies to "Irish"

"He is an Irish" is not correct !

Well, Uncle Scott, I know you are against Britishness! Laughing

"What is meant by Britishness? Is there a concept of Britishness? Yes, just as there is a concept of being Scandinavian. We eat fish and chips, we eat chicken masala, we watch East Enders. Are [the SNP] British? No, we are not. We consider ourselves Scottish"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britishness#cite_note-16
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redeyes



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

007 wrote --

"Well, here is my formula when an Arab is an Arab:

An Arab is an Arab when it satisfies the following conditions (100% probability):

1. His mother and father are Arabs (Biologically/Genealogically)
2. His mother tongue is Arabic (Linguistically)
3. He belongs to one of the Arab tribes/country (culturally/historically)

And , I add this with 50/50 probability:

4. He belongs to a country in which the Arabic language is the official language! (Politically)

You notice that religion has nothing to do with it! "

Thanks 007 -- now, can you tell me,and I am adhering to your definitions-- is an Iraqi Jew an Arab? Is a Lebanese Christian an Arab? Because, in keeping with your definitions 1/3. almost all of the people in most ME countries would have been Jewish,pagan ( even in Saudi) or Christian at one time before converting at the start of Islam, and are thererfore, in keeping with your definition 3, from the same tribe/countries.

And in keeping with your definition 2,particularly at the waning of Judaic and Christian power, all those would likely speak Arabic as a first language. Hebrew was only revived as spoken toungue ( as opposed to a "classical scholalrly toungue" like Latin) after Israel was created fifty years ago, and as we all know, even though many Lebanese like to see themselves as honorary Parisians, French wasn't spoken there much 500 years ago.

I am not bieng picky here or willfully creating convoluted logic for the heck of it -- I am interested in what people think about it.

Your category/definition 4 seems the most convincing I'd say, as a contemporary definition. I know ME Jews -- I am NOT talking about Ashkenazi Jews, who clearly aren't Arabs please note -- and I know Christians who certainly meet all your definitions 1-3, but don't accept being called Arabs. I'd say that's because of the politicial implications of the word.
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smedini



Joined: 24 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

veiledsentiments wrote:
An Arab is anyone whose native tongue is Arabic when we use the term in English.


I humbly submit, dear VS, that I have a few Iraqi Kurd friends who would be very quick to disagree with you on this one. Older members of their families can speak Kurdish while they cannot, and they speak Arabic as their first langauge having grown up under the intensely anti-Kurd regime of Mr. Hussein. However, they are quite vehement in their stance that they are NOT Arabs. A political iron fist and racial ideology dictated their mother tongue but did not change their ethnicity. (Incidentally, I have two Iranian Kurdish students right now, who feel the same way about NOT being Persian or any ethnic group other than Kurd).

IMHO
~smedini
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I mentioned there are plenty of Egyptian who don't consider themselves "Arabs" nor do many of the Lebanese and various other groups who for whatever political or religious reason do not want to consider themselves "Arabs."

It is under our usage of the term that anyone who speaks Arabic as their first language is an Arab - and it is outside their personal cultural religious or whatever they call themselves. I'm not aware of any group that calls themselves "Arabs."

I don't think they use the term. Perhaps the Saudis? It is our hangup not theirs...

VS
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Gulezar



Joined: 19 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:25 am    Post subject: ALL the Muslims Reply with quote

"But of course, ALL the Muslims I have met from the Middle East, without fail, are happy to call themselves Arabs -- of course they are. Why would they want to deny such an obvious , self evident thing? "

I think you might want to meet more Muslims from the Middle East. Have you met any Kurds or Iranians? The next question is, "Where do you draw the borders for the Middle East?" The next question, "Are your borders and definitions, theirs?"
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redeyes



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Gulezar thanks for your condescending wisdom -- wow, you don't say! What, Iranians aren't Arabs? You don't say. Who'd have thought it! You learn something new everyday, don't you....

Well, I know very well that Iranians are not Arabs but Persians, and that's why you'll notice I didn't mention Iranians once in the discussion. I thought that was a given we all understood -- but apparently not.Perhaps you'd like to give us a lecture on how Iranians are not Arabs -- I am sure it hadn't occurred to us. That would be enlightening.

A geography lesson from you would be good too, and a lesson on how we imperialists have misunderstood the map. Rolling Eyes

Hey, thanks.
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jdl



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Ostensibly, it seems like a ludicrous question"
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redeyes



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
Posts: 252

PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"When he says he is, Bubba."

Hey, jdl you are an eloquent kind of fellow aren't you? How do your students take such an intellectual kind of guy as you? Blinding wit there ....bubba.... Cool

Oh, for those of us who aren't versed in alabama/appalachian/Kentucky redneck hillbilly trailer vocabulary, I went to Merriam-Webster for the following :

Main Entry: Bub·ba
Pronunciation: \ˈbə-bə\
Function: noun
Etymology: from Bubba, a stereotypical nickname of Southern white males
Date: 1979
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