The Good Arab Department

If you read papers like those of Oriana fallacci, Daniel Pipes, Alain Finkielkraut, Bat Ye’or and others about a so-called Arab/Muslim conspiracy to take over Europe, and some other complicated theories about a hypothetical European-Arab Axis (Eurabia) aimed at crushing… guess who… Israel (surprise! surprise!), you have the feeling that their arguments are so ludicrous that it is unlikely that their assumptions would ever caught fire.

The surprise comes when you talk with people whom you assume, are of higher education and distinctive intellect, reproducing and embracing the same moronic theories.

I was called a “Good Arab” and I barely retained my rage at the person who uttered the words and who probably acted more out of ignorance than out of any conscientious racism; albeit “positive”. Adding insult to injury, the lady (a doctor) went on to explain that “most Arabs (she knew) were so attached to their cultures of origin that it makes them so inherently ineligible for integration into the western civilization,” and she went on hinting at “a probable concerted attitude by the Muslims (she often switches inadvertently from Arab to Muslim) to re-establish their [incompatible] culture on European soil…”


I was wordless. “now” I finally replied, “are you (meaning: you, white, Christian, catholic I guess) going to create a special set of characteristics to distinguish ‘Good Arabs’ like me from the other pesky folks?”

“Maybe you should park all of us in different departments” I added, “and also pin labels on our clothes so that we would be easily distinguishable… huh!”

“My word! what makes people like you any different from the Nazis?” At which point, to my greatest relief, we parted company.

I spent the last two or three weeks wandering around Morocco, enjoying my newly acquired status of a married man (which is the main reason that kept me away from blogging that long), but today I realize again how Europe despite all the advantages it unquestionably offered me, remains a mined field in spite of all the horrors of the past.

8 thoughts on “The Good Arab Department

  1. First of all, congratulations and best wishes for this big step:-)
    “A good arab” is usually an expression used to hide an unconscious (and even conscious) racist way of thinking..

    Very nice blog.

  2. The topic of racism came up in class the other week and I argued that part of the reason that African remain economical underdeveloped was due to racism (it seems a litle suspicious that all the predominately white countries are developed). A classmate disagreed, claiming that Asian “yellow skinned” people (I guess she thought it was OK to use the phrase because she is Indian) had been attracting FDI and was there really a difference between them and African. People that believe racism is dead have been living under a rock!

  3. Oh, yeah- Congrats on your marriage! Definitely a good excuse for not blogging lately. I wish you and your wife all the best.

  4. @Naim & Reb:

    Thank you brothers for your kind words. Racism is indeed well entrenched on the European soil. It must be constantly and systematically debunked otherwise it has a natural tendency of spreading and contaminating. One must be aware of the hidden form of it, branded often as “ordinary” racism. I kid you not, I heard this awful simplification many time since I’ve been in France.

    Thank you fellows again and please do visit and watch this space as regularly as you can.

  5. Congratulations on your marriage. بالرفاه والبنين
    Racism is like a virus against which a cure is hard to find, once it is entrenched in the body. Actually it’s the racists that suffer most because they don’t seek to know the good and the human side of the other that they see racially.

  6. Hisham, congratulations on your marriage! That was unexpected, to me anyway… since your blog is political not personal 😉

    I stopped by today because I haven’t seen you in a long time, and I was touched to notice that you called me your favorite blogger in an earlier post! It’s true that I was resting — doing lots of offline reading, and working on a novel — but I’ve written some new posts this month, so I’m back more or less. During my “vacation” I would sometimes feel guilty that I might be letting you down, after all the encouraging words you left me!

    About that earlier post where you say that America needs to change… do you think that any of the presidential candidates could bring such a change? As you may know, “change” is a big issue in this campaign, with Hillary and Obama competing to be the best change agent, and Obama is winning. Do you think that Obama is succeeding in bringing a new breath to politics, letting voices be heard who were excluded before, or is it all just hype? Just as importantly, if he succeeds, are there lessons in it for politicians and young people in a place like Morocco which also needs change?

    About unconscious racism, it sucks, doesn’t it? The idea that Arabs or Muslims can’t integrate in the West has been around for a long time. And it’s interesting how Westerners seek out Muslim “Uncle Toms” to tell them what they want to hear, that cultures with Islamic roots are incapable of evolving on their own, so Arabs just have to reject them and be Western. Anything short of that is proof of the premise that Arabs can’t integrate!

    A Moroccan friend tipped me off to a debate between Abdelwahab Meddeb and Tariq Ramadan in this regard… it starts here but is in six parts. I’d like to know what you think.

    It’s good to have you back!

  7. @Abdelilah:

    بارك الله فيك يا أخي العزيز

    Hope next time I’m around in Marrakech we’ll be able to meet in real life and have a discussion (That’s an exciting prospect isn’t it) on the so many centres of interest we share. Good to see your wise comments and analyses back on this humble blog.


    I don’t see any reason for you to feel guilty about anything. I fully understood your state of mind at the time you decided to take some ‘vacation’ and I was in full empathy with the logic of it since you eloquently explained what motivated your wise retreat.

    I’m very flattered -by the way- by the fact that an intelligent (and now famous) blogger like you my friend, finds an interest in knowing what my positions would be in the current race taking place in the US. And It’s a pleasure for me to answer your queries.

    First, I can’t help having serious doubts about the ability of Barak Obama to change (which is the only candidate of seemingly progressive agenda who have the potential and cash to make it to the white house, something people like D. Kucinic can’t unfortunately claim). I may be wrong but I understand that the system of governance in America is now so locked that it is almost practically impossible to change it through mere political process albeit democratic. I mean that the political system in Washington is designed in a way to give ordinary Americans the IMPRESSION of democracy whilst the real power holders (the oligarchy) remain in the shadows, invisible, putting pressure on what ever administration is in place, what ever congress comes, with the potential of shaping policies and manufacturing decisions. Does Obama have the willingness, and later will he have the ability to change things? I doubt it. I think that the USA needs a grass root revolution. A non-violent but decisive one. Which form or shape will it take? I have no idea. The left in America has abandoned the battle for too long and has given up too much for the two hegemonistic (business-)parties.

    Having said that, I agree that Obama may bring some new input to the American political machine. The very fact of having a young black man as the head of the most powerful empire the world has ever witnessed, could have a warming and pacifying effect on world politics. You must admit that having to support the ugly faces of the Bushies on the Tele everyday in itself may have contributed to many tragedies.

    As for lessons that the hoped victory of Obama would bring to politicians and young people in my own Morocco, I think that if Mr. Barak proves to be what he claims to be, a self-made, progressive candidate who fights for change, then he would surely be a role model for all of those disenfranchised, socially- (and sometimes even racially-) abused people in my country. Obviously, the people of the Makhzen (Fouad Ali el Himma and Co.) will adapt. It will be business as usual for the Moroccan power, making sure that the civil society and voices of decent are kept as silent and invisible as possible.

    Keep up the good spirit my dear friend. May your fight for justice and genuine liberty for all bring you personal satisfaction and meaning to your life. As for the future of America… I think it’s wise to cautiously wait and see.

  8. Hisham, am I really famous? I thought being famous meant being invited to the wedding of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or at least getting a call from the Dalai Lama when he’s in town. Of course, I’d rather be “famous” to a few people I care about, than have all that trouble. So thanks for the words of friendship and support.

    Thanks too for giving me your impressions of Obama and the possiblities for change. I have to say, I agree with pretty much everything you said, so I can’t find much to add. I share your cautiously optimistc feeling. We can’t expect a superpower to give up its privileges, but there are ways to be less obnoxious about it, and do a better job of relating to the aspirations of the rest of the world.

    I took your idea about “grass-roots revolution” and applied it to Morocco instead of the U.S., but I did that on my own blog, in response to your comment there. You know how I feel about this, I think. Don’t we all share the same roots? Isn’t it one revolution or none at all? The aspirations of Moroccans and Americans for justice and peace are the same….

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