Two Excellences of Arab Culture

I am an Arab-American woman. Not long ago, I might not have announced that fact as proudly as I do today. In the past twenty-five years, Arab-American women have had a blossoming consciousness of their bi-cultural identity. We have grown up in an American culture, ambivalent about our Middle Eastern heritage. Many of us, especially second- and third-generation Arab women, became invisible in mainstream America.

The American media has not been kind to Arab women. We have seen ourselves inaccurately portrayed as male-dominated belly-dancing caricatures, often hidden behind a veil. (I'm reminded of my own wearing of a veil as a Roman Catholic nun. It was my choice. The media forgets that many women in the Middle East are making a choice.)

As a consequence of stereotyping, many of us internalized the prejudice and felt shame and confusion about who we were. We chose to become invisible as Arab women to protect ourselves.

With the women's liberation movement, we have joined women of all backgrounds in pursuit of liberation. Now we face the challenge of breaking the stereotype of Arab women. We are productive, intelligent citizens with a deep and long history of contributions to civilization.

Two powerful aspects of Arab culture that are important to me are the commitment to family and the bonding of women with women. The sense of family extends to uncles, aunts, and cousins. When one is in distress, there is a wide circle of support and love. I love the way Arab culture encourages closeness between women. This inherent part of Arab culture is not so rich or strong in the West.

In Lebanon, before the country deteriorated in war, women were achieving status in education, business, and finance. In Egypt, women are obtaining advanced degrees, entering professions equal to men. Here in the United States, Arab-American women are achieving high level positions. We are doctors, educators, judges, priests, and politicians. Christa McAuliff, an Arab-American, beautifully demonstrated the kind of leadership and spirit that is in our blood. Candy Lightner modeled determination and intelligence as she built and continues to lead the USA national organization of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).

I am proud to be an Arab-American woman.

Adele Azar
Maitland, Florida, USA

Last modified: 2015-07-21 10:16:59-07