I've come to a startling (though it shouldn't have been) realization. The kids I'm currently teaching have known Islamic fundamentalists as their generation's bad guys for just about half their lives. They've grown up with one particular image of Muslims and that's of enormous beardy blokes willing to blow up any soft vulnerable flesh that gets between them and their perception of heaven and justice.
The confusion over Arabs, Muslims, and various brown people has also caused me some concern (ie. that poor Brazilian chap, Jean Charles de Menezes, who got gunned down by nervous cops in London.) I can't really blame these kids for being wary of Arabs/Muslims/people with great tans and sexy dark eyes. They've just lived a huge chunk of their lives knowing that an awful lot of "those people" don't care much for America nor its citizens, regardless of their age, sex, race, or religion. So although I'm not a practicing Muslim, I count myself among the feared and hated simply because people don't make the distinction between the two either.
So let's look at one very specific Arab then, shall we? Moi. Except for very specific circumstances, I don't usually believe in violence as a means for solving conflict. Aside from elbowing perverts when I was a kid, I've never intentionally physically harmed another human being. Before I come across as holier-than-thou, let's examine my background: My fortunate circumstances of living a comfortable life in a country untouched by war or excessive poverty, with parents who never taught me that violence was a solution, with one of the best educational opportunities on offer in the region, and to be instilled with the belief that I have multiple opportunities open to me in terms of my future... All of this has made me a fairly easy going person. Not all Arabs or Muslims my students have grown to fear have had all of these opportunities in life, so I don't count myself superior to the ones that use violence as a solution, just luckier.
I'm not without faults and I frequently fall victim to human folly, but I'm proud to represent "my people" in a positive light whenever I can. I may not be much at all like any of the other women from my country (not at ALL, especially seeing as I'm half British too), but half my genes and place of residence for most of my life can't be entirely irrelevant to who I am. It must have influenced me beyond giving me a taste for chicken shawarma sandwiches with tahini sauce, fries, and pickles.
I am Arab. I don't believe in violence to get a point across. I'm only excessively hairy in the winter time when I figure "fuck it, I'll wear jeans again today". I believe a lack of education is a huge factor in holding back the promise of peace in the Middle East. If you don't have a future to hope for, what's the point in being anything other than cannon fodder? I also believe an unwillingness for compromise, when neither side will concede to complete defeat, is another huge impediment. Israel was created, it won't go away. On the other side, I don't think Palestine should shrink any more than it's already done, nor should fences hold its people back from the land they rely on for income. I also believe that corrupt political leadership which prioritizes demonizing the enemy as opposed to building up national infrastructure, educational facilities, proper health care, respect for human rights, and bridges to other cultures and nations are a cancer to all mankind. That goes for ANY shitty government, ANYWHERE.
I am Arab and I believe in the opportunity for peace and progress, I believe in capitalism, science, democracy, liberty, and human rights. I believe we are flawed but what makes a human being truly beautiful is the desire and the pursuit to rise above those imperfections to make this world a little bit better for our having been here. However, I'm only one person and there are only so many talks I've been able to give to children and adults seeking answers. We need to see more non-violent Arabs and Muslims in the media to prove we're not a bunch of raving lunatics with bombs strapped to our guts. Where are they all? Where's my back-up, peeps? Do we need to hire more Indians to play us on TV?
Sigh. I'm tired. I think I raced through way too many random thoughts as I stumbled upon them. Forgive me if I sound stupid in this post, I just wanted to explore and ruminate a bit. Re-reading this, I realize how naive, spoiled, ignorant, and childishly idealistic I sound... It reminds me of my adolescent diary... Yeesh... I guess I'll shut up now and go stuff my face with snacks while catching up on a billion shows on my inundated DVR.