Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Drop The A Word!

By Sheikha Al Dosary
Over the years, I have failed completely to erase the word “Abd” from my family’s dictionary, when talking about black or African people. It is such a frequently used term in Arab society in general and in the Gulf region in particular. Changing this has always been a hard task in a society where tribalism is the norm and a person’s origin is seen as a basis of honor!

Thankfully, a new social media campaign has been lunched recently to fight racism among the Arab and Muslim American community. #DroptheAWord urges Arabs to avoid using Arabic racial slurs against African Americans.

The Arabic word “abed” and its plural form “abeed” mean “slave” or “servant” and should not be acceptable when used in a racial or derogatory sense. Many Arabs often use them as slurs to label black people, regardless of their social or financial status.

Earlier this year, Muslim Americans formed the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), a volunteer-driven education organization to deal with racism. It also aims to establish a web-based portal with resources and workshop materials available to any American Muslim/interfaith community seeking to challenge racism and/or anti-blackness.

At the same time in Saudi Arabia, Nawal Al-Hawsawi, a black Saudi, has begun the first ever campaign against racism in the country. After two ladies insulted her at a shopping mall with the word “Al-Abda,” Arabic for female slave, she sued them. They attempted to apologize later on but she still pursued her case. It was referred to the Commission for Investigation and Prosecution and is waiting for a final decision.

Meanwhile, she launched a Twitter campaign at #Al-Abdah to fight and raise awareness against racism in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with MBC said that she will not ignore verbal abuse or unacceptable and rude labels. Al-Hawsawi is demanding change through the power in people.

Some Saudis referred to her as “Rosa Parks” yet I believe this is an unfair comparison considering the social context. Saudi law, as in other Arab countries, grants equal opportunities to all regardless of race, yet cultural standards and tribalism still discriminate and distinguish between people.

In the Middle East, we still lack civil liberty groups fighting against racism. It is almost impossible to get data about this ugly phenomenon. Some Arabs still live in denial of this problem. However we all know it exists; we either witness or experience it. We need to do more than just dropping the “A” word. It is time to stop discrimination in all its forms and drop words with other letters of the alphabet.

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