Author Discusses Arabs in America Stereotypes
November 8, 2006 5:41 PM
Filling most of Jack Adams Hall, students came out on Wednesday to hear Dr. Jack Shaheen speak about images of Arabs in America.
Shaheen, who wrote a book entitled, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” which delves into cinematic history citing the many films that depict gun-wielding and bomb exploding Arabs, said that the only way the for the portrayals and vilification of Arabs to stop is to understand them and realize that they are human too.
“Arabs are stereotyped in such a way that when you say the word, it makes many Americans think of a terrorist or Muslim,” Shaheen said.
Ramsey El-Qare, 25, a political science student, who introduced Shaheen, along with Jacqueline Husary, 26, an international relations student, said that today, in a post 9/11 world, Arabs are still vilified and misunderstood.
“This event was put on to educate and enlighten people at SF State about the mural,” El-Qare, said. “President Corrigan has denied the mural stating in his letters that it doesn’t follow the core values of SF State.”
El-Qare also said that Corrigan states in his letter that the mural portrays a hatred towards Jews.
“I find this ironic since one of the artists of the mural is a Jewish-American named Susan Greene,” he said.
Shaheen focused his presentation more upon the stereotypes of Arabs in America.
He kept the atmosphere of the event informal, nixing his introduction speech and simply starting of by saying, “we’ll just talk,” as he casually took off his jacket.
He stated that Hollywood has perpetuated an image of Arabs in cinema for over a hundred years that taught children at a young age to hate and despise Arabs.
“Politics and media are interlinked,” Shaheen said. “Media follows policy and always has.”
Shaheen said he believes that media and entertainment have created a stereotype of Arabs, as well as what he called “cultural others.” He listed a few ways in which one may identify a “cultural other” based on how they are portrayed in entertainment.
“They look different, they have different facial features – usually dark skin – they have an accent and have different clothes,” he said. “They are inept in the bedroom and on the battlefield, they are unattached to family, and they worship a different deity.”
He said that the reason “cultural others” are portrayed in such a way is because of a lack of understanding.
“Dr. Shaheen gives Arabs a voice that needs to be heard,” Husary said. “Arabs are victimized by media influence and need to be portrayed accurately.”
Shaheen brought a short film called “Planet of the Arabs,” which, he said, was made by Jacqueline Salloum, who was inspired to make the film after reading “Reel Bad Arabs.”
The film was short and showed clips of numerous American movies that portrayed Arabs in a negative way. Each film had Arabs holding, or shooting a gun, they all had dark skin with facial hair, in a desert and spoke with an accent
Even movies that have nothing to do with the Middle East have Arab stereotypes,” Shaheen said, citing “Back to the Future,” as one such film.
“Planet of the Arabs” ended Shaheen’s presentation, but not before he asked the audience to do to things to help de-myth Arab stereotypes and help end their vilification in American.
“Buy my book, but nor for my profit, but because it is a valuable tool in contesting discrimination, and become movers and shakers. Count yourselves as part of a goodwill club and do not let media images speak for you and compromise your personal integrity.”
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