MAY 2003

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Is It Unpatriotic to Date an Arab Man?
By J.E. Safa

Q: I think Arab men are hot! They have steely eyes, the black hair, the severe chin, and the smooth skin. But can a twenty – something get it on with Arabs without being patriotic?
- Loves Arabs

A: Sure you can! The President of the United States has asked Americans to reach out to Arab Americans. He wants us to show the world that we’re fighting a war against terror and not against Islam or Arabs. Some patriotic Americans have heeded the President’s call by visiting mosques; others have patronized businesses owned by Arab Americans. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to reach out to Arab Americans and help the war effort. Unpatriotic? Nonsense! You’re answering the call of your Commander in Chief!
– The Village Voice: Hot Spot Savage Love byDan Savage January 23-29 2002.

After the heinous crimes of September 11, innocent Arab men have suffered from intense scrutiny and have been subjected to public humiliation. In the eyes of many Americans the Arab man has become a symbol of suspicion and possible danger. But has it come to the point that dating and Arab man could be considered unpatriotic? According to some Arab men, yes. They have been discriminated against romantically when it was revealed that they were Arab or of Arab descent.
Sami, a 32-year-old graphic designer, recalls being at a club when a sultry blonde approached him and asked him his name and where he was from. When he said Lebanon, she hightailed out of there never to be seen for the rest of the night. Then there is Amin, a young Yemeni born and raised in the U.S. who was dating a Puerto Rican girl for 3 years. After September 11 she broke up with him because she didn’t feel right dating an Arab anymore.

What do American women think of Arab men? Were Sami and Amin’s story isolated incidents or were they common occurrences? I interview 20 random women and asked them what they thought of Arab men. Out of the twenty, two had dated Arab men, three had friends who were linked romantically to an Arab and the rest had never been with one.

Angelina, 26, dated an Arab for more than three years. “My relationship was great except for the fact that he made it clear that we would never marry because his family wanted him to marry a nice Arab girl. I was OK with it because he was honest from the beginning. I enjoyed the time we had together. He was very sweet, caring, and generous in every way.” Maria 31, dated an Arab for a year. She claims to have had the best sex of her life and the most intense relationship ever. “We could have stayed together for a long time but we were wrapped up in our own lives!”

Of the three girls who had friends linked to Arab men, two were weary of dating them. Monica claimed that Habib used her friend so he could get his papers and remain in the United States. Jennifer said her friend had dated an egotistical bully who treated her like a slave and all Arab men were the same. Heather, on the other hand, loved her friend’s husband. They had been married for 4 wonderful years and she had even been over to Syria with them.

The rest of the women who had never had much contact with Arab men had interesting answers. Some claimed they didn’t feel right dating an Arab; it seemed like they were betraying their country. Even though they knew that many Arabs were Americans they just couldn’t do it and would get a lot of slack from their family and friends. Kathy, 28, claimed she wasn’t prejudiced but she wouldn’t allow herself to get into a relationship with an Arab stating too many cultural differences.

Katie, a 24 year old screamed, “Oh my God! Haven’t you seen not without my daughter? What if I fell in love with an Arab and he took me back home and held me hostage! I’ve heard too many stories like that!” I proceeded to explain that the man in the movie was from Iran and he was not Arab and that not all Arabs were Muslim, but it was all lost on her. Carmen insisted that an Arab man will only use you for sex and then dump you because they think American girls are easy.
Many other women claimed that they would definitely date an Arab man because it wasn’t their ethnicity that they were worried about but them as individuals. As long as the man was a good person the fact that they were Arab was irrelevant.

I used four pictures of different looking Arab men to help me see if all Arab men were considered to look the same. The man in the first picture could have been the cousin of Enrique Iglesias, the second man looked like the all-American blond next door, the third looked like the stereotypical Middle Eastern man, and the fourth had a body that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous. I asked the four women to identify the Arab from the four. Almost all four pointed to the stereotypical looking man. I asked them why they didn’t think that the blonde, blue-eyed male was Arab, and their response was because no Arab had blue eyes.

After the revelation that all the men were Arabs, many of the women were shocked. They were unaware of the fact Arabs came in all shapes and sizes and colors, that they are not all dark haired and dark eyed. Some blamed the media for the ignorance of the public. Lissa 32, said “Arabs are in the news these days all the time but they never look like the man with the beautiful body so it is easy for one to assume that they all look alike. It is just plain ignorance and despite all that has happened the pubic is still really ignorant of who Arabs really are.”

Is it considered unpatriotic to marry an Arab man? Some women actually did believe so. Other women thought the idea was ridiculous. Despite the media focus on Arabs and the progression to try to understand Arabs, many people seemed oblivious to the fact that all Arabs were not the same. They came from different countries, spoke different dialects, worshipped different Gods and observed different traditions. Although this little experiment cannot speak for the whole American public I really believe that most of the women are not prejudiced towards Arab men and those who would discriminate are not worth the time.

Translated from Arabic by Aramica Newspaper.

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