What does it mean to be an Arab?

Hollywood has had fun defining this one, with a huge whitewashing of their Arabian characters, or the general paint brushing them all to be terrorists or misfits. But what does it mean to be Arab?

The dictionary defines it as someone originating “from the Arabian peninsula and neighbouring territories, inhabiting much of the Middle East and North Africa.” But to me, this isn’t enough. Telling me where I’m from geographically doesn’t help to tell me what it means to be me, or to be one of the millions who also take pride in being called Arab.

The beauty of being an Arab means that one does not need to be defined by their religion, the colour of their skin, their background, their gender or their belief system. The one person who describes so perfectly is Imam Ghazali when he says:

“When I speak of an Arab, I do not specify a specific bloodline but rather every Arabic speaker, a member of the nation of Arabs, subscribes to its message. He is peaceful and means no hardship to his people, and is a thorn to his enemies, and he who does not take on these traits is not of the Arabs, even if he was born at the heart of Mekkah. He who has all these and is born with dark skin, he is still of the realest of Arabs, for neither his skin, not his gender differentiates him.”

And in my opinion, the one man who has actually encapsulated this better than anyone else is the Tunisian poet, Anis Chouchène. He addresses how we cannot accept change, whether it is in the form of race, religion or sexual orientation. He says:

“Let is try to embrace our differences with our souls. Here I am, in front of you all, with my colour, with my hair, with my poetry, with my peculiarities, with my ideas, I am not afraid of you. I do not fear that you’re different from me because I am part you and you are part of me.”

Watch the full poem below (and click the subtitles option for the English translation).

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