May 17, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6930

Jordanian Writer: Before Arabs Condemn Trump's Racism, They Must Deal With Widespread Racism In Their Midst

May 17, 2017
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 6930

On February 11, 2017, Maher Abu Tair, a columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, published an article arguing that Arab society is rife with discrimination, racism, and labeling, which are expressed in marginalizing the other, patronizing him, and avoiding marriage to those of different statuses or sects. He called on Arabs to examine their own behavior before condemning the racism of U.S. President Donald Trump, while agreeing that it was worthy of condemnation.[1]

Maher Abu Tair (image:

Following are excerpts from the article:[2]

"The racism of U.S. President Donald Trump is very useful, because it greatly expands [the discourse] on discrimination and racism throughout the world, which are not unique to Trump, but are also widespread among Arabs, even extremely widespread. The lives of Arabs are based on discrimination, racism, and labeling... Checking the race, origin, religion, or skin color of families and individuals are routine [among Arabs].

"Is this discrimination not bizarre, given that it totally contradicts the fundamentals of Islam, which forbids discrimination[?] We generally patronize [other] peoples and consider them inferior to us. For example, [we see] the Chinese as an infidel who is none too clean [and] the German as arrogant and condescending; the African receives countless descriptions from us; the Indonesian is our house servant and nothing more; and the Indians are at the bottom of the ladder of nations. Thus, we label people left and right, even though [these nicknames] are rich in discrimination, labeling and racism, and are [also] inaccurate...

"This also spills over into the issue of marriage in the Arab world. We all know the old stories [about this], some of which are still relevant, since a Bedouin does not marry a woman from the village; an urban woman is not interested in a village man; and a village man does not want [to marry] a Bedouin. Name-calling, labeling, and [arguing] over who is better are common even among [residents] of the same area. Some Arab peoples are divided internally, and these divisions reflect discrimination, racism, and social layering, and do not reflect the spirit of a unified country at all. You sometimes hear of a country where marriage cannot take place if the man is from a certain area and the woman's origin is from a different continent, or she has a certain skin tone.

"By Allah, how can we brandish [anti-discrimination] slogans while doing the exact opposite?

"The waves of hatred [displayed] by the American president towards refugees and certain countries are likewise common among Arabs, even though they are members of the same race, religion, and culture. Thus, the Iraqi who once [took refuge] in Syria is the same Iraqi who does not want to receive Syrians [today] and hopes they die in a bombing. The Lebanese who once lived in Syria now complains a lot about Syrian [refugees in Lebanon] and does not wish to see them [in his country]. The Egyptian who lived for decades in Libya is furious at the Libyans pouring into his country, and the Libyan who is hurt by this Egyptian sentiment wants his country to close its gates to Tunisians.

"This has escalated to forms of religious and sectarian discrimination, and everyone knows that discrimination is breaking records: When you are told that 'so-and-so is a Christian, but despite this he is a good person,' this utterance contains racism of the highest form, as though Christians are [generally] not good and this person is an exception. When you hear that 'so-and-so is Syrian but he is different,' this is a slur against all Syrians [because it implies that this person] is an exception. The same [applies when you are told someone is] a Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan, or Yemeni, 'but is a good person'... This is latent racism...

"If Arabs and Muslims employ discrimination and racism amongst themselves, how can they come out against what the U.S. president is doing[?!] Many turn a blind eye to all [these] despicable displays of racism that we witness living in the Arab world... Instead of this disregard, we should acknowledge [our] social structure and contemptable the displays of racism... common there, before we level accusations at the American administration, at Europeans, and at other peoples.

"Discrimination, racism, or labeling might be human traits practiced by all peoples in the world, but we must acknowledge that they are very prevalent in the Arab world...

"If we wish to condemn Trump, who is obviously deserving of condemnation, then his racism should also prompt us to examine our own behavior, both overt and covert, and honestly ask ourselves without beating around the bush whether we are truly among the peoples who are not racist. Only then will we recognize that [when it comes to racism], Trump is a mere novice in our Arab world."


[1] For Arab responses to President Trump's travel ban see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1299, Arab World Split Over President Trump's Executive Order Suspending Entry Of Citizens From Arab And Islamic Countries Into The U.S., February 7, 2017.

[2] Al-Dustour (Jordan), February 11, 2017.

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