Arabian nights, like Arabian days, more often than not are hotter than hot in a lot of good ways. The Arab culture has gone from gross underrepresentation in television, art, and film to an intense misrepresentation over the past twenty years or so. While film directors and screen writers are helping the media plague the minds of the public about the Middle East, it’s far less often that I experience outward hatefulness from the group of people whom are relentlessly demonised as threatening, violent, and dangerous.
Children are brought up with quirky yet adorable “street-rat” Aladdin, who steals to eat and falls in love well outside of his league. We’re lured in with lines like “it’s barbaric, but it’s home” and a cute monkey in a hat causing distractions while his mate steals apples and the like. Seriously? I’ve only got one Muslim country under my travel belt, but it wasn’t remotely comparable to this vision. How are Arabic children meant to watch this and retain any sense of respect for themselves and their culture? How do non-Arabic children manage to look beyond the stereotypes and thinly-veiled racism? Neither group can succeed as long as this skewed vision persists.
“But Aladdin was released twenty years ago!” you say? Let’s move on in the times to Homeland – recently off-air for the season and signed for at least another. In brief: American prisoner of war, held abroad for eight years by an extremist is ‘brainwashed’ and ultimately sent back to the United States to help wreak havoc on the system – which is perpetually recovering from 9/11. I simply do not understand why, nearly twelve years later, we are continuing to sensationalise this. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen, wasn’t important in the history of the world, or should be completely forgotten. What I am saying is that we need to move on and stop focussing on the minority of bad while clearly observing the good of the culture overall.
Get off of the internet (after you read this post of course), stop watching television, cease spreading your hate. Go to a museum, more specifically the Institut du Monde Arabe to see Les Mille et Une Nuits to appreciate the beauty and magic which once enthralled us all about Arabian cultures. Furthermore, relish in the stunning beauty of temples, minarets, and mosques in Central Asian Art by Vladimir Loukonin and Anatoli Ivanov, I’d almost be willing to bet it will get you to buy a plane ticket.
-Le Lorrain Andrews