What it means to be Arab: identity in a new light

Over my lifetime, I’ve been involved in countless debates about Arabness and the question of what it means to be Arab.  Does growing up outside of the Arab world nullify Arabness?  Does the inability to speak Arabic discount one from claiming Arab as part of their identity?  Can a person become “more Arab” by learning Arabic or moving to an Arab country?  Who answers these questions?  And is this really the right approach to answering them?  Or are we asking the wrong questions?  What role does a person who is deeply vested in the Arab world in one or multiple ways play in the shaping of the new Arab world?

As an American-born “half-Moroccan” that speaks limited Arabic and has limited experience in the Arab world, I ask myself these questions all the time.  Having access to certain resources, does this necessitate the use of them towards the betterment of the Arab world?  Am I allowed to speak on behalf of Arabs and does this depend on the context?  Does the fact that I’m Arab-American prevent me from claiming “full” Arabness?  Does the role that I play in the Arab world depend on my own skill sets and abilities?  Should I only be partaking in facets of development that I am enabled to do because of my American-ness?  Is there a possibility of going “back home” and claiming my Moroccan-ness as more important than my American-ness or is there a delicate balance that must be played between the two?  Is it my job as a Moroccan to align with other Moroccans and ask what can be done for Moroccans in Morocco?

These are my thoughts of the day as I sit here sadly not in Montreal at the Envision Arabia Summit 😦

Though I will be blogging next week from NYC for SJP National 🙂

hob we salam,


P.S. I’m not gonna get in an argument about whether Somalis are Arab or not… just thought the map was really cool.  I say, they decide that for themselves! 😛


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