Tag: arab-american

January 27, 2010 / / Israel/Palestine

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Fatemeh Fakhraie spoke with Cherien Dabis, the director behind the film Amreeka, a story about a Palestinian woman and her son as they adjust to their new life in America.

It seems that your experiences as an Arab-American have really shaped the way you tell stories. I remember reading in another interview of yours that the story behind Amreeka is a personal one. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Cherien Dabis: The story is very much inspired by my family and the love, strength and pride that held us together during a difficult time. I grew up in a small town in Ohio where there was no anonymity. So everyone knew that my parents were Arab and that we spoke Arabic at home and went away to Jordan and the West Bank every summer. That was all it took for people to treat us differently. Mostly they were just ignorant, asking questions like: Are there cars in Jordan? It wasn’t until the first Gulf War when ignorance turned into racism. My father – who’s a physician – lost a lot of his patients because people didn’t want to support an Arab doctor. We got death threats on a daily basis. And the secret service even visited my high school because of a tip that they got that my 17 year-old sister allegedly threatened to kill the president. I was 14 years old at the time and actually lost a lot of my friends, that’s how ostracized we were. When a so-called friend came up to me at my locker one day and said, “my brother could go to war and die because of you,” I knew it had gone too far. I knew that I needed to try to do something about it. But not only is the film loosely based on what happened to my family in 1991, my family members also inspire the characters in the film. In fact, the main character Muna is inspired by my Aunt who immigrated to the U.S. with her teenaged son in 1997. What struck me about my aunt was her attitude. She was so full of hope and optimism, despite the daily challenges that she faced. She was so trusting of people that she unknowingly disarmed them. Even people who didn’t want to like her or would have otherwise been suspicious of her couldn’t help but ultimately fall in love with her. It’s this quality that inspired Muna. When I sat down to write the script, I kept thinking: If more people were like my aunt, the world would be a better place. Read the Post An Interview with Cherien Dabis, the Woman Behind Amreeka

March 3, 2009 / / art
November 8, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

In Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the 25th anniversary edition of that seminal film, little-known indie director Ridley Scott (A Good Year, Black Rain) uses yellow panic to convey a dystopian future. Impenetrable Chinese and kanji ideographs and Arabic vocals from the Brian Eno track ‘Quran’ signify a future where Earth is crumbling, most have moved off-world, and the seedy neighborhoods left behind are non-European. In Blade Runner, white flight means leaving for the sub-orbs.

In one scene, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) chases a replicant down a crowded street, pushing his way through a group of Hare Krishnas. The world may be run by spinners, androids, implants and megacorps, but like cockroaches, Krishnas and Chinese noodles survive. Make way, make way; Deckard locates and blasts Joanna Cassidy, in a scene reshot with the aging actress specifically for the final cut.

Deckard later tracks down a clue, decorative scales from an artificial snake. The music switches to tabla and desi vocals as he shakes down the Muslim proprietor. Paul Oakenfold sampled other parts of the soundtrack in ‘Goa Mix’ (’94). Artless though it is, Blade Runner’s multiculti melange is even today far ahead of ultrawhite sci-fi/fantasy films like E.T. (which crushed Blade Runner on their head-to-head opening weekend), Star Wars, and the modern-day Lord of the Rings. The only sci-fi films I’ve seen recently which were as multiculti were Serenity and Sunshine.

* * * * *

Blade Runner has held up remarkably well over time. It’s still gripping and panoramic and ambitious in a way not often attempted in sci-fi these days. Its atmospherics were remarkable. It was the Half-Life 2 of its time in terms of immersive, spooky audio and visuals; today, PC games are the new Blade Runner. The film’s models look great, non-CGI-fakey. With physical models, getting the lighting and physics right is pretty much automatic.

Later movies freely pinched from key scenes in Blade Runner. Silas in The Da Vinci Code was ripped from Rutger Hauer’s white-haired Jesus figure, complete with crucifixion reference. Daryl Hannah’s leotarded replicant crushes Ford’s neck between her thighs. The scene was gleefully echoed by Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye.

The ghostly, omnipresent advertising blimp showed up later as the floating zeppelin in Æon Flux. Hide-and-seek with living toys and assassins with calling cards have become fright flick staples. ‘Time to die,’ uttered twice in different contexts, is now a survival horror catchphrase. Blade Runner’s even got its very own ‘Han shot first‘ fanböi squabble, the unicorn scene. Read the Post ‘Blade Runner’ and race

November 6, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

It’s time to set the record straight, everyone. So here it is: belly dancing is not a significant facet of Middle Eastern culture. It’s a dance, not a lifestyle (not according to most Middle Eastern people, anyway).

I’ve had one too many people ask me if I belly dance when they hear about my religion or ethnicity. Belly dancing is something that is present in some form of another in most Middle Eastern cultures, but is not really a part of our identity. And I assure you, nowhere in the Holy Qur’an does it say, “Thou shalt belly dance.” But because of Hollywood’s old Orientalist glamour, images of belly dancing have become almost synonymous with the Middle East.

I can’t help but get irritated when someone assumes that s/he and I automatically have something in common because s/he belly dances. The truth of a real-live Middle Eastern woman belly dancing seems to validate all those silly images that come into one’s head about spangly costumes and the Dance of the Seven Veils. Belly dancing has a host of sexualized and savage images attached to it, and if Middle Eastern/Muslim women confess to belly dancing (for exercise, as a career, for fun, or whatever), those images get attached to us, and we no longer have individual thoughts or lifestyles. We don’t take care of our parents or our children, we don’t have jobs or have opinions about health care reform, we just belly dance. Like it’s all we do, all day. This is why it’s insulting when someone thinks s/he knows what it’s like to be a Middle Eastern/Muslim woman because s/he’s taken a belly dancing class or read a book about it. The image of a Middle Eastern woman belly dancing seems to take away from our identity: it erases who we really are, our different nationalities and ethnicities, our emotions, our day-to-day existence.

Now, let me assure you: my problem isn’t with the dance itself. Belly dancing is a great way to connect with one’s sensuality, to exercise, and to appreciate the body that God gave you. Nor is my problem with non-Middle Eastern women (or men) belly dancing (or with Middle Eastern people dancing).

What bothers me is the adoption of a caricatured Middle Eastern identity through coin-bedazzled bras and Middle Eastern stage names like “Amina” or “Vashti.” If you’re a non-Middle Eastern performer, why give yourself a Middle Eastern stage name? What’s wrong with a name that reflects your own ethnicity or interests? Is it not “ethnic” or “exotic” enough? Besides, how would you feel if someone else used the name your parents gave you (that perhaps also belonged to your grandmother or aunt) as a stage name for an act that most people in your culture consider shameful if done publicly? (Cultural lesson: in most parts of the Middle East, belly dancing is often a cover for illicit activities.) Read the Post So You Think You Can (Belly) Dance?

November 2, 2007 / / Uncategorized

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

The whispers about Iran are starting to become more numerous to ignore. The same whispers continue in hushed tones about Islamo-Fascism, hatred of freedom, and the need to do something.

Do what, I wonder? Bomb more people?

But the whispers grow in volume every day. So, to try to make sense of it all, I began to read.

I read an interesting Q & A on Pop & Politics about Islamo-Fascism.

(Fabulous moment of semi-irony: David Horowitz defending Ann Coulter by saying “Why should anybody in America, whose democratic culture is based on the pluralism of ideas, be offended by a religious belief?” Yes, David, why should they be offended by a religious belief? And why would they decide to be actively offensive toward those who hold other beliefs?)

This appeared the same day I read a Washington Post hosted chat about a PBS program I missed on the whole Iran situation.

Pop and Politics has also been covering some of the issues surrounding some of this othering and the issues surrounding the Bush Administration’s newest target – Iran:

In the Path to Iran, Chris Nelson briefly summarizes Seymour M. Hirsch’s article on the Bush Administration and the next target:

In sum, the war in Iraq is now being redefined— years too late and for ulterior motives— as in fact a strategic conflict with Iran. But blaming Iran for the humiliating U.S. failure in Iraq is merely the latest rhetorical approach to persuade Americans of the need to bomb Tehran, according to Hirsch.

In another post, P & P discussed one of Ann Coulter’s recent speaking engagements in honor of Islamo-Fascism Awareness week:

Ann Coulter descended on USC campus to promote her new book last week as part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s “Islamo-Facism Awareness Week.” While speaking to a crowd of about 230 fans at the Annenberg School, she offered equal doses of anti-liberal tirade and inflammatory discourse on the world beyond these amber waves of grain.

“Eschewing debate, I would turn to inflicting horrible physical pain. That seems to change people’s minds,” Coulter said when asked during the Q&A if she believed that “very vigorous intellectual debate could perhaps change [Islamo-Fascist’s] views against using violence to spread religion?”

“Who would have thought the Japanese were governable? A few well-placed nuclear bombs and they’ve been gentle little lambs ever since,” was how she followed-up the “horrible physical pain” plan for Islamo-Fascists. Read the Post Fearing the “Other” Is Politically Profitable: Iran, Islamo-Fascism and the Pursuit of Truth

October 30, 2007 / / Uncategorized
October 29, 2007 / / Uncategorized