Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Arabs wax lyrical and lovingly over Scotland

(March 11, 2014)

Scotland is getting ready to have a vote to decide if they are going to break apart from Great Britain. So the BBC Arabic led a discussion of Arabs in Scotland to see if they perceive themselves to be British, Scottish, Arab, Muslim, or all of the above, or what. The discussion was led by Samir Farah.

You can watch the whole show on YouTube by clicking here.

Here's the group:

Most everyone spoke in Arabic, except one or few who intersperse English words where the Arabic was forgotten.

This Egyptian lady said: I tell people I am a British Egyptian. Especially after I got my citizenship, I felt very British.

Then another man said: I switch the order. I tell people I am an Iraqi Scot. I don't feel any difference between the two. And I've lived here in Scotland for 34 years.

Then a young man with a haughty air spoke up:

He had not been in Scotland for a long time. He said: I am Muslim first, and then Arab, and then Libyan, and after that anything else. I would be willing to get another citizenship, if I ever wanted it.

I really liked this next man, originally from Iraq. Spot on, sir!
He said: my roots are Iraqi, I was born there, and all those cultural things are important. I can't get rid of them just because I was transplanted. Living in Britain, I have to admit that I've learned a lot of true, good things that don't exist in my country Iraq.

Like what, asked Samir Farah?

Iraqi Scot: Like how to be accepting of others, how to respect what others believe. The system in Britain is a system that looks after everyone.

Then, a man who said: from a roots perspective, I am Palestinian. 
 But, I am Scottish, because I live here, I am affected by everything that happens here.

This man had a long story:
I am Syrian, but I lived in Saudi, and now I live in Britain. So I finally decided, I am Arab originally but British by teaching.

I liked this lady:
She said: I live here, and I have to have loyalties to the place where I am living. If I was not accepted, I would not be living here. For sure, there is acceptance.

Then the Iraqi Scot came back with more nice comments:
Acceptance is not just a matter of going out on the street and people are willing to tell you, "hi, how are you?" No, acceptance is more than that. It's also: is the system for you? Is there a law for you? Scotland is a beautiful country. Beautiful people. They do the right things. I am a foreigner in this country. It is my responsibility to teach the people who I am and what my culture is, what my religion is.

Then this sweet lady spoke:
When I first came to Scotland, I thought people would treat me differently, wearing a scar and all, but no! I have lived here for 14 years. Other people say that someone like me wouldn't be welcome here. But I've found that people treat you as a person.

Samir Farah, the moderator, asked: Don't you feel as though people are looking at you? And you know that there are people out there looking for differences and distinctions, they are searching to point out what divides us.

Sweet lady: Some people have inside thoughts, for sure, but something something, if you carry yourself with confidence, you act as if you are still one of them, even if you're wearing a hijab.

Now, Samir Farah the moderator took a break from the discussion and showed instead a girl called Farah, who had sent in a video reciting a poem she had written. Farah had moved from Palestine to Brazil.

You can watch the poem if you go 16 minutes and 50 seconds into the video, because she speaks Arabic but there are English subtitles!

Her poem goes: I was given Brazilian citizenship, and a passport and even an identity card. I was given permanent residency and a healthcare card. All this, and I didn't have to wait a long time at the embassy, and no one asked me my political affiliation or if I am Sunni or Shia (note that for some reason they took the Sunni/Shia part out of the subtitles). They welcomed me into their country. They understood I was exiled from my homeland. They understood all this and never told me anything less than: you are one of us, welcome to our country, and we wish you a good life.

Here she is reciting her poem:

Then they also interviewed her via Skype:
She said: your documentation papers, your citizenship, is a big deal. It's what gives you an opportunity. Who you are is in big part a result of bureaucracy and all that stuff. I actually don't have my Brazilian citizenship yet, but my father has it, and I should receive mine by the summer.

Samir Farah: so she doesn't even have all her papers yet, but she already feels accepted by society.

The Syrian/Saudi/Brit again: I agree with her, but even if you get citizenship and papers from others, still your roots are Arab, your religion and culture are from there.

This girl agreed with him:
I was born here and I have no Egyptian citizenship, but I am just as Egyptian as anyone else. And also, I'm not less British than anyone else.

Samir Farah the moderator asks her: when you visit Egypt, what's that like? Do people treat you a little differently?

Girl: Yes, it's a bit weird, because people ask you about things here in Britain.

Samir goes back to Farah the Brazilian poet: do you think that some Arabs move to a new place and stay within their circles and won't venture out to meet new people?

Farah: of course, there's people like that, but I would never do that. I like traveling and meeting new people. In Brazil, there's millions of Arabs, there's a mini-Lebanon here, and they've come over many generations. They've been here so long that they feel comfortable.

Then they read out some comments coming in through Twitter and Facebook. One person had written: even Arabs still living in Arab countries don't know anymore what their identify is. We have a crisis.

This man is raising his kids in Scotland. Of course they feel less Arab than I do, he says.
I fight with my kid, because he tells me, I'm not Arab. And I think that it's an insult for us to say, "we are not Scottish" when we live here, and we do all our things here. However, I would add that while we Arabs contribute a lot to Scotland, our political voice is zero. We need to get organized. 

This man is Abdul Rahman. He is Egyptian Arab Scottish.
Samir Farah asks him: I know it's not an exact science, but are you less Arab than your parents?
Abdul Rahman: I'm different. I call myself of mixed cultures. And may I tell my fellow youth, we do need to participate more in society and politics. 

This lady says: I am Arab and Canadian, but the most important thing is your humanity. 
At the end of our lives, the beauty comes from all the colors. If you look at a painting, you don't want just one color. You want all the beauty in it.

I think this guy is a student who has recently arrived in Scotland:
I feel like I don't have as many Scottish friends as I'd like.
Samir Farah asks: why do you think that is?
Student: well, I try to engage, but I don't always feel part of things. Everyone is caught up in their own culture.
Samir: well, you're a guest here.
Student: I know, but in other countries, I feel like people ask us more questions. They ask about culture.

Abdul Rahman said: we have to take the first step. As Arabs, our reputation is distorted. We need to do more.
Samir Farah the moderator asks: how? By giving lectures?
Abdul Rahman: I'm sure he had a great answer, but I didn't understand it.

And last, I have the picture of this guy:
I think he is the most unpleasant-looking of the whole bunch, but maybe that's just me. He said: I'm Iraqi, but I've never been there. When I was younger, I didn't know a lot about Iraq. Now that I am older, I do more research and looking into it.

Samir Farah: from where do you get your Iraqiness if you've never been there?

Iraqi guy: I get it from my parents and the rest of the Iraqi diaspora in my area. I want to be Iraqi because I want to know where I came from, so that is why I do research. Inshallah one day I will feel as Iraqi as my parents.

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