15 Funny Questions Asked to Arab Americans
By: Udochi Esomonu/Arab America Contributing Writer
Arab Americans are Americans who are of Arab descent and are citizens or are permanent residents of the United States.
While Arab Americans remain an essential ethnic group in the United States, many are unaware of the various cultures that are celebrated by Arab-Americans; therefore, leading to curiosity in the form of various questions. These are some of the common questions often asked to Arab-Americans regarding their identity, culture, religion, etc…
1. “Did you travel on a camel?”
Many people view the countries in the Arab world to be just deserted. With that in mind, many assume that the main source of transportation for people in the Arab world is a camel. Many are aware that countries in the Arab world are known to be some of the more sophisticated infrastructural countries. Utilizing camels as a reliable method of transportation is not common at all. In fact, only 2% of the Arab population may use camels as a form of transportation. Many Arabs have not seen a camel until they see it in a zoo.
2. “Aren’t you a Muslim?”
Arabs subscribe to a variety of religions including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc… There are also a variety of denominations within given religions, for example, some Christians are Orthodox, while some others are Roman Catholic. Many are not aware of the religious diversity present in the Arab world and are quick to assume that all Arabs subscribe to Islam and regard themselves as Muslims.
3. “What exactly is your ethnicity?”
Arab Americans have very diverse looks. Not every Arab American is from the same region or country, therefore, it is essential to understand that there are different kinds of Arab Americans. There is no “single” defining look that defines an Arab American; they all have their unique looks. Many people are confused about this reality. Just think about how in America, there are different states and regions, which attract different races and ethnicities and based on that, all Americans look different.
4. To women: “Are you allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts?”
Many continue to believe that women in the Arab world are not allowed to wear “westernized” clothing including jeans, t-shirts, skirts, etc… Many assume that all women strictly remain conservative in their choice of clothing. As many don’t know, many women in Arab countries remain “westernized” in their choice of clothing, which for many, comes as a surprise. In fact, Arab women, to a large degree, are much more fashionable than women in any Western country.
5. To women: “Do you have to wear a hijab?”
NOT all women in the Arab world wear hijabs! For starters, hijabs are worn by Muslim women, and not by ALL Muslim women, but by those who chose to do so. Not every woman of Arab descent is Muslim and not every Muslim woman wears a hijab. Many people still don’t understand this reality.
6. “So do you hang out in the desert?”
Yes, some parts of countries in the Arab world are physical deserts, but there are other features of nature present in such countries: grass, trees, rivers, ponds, oceans, mountains, valleys, etc… Deserts are not the only remnants of nature present in Arab countries. Many Arab countries are densely populated in cities and suburban areas.
7. To women: “Do you have rights at home?”
Many people view the Arab world as a region which champions legal subversion of women, concluding that women lack all rights. While there are issues regarding specific rights accessible to women as opposed to those easily accessible to men, such a reality is being challenged today through a variety of organizations, institutions, and individuals. Women do indeed have rights in the Arab world, and efforts are being made to expand women’s’ accessibility
8. Why is your English so good?”
It is often that beyond the Western world, English is, of course, learned and spoken. Most countries in the Arab world and even in the Middle East regard English as one of the official languages, regarding it as a commonly spoken and known language in society. It is very common to find Arabs who speak English very well due to its presence in schools and societies in their own countries.
9. “Aren’t you rich?”
Many people assume that all Arabs are extremely rich and wealthy, which is not necessarily true.
10. “Do you do arrange marriages?”
Throughout the history of marriage among Arab Americans, many experienced the traditional method of doing so, which was characterized by going along with marrying someone who their own parents approved of, as opposed to their own approval. This method of marriage was greatly driven by the role of the family, its values, ethics, and morals. As this method of marriage is often practiced in a variety of Arab cultures and societies, many marriages are still bounded by love, as opposed to just an arrangement by the two families.
11. “Do you speak Arab?”
Arab is NOT a language. Arabic IS indeed a language though. Many mistaken Arab to be the language spoken instead of Arabic. Arab describes the identity of someone who speaks the Arabic language, while Arabic is the language itself. It is important to understand the distinction between the two, as they are quite unique.
12. To men: “How many wives do you have?”
There is a growing belief that all Arab men engage in polygamous marriages. It has grown so much that many believe it to be the standard of marriages in Arab countries and societies. This is actually quite an uncommon phenomenon. Prior to Islam, it was okay for a man to be married to maybe 300 women, but Islam limited it to 4 on one condition that all 4 be treated perfectly equally. Since this is impossible, the concept of marrying more than one wife has disappeared and even outlawed in most Arab countries.
13. “Do you hate other religions?”
As many people continue to believe that all Arabs are Muslim, many think that they dislike other religions. This is far from the truth. As stated before, Arabs practice a variety of religions, not only Islam, which many continue to think. Hatred is not the philosophy of the Arab world and this is constantly a misconception made of the Arab world that we must work to debunk due to its falsehood.
14. “What are your thoughts on Trump’s Muslim Ban?”
As President Trump’s travel ban continues to plague the political world today, it has become one of the most common topics of American politics today. To clarify once again, not all Arabs are Muslim, and not all Muslims are of Arab descent. While many Muslims live in Arab countries and countries in the Middle East, President Trump’s ban has and still affects the livelihood of many Muslims around the world. His travel ban prevents the entering of Muslims from the following Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Libya. Due to the lack of understanding of Islam, and the quick equivalence of Islam to terrorism, Muslims worldwide have been marginalized, discriminated against, ostracized, and prohibited from entering the United States of America due to their choice of religious practice.
15. Does the Middle East mean the Arab World?
Many times, people have a hard time distinguishing between Arab countries and the Middle East. Actually, the later was a name given randomly to the twenty-two Arab countries and other three countries that are not Arab: Israel, Turkey, and Iran. In fact, it’s believed that this region was named the Middle East by Britain so the Arab countries are somehow get weakened.