From Al-Rabita movement to Arab America, a Common Desire
By: Yasmina Hage/Arab America Contributing Writer
The goals of Arab Americans were shared by Arab intellectuals who immigrated to the United States more than 100 years ago. Indeed, a movement called Al-Rabita was created to achieve these goals. But what are these goals, and why are they important? That’s what we’re going to find out.
What is Al-Rabita?
Al-Rabiṭa al-Qalamiyya was the first Arab-American literary association formed by Arab writers and poets who emigrated from their home countries. It was initially created by Nasib Arida and Abdul Massih Haddad in 1916. Soon after, in 1920, the movement was reformed by Amin Rihani, Elia Abu Madi, and Mikha’il Nuyaima in New York. The person who led this movement was Gibran Khalil.
These writers and poets were writing about issues that would have been difficult to address in the Arab world because of the various oppressive regimes. In the United States, they found the freedom to write about what they wanted since they are guaranteed freedom of expression. Therefore, they talked not only about love but also about philosophical issues. Some of the presses they used and on which they wrote in Arabic were developed in the United States and then sent to the Arab world.
The purpose of this organization was to avoid the abandonment of the culture or the language of Arab countries. They also wanted to bring Arab people closer toegther. In fact, the name “Al-Rabita” means “to connect.” Another goal was renewing the stagnant Arabic literature. To achieve these goals, they promoted a new generation of Arab writers who wanted to experiment with the presentation of new forms of literature in Arabic literature. Their literature was out of the ordinary and innovative for the Arab world. This helped tie of their mission to enrich and keep alive Arabic cultural heritage.
Al-Rabita was been dissolved following Gibran’s death in 1931 and also because Mikhail Naimy returned to Lebanon in 1932.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the movement, but what has happened in the time between? Well, several people/organizations have tried to recreate this movement or a similar one. However, none of these movements have had as much impact as Al-Rabita.
What is the link between Arab America and Al-Rabita?
Arab America’s goal is to become “the future Al-Rabita.” It is Arab America’s belief that this movement is exceptional and did not deserve to die. Therefore, they have revisited the concept with their vision of the world, their desires and their love for activism. They hope this will revive the movement by: informing the world about what is happening in the Arab world; talking about heritage and culture; showing a real and human image of the Arab world; and above all, uniting a people facing many divisions. To achieve their goal, Arab America promotes, educates, and connects because for them, this is how Arabs will grow stronger and how they will be able to tell their story, tell the truth, and create an environment of peace.
Why are these objectives important?
Today, we are at the 4th wave of Arab immigration into the United States. Arab children from the first waves of immigration generally do not speak Arabic because they have lived all their lives in the United States. As a result, the heritage is transmitted more and more weakly until sometimes it disappears. Arab America recognizes this phenomenon and wants to make a difference by helping these generations to connect with their culture, heritage, and language. Moreover, a bad image of Arabs has been created over the years, and the goal of Arab America is to restore their image by showing their true values, savoir vivre, beauty, and heritage. The media generally only shows the negative when discussing the Arab world and Arabs and takes away the humanity of the Arab countries.
Arab America wants to recreate Al-Rabita by writing and disseminating articles to inform the world about what is happening in the Arab world, talking about heritage and culture, and showing a real and human image of the Arab world. Arab America is of the mindset and style of thinking that we must bring people together because together we are stronger. During colonization, they separated the Arab countries, which made them weaker and created more conflicts. Politics and religion also create tensions between the Arabs themselves. As a result, instead of helping each other to be stronger, to improve the situations of these countries and to develop their potential, they wage war on each other. Yet these countries have much more in common than their differences and therefore more reason to be together than apart. In fact, many things unite them, such as heritage, language, the same customs, the same point of view on the importance of education, for example, similarities in raising children, and the same values… Moreover, there is, for example, music and food that brings them all together. Feyrouz, for instance, is universal. It is loved by all Arabs and not just by Lebanese Christians. Also, certain dishes are appreciated all over the Arab world!
The importance of uniting and educating
Arabs’ division can be seen strongly in the Arab world, but exclusively there. Indeed, in the United States in Detroit, for example, there is a very large Arab community. However, this community is divided according to the country of origin and religion. This situation is problematic because the media tries to tell the story of the Arabs, but they misinterpret them, create stereotypes, and give a bad image of them. Given this, the best solution is to unite to confront this. Imagine how strong the Arab countries could be if like the United States, they were one!
To succeed in being united, you have to educate people. In fact, ignorance leads to division, and education binds worlds, cultures, and people together. Often conflicts are due to a lack of knowledge about certain subjects. Moreover, educating is the only way to change things so that the world stops seeing Arabs or Arab countries negatively and stereotypes are dismantled, but that’s not all. A heritage is a legacy that needs to be preserved, which means to keep it, we need to educate the population.
If you want to change things or continue the movement created in 1920, join Arab America’s team and help us make lasting positive change!
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