There is a lot of baggage that comes with marrying an Arab man. The American reference point for this part of the world is limited to what they see in movies and what is on the news. Sure there are some Americans who have been to this part of the world but they are few and far between. The media view of Arab men is less then stellar so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that there is a lot of negativity linked to their perceptions. I really wish I would have kept a notebook with all of the comments I have received over the years. One of the most surprising facts for many Americans I’ve spoken with is the fact that there are Muslim and Christian Arabs, and that Christian Arabs (shock) use Arabic for their services and in fact use the word Allah for God. Most assume all Arabs are Muslim. These are a few of the other assumptions people have had about my husband (not him as a person but him as an Arab man).
1. He Must/Will/Does Physically abuse you because that’s normal for them. You can insert any of those words at various times in our relationship. This was a comment regularly made by people who heard about our relationship. It was interesting to me that the us vs them mentality always existed in this example. Never mind that most people lumped everyone who is of Arabic descent into the same category and culture. My husband has never abused me in any way. Are there men who are abusive and happen to be Arab? Yes. Are there men who are abuse and are of every other nationality in the world? Yes. One’s culture does not single them out for behavioral traits.
2. He Will Expect You To Be His Slave. Yes, really. There are a host of things that there was an expectation I would do but the idea that somehow I was subjugated to serve him was a notion that blew me out of the water. I’ve wrestled with what this assumption meant as a reflection of me and my ability to judge character and remove myself from a bad situation. I’ve never been a slave to anyone and I certainly have never been beholden to serve my husband.
3. He Will Make You Wear “That Thing” On Your Head. People have assumed that marrying an Arab man means he will force you to wear “that thing” (a hijab) all the time. Hijab is a choice that Muslim women make. I won’t disagree that there are many Arab/Muslim men who would hope that their wives would wear a hijab but there are also men who could care less.
4. He and/or His Family Will Sell You Into The White Slave Trade. I couldn’t believe someone actually assumed this and verbalized the idea to me. I guess it just goes to show how far fetched some people’s ideas can be. If this doesn’t sound like a plot straight out of the movies I’m not sure what is. I’m not downplaying human trafficking. I know this is a real issue but to assume this based on ethnicity is absurd.
5. He Will Kidnap Your Children. This is a very real concern for some people, and I don’t disagree that it’s important to be vigilant. However, child abductions occur by men (and women) of every race and ethnicity. Being Arabic does not predispose someone to engaging in this type of behavior. That being said, I know my husband would be calling me for backup after about two days of having the kids on his own.
6. He Will Make You One of His Many Wives. Oh really? I’m pretty sure he’s got his hands full with just me. Arab Muslim men are permitted to have up to four wives in many countries. The US is not one of them. In most other countries, including Morocco, the permission of the first wife must be in place before a second marriage can occur, not to mention he must prove he can financially provide for two homes. If I ever had an inkling this were a remote possibility I would file for divorce. There is a reason for having multiple wives and it works for some people. Couples should talk about this prior to and during their marriage if it’s a concern.
There are so many other smaller things that people have assumed from the “dirtiness” of Arabs to riding camels. It’s difficult to hear how little knowledge many people have of this part of the world. It also makes me sad that there is such fear and hostility in most people towards Arabs. Education is the only way to start changing attitudes!