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Arabic Culture Woman

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Arabic Culture

Arab women have been perceived in many different ways throughout the past century. Throughout this time there have been many different incidents and things that have happened that have molded the perception of the Arab woman in the past and in the present. One thing I've noticed is that almost all of the people that live in the western part of the world rely on the media as the main information source. When I western news channels or read newspapers and magazines, I frequently notice incorrect information that is advertised about the Middle East. Regardless of rather or not these mistakes are intended, they made the Arab culture one of the most misunderstood cultures in the West. What sparked my interest in presenting the Arab culture as my topic is because of my Arabic background and heritage. Throughout this paper I will propose the history of the Arabic culture and also how woman in this culture are much misperceived in the media throughout the western part of the world.

The clear dividing line between a journalist and a writer in the West has always been blurred in the Arab world. Many Arab journals and papers were launched by writers and educators who considered journalism an extension of other forms of writing and who felt that they had an urgent social and political mission. Between 1892 and 1940, Arab women writers concentrated their efforts on printing their own journals, in which they published poetry, fiction, and criticism, as well as essays aimed at promoting women's role in society. Any assessment of Arab (or, for that matter, global) women's literature cannot be done without evaluating the Arab women's press, which was for half a century the major platform for Arab women writers.

In 1892, the Syrian, Hind Nawfal, started her first journal, al-Fatat ("Young Girl"), in Alexandria, Egypt, ushering in a flourishing era: there were more than 25 Arab feminist journals owned, edited, and published by women, all before the First World War. These editors stated in their editorials that their most important concern was women: women's literature, women's rights, and women's future. In her editorial to the first issue (November 20, 1892) of al-Fatat, Hind Nawfal wrote: "al-Fatat is the only journal for women in the East; it expresses their thoughts, discloses their inner minds, fights for their rights, searches for their literature and science, and takes pride in publishing the products of their pens." Editors of other journals urged women who are "attentive to the future and betterment of their sex to write so that their works may be read and become, in the meantime, a part of the literary heritage." These journals appeared in Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, and to a lesser extent, Baghdad. The editors displayed profound political knowledge, sensitivity to the sources of social problems, reliable economic sense, and sophisticated professional skills in the domains of publishing, marketing, and financial viability. To name just a few: "Anis al-Galis, owned, edited, and published by Alexandra Afernuh (Alexandria, 1898); Shajarat al-Durr, by Sa'dya Sa'd al-Din (Alexandria, 1901); al-Mara'a, by Anisa Attallah (Egypt, 1901); al-Saada, by Rujina A'wad" (Egypt, 1902).

Although regular coverage was given to the experience and achievements of Western women, all these journals stressed the necessity to learn from women's movements in the West without giving up what is positive in Arab culture and Muslim religion. (As far as women and Islam are concerned, studies often confirmed that there is literally nothing in the Koran that makes "the veil" a required Islamic duty, and that polygamy is against the spirit and the actual wording of the Koran.)

A stream of articles that appeared in a number of these journals established an interesting link between the emergence of political movements for national independence and the awakening of a feminist consciousness in the Arab world, arguing that no country can be truly free so long as its women remain shackled. The point that feminist issues are national issues was made not only by women, but also by such prominent men as Adil Jamil Bayhani and George Niqula Baz. Women writers expressed real interest in national affairs and political issues, and gave no indication whatsoever that they were living on the periphery of political life. Suffice it to mention, perhaps, that the Arab Women's Union, with its clear Pan-Arab vision, was formed in 1928, 17 years before the League of Arab States. Some nationalists even started to see in the feminist writings of this era a key for national reform. The well known nationalist lawyer Habib Faris wrote to Fatat Lubnan in 1914: "National reform could be achieved once the government decides to support women writers who are best qualified to sow the seeds of just and righteous principles among the people.

Yet some women writers dealt with feminist issues that we are still, almost a century later, trying to resolve. Labiba Shamti'n wrote in 1898: "I can't see how a woman writer or poet could be of any harm to her husband and children. In fact, I see the exact opposite; her knowledge and education will reflect positively on her family and children.... Neither male art nor creativity has ever been considered as a misfortune to the family, or an impediment to the love and care a father may bestow upon his children. The man who sees in a learned woman his rival is incompetent; he who believes that his knowledge is sufficient is mean, and the man who believes that woman's creativity harms him or her is ignorant."

In another 1898 article, exploring the social and psychological evils of granting men unlimited power to divorce, Shajarat al-Duff strikes an unusual chord: "Fear of divorce may distort a woman's character and mind, drive her to conspire against her husband, and treat him as she would treat a wicked enemy rather than a loved companion. Woman in reality may find it necessary to use tricks and games to satisfy her husband at all cost, because she fears him as she would fear a totally untrustworthy person. She tries to be a shrewd enemy to an adversary who is, forever, hanging the threat of divorce over her head." Articles about the position of European, U.S., Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian women appeared regularly in these journals, as well as biographies of great women, both European and Arab. The accounts of non-Arab women, in general, never conveyed the slightest feeling of prejudice against Western women or against their style of life. Most of these articles stressed the necessity to benefit from the experiences of other women without losing sight of Arab history, culture, and religion. In addition, the journals published accurate social

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