Monday, October 30, 2006

Chapters continue..Part XV. Arabs in the USA, The twilight zone

When you work, live, interact, and deal with arabs, you’ll tend to get a different picture of what they look like. The sad thing, to start with, is the fact that they left home long long time ago and they got stuck in the twilight zone. They left home many years ago, and they were shocked with the new western society that confused them. The solution was to try to hold on as much as possible with traditions, while slowely melting in this melting pot of American society. It doesn’t sound as difficult, but bear with me.

The first thing is the language. Arabs in the states have a unique distinctive accent, or dialect. Seriously, you could tell who is arab-american by simply listening to his/her words. They, arabs, held on to the mother language, which is 50 years old probably, and were disconnected from back-home due to their fear of melting completely in this new western society. Words like “elsayyaarah mlayycheh” (meaning the car is leaking) or “barracht elsayyarah” (I parked the car) started surfacing quickly. Sometime you hear “20 ryaal” meaning 20 dollars..or qaraaat (meaning quarters) also found a place in the arab language. I could go on with the list like storaat (stores) 6awaabe3 (food stamps) pampaat (gas station pumps) ya chuzen (cousin) and so forth. The sad thing is you’ll hear this from 7 years old girls who live in the USA in 2006.

Then there is the attitude…yes the attitude. I participated in an organization called ACCESS which deals with different arab issues, social that is. During my 4 months participation, I saw many things that drove me nutts. There was a girl, a 16 years old girl, who ran out of the house because her uncle rapped her, and she can’t tell anyone fearing that they’ll kill her. Another boy who brought a knife to school to stab another teenage boy because he flirted with his sister. A 15 years old girl ran out because the imam of the local mosque wanted to approve her marriage to another man, and her family were signing on the approval. A woman who was beaten by her husband for he thought she was cheating on him, and burned her arms. Another woman who was sexually abused by her husband in ways she couldn’t tolerate it. A young man who stabed his cousin because his cousin opened a new store next to his. A widow who is in need of money. An old man who came in crying because his 2 teenage boys converted to Christianity. A father who sees his daughter doing all bad stuff, from drugs to sex, and he can’t do anything to her because the law prevents him. Many stories, specially from teenagers that will make you cry inside out knowing you can’t help them, except via disconnecting them totally from their parents to protect them from any reprisals. ACCESS is located on Lorain street and W93rd street for those who are interested anyway.

But the most troubling story to me was a young arab woman, 20 years old, where her uncle saw her walking home from her work, and offered to give her a ride home. During the ride, he touched her in places where she felt uncomfortable, and tried to molest her, or maybe rape her. She screamed and opened the door and got out. He tried to talk her into going back in the car but she refused. Then she complained to her parents, who got angry at the uncle. They then sat down to make peace, and the outcome was that the uncle will pay 10,000 dollars compensation, and he did. The father got paid, and the uncle got off the hook, and the young woman was left devastated by such actions. She felt that her honor was sold out for 10,000 dollars and she was right in feeling that way.

Then you look at education. There is a large community of arabs in Cleveland. Yet, very very few that go to college. Here is how it works. The father owns a store or a gas station. His daughter is 15 years old, so he takes her off school to protect her honor, or his honor I should say. Then his boys are also taken out of school to help out in the stores. What you are left with is a family, that is uneducated, even education is free, and are so backwords in their language or way of thinking that makes you wonder. Many parents in Palestine and Jordan sell their land, so they can provide money for their kids to study in America, and these arabs here don’t even use the free education system? No wonder that there are generations after generations that know nothing but gas stations or stores. This is really sad. It’s sad when you see 6 arab American college students in the university, and you know that there are many out there.

I coached soccer for the local arab girls, 14 and under, and had so much fun with these girls. The looks on their eyes when they have fun playing a sport. I swear I enjoyed every moment watching girls fight about fouls or screaming “3ammo…she started it” was really fun. But the sad part is you look around and you see 3 mothers only sitting away and no fathers. There were more than 30 girls, and only 3 mothers? And no fathers? Then I look at the baseball field next to us and I see parents rooting for their kids and makes you wonder, these girls can’t even get 2 hours from their parents to watch them play sport? The girls didn’t feel that of course because they are used at it..but I could feel it. I wanted these little girls to feel appreciated. Can you imagine the smile on their face when a father screams “that’s my girl” when she kicks the ball? I felt sad for them for I wanted them to feel that they are just like the other kids. Not even 2 hours a week? That’s ok anyway..the icecream trip after the game meant great for them, and for me too. For those who are familiar with Cleveland, this practice used to take place up until 4 years ago in a park next to west gate mall in Westlake.

When I started to fast again, I used to go to a local arab society (I won’t mention the name here) to break my fast. Families used to cook and bring the food for the single students like myself. In one day, I walked through the door, and it was still fasting time, and found guys smoking and sipping coffee while gambling. There was money on the table so I knew they were gambling. We walked to the food tables, and as soon as it was ok, we started eating. Then the guys walked in and said “go an eat..we are going to throw it away if you don’t anyway”. At the spot..I lost my appetite, and walked out of the place. It’s not like we needed the food or anything, all we needed is a taste of home where we see families around us to remind us with home, not because of the food. We are all capable of buying and dining out.

Those who lived in Cleveland during the ninties can easily remember the FBI busts on arab stores and homes. Here is a situation. Sometime in 1994 or 95, there was a major bust, and the FBI caught more than 20 arabs, men and women, exchanging foodstamps for cash. Food stamps are a some coupons that the government issues for poor families in the slumps of Cleveland. These poor families will then exchange these food stamps, for cash, at a value of maybe 75% of the original value. They needed the cash to buy drugs and alcohol, and arabs took advantage of that. So the FBI busted more than 20 familes, and the TV station loved it as they showed the faces of arab men and women in jail waiting to pay bail. In addition, the FBI busted the homes of those arabs only to find hundreds of thousands of dollars stacked in shoe boxes in attics and basements. The store owners couldn’t deposit the money into the bank because the government will ask them about the money. Hence, those guys lost everything. Of course, some arabs “civic leaders” started crying foul and that the government is after arabs in general. Well, why give them the excuse? Whats wrong is wrong, and feeding on those poor families to make wealth is wrong, regardless if the government was after arabs or not.

Arabs also mastered the technique of being on welfare (to collect government aid) while owning wealth. They could be driving hummers, and spending food stamps in the store. They also masterd the coupons where they clip coupons from the newspapers and send them to the vendor for face value. Again, those who lived in Cleveland know such busts. The tax code meant nothing for arabs. The store owner would claim that he is only making profit of 20,000 dollars, yet, he owns a mansion (registered in his wife’s name). How does the wife get away? That’s easy. They marry in the mosque only, not in the civic center, so the state doesn’t know that they are married. That’s when it hurts women the most when they get divorced, and right after they give up the houses without their knowledge by signing the deed to a cousin of the husband. Hey, arab mothers (generally) don’t know how to read or write English.

It is sad to see how arab families struggle to live in the states. One look at their kids, or their way of life and you’ll quickly come to realize that this is a very sad situation. Kids are usually the best investment for the future. You can work hard in building an emire of wealth, and when you die, your children will spend it in a very short time on bad things because you didn’t spend enough time with them to teach them how to survive.


eyad said...

Can I say that you are the first person who,in my opinion, write about the negative sides of (immigration), or the state of Arabs from an Arab point of view?, I really see what you write can help convince Arabs to stay in home countries, and work harder build a better future for their children,instead of this "daya3",thanks for sharing, and writing honestly, I really I appreciate that so much.

Summer said...

Thanks for posting!!
i have been living in the states for almost 30 years and i have heard stories about the double standard and corrupted way of life the Arabs are living...i really never interacted with them directly. I have always lived away from their areas.
The Arab Americans you are talking about are mainly the Palestinians ( I hope i do offend anyone) that lived for a long time in the states, some in the early 1900's, and established their businesses whatever it was, but left their families, wife and kids, back in their home land. And when they became successful-money wise- they decided to bring their families with them , sheltered them from interacting with the society out there and wanted to stay living the same way back home. Their kids became lost when they went to schools, due to the ignorance of their parents, lack of education, life style and not knowing the language. The kids were confused about their identity, are they Arabs or are they Americans? They can do few things like Americans but they can not do others because they are Arabs, and their parents and community did not provide the guidance for them..I heard many stories about their girls running away with non arabs, behaving in a way that would disgrace any father, let alone an arab father, and being protected by the American laws. Also drugs and gangs are a way of life for many Arab youth. But come to think of it, the Arabs did not mix well with the American society due to their customs, while any other immigrant groups blended better such Irish or Italian Americans. I do believe that corruption of the system (such as food stamps, tax fraud) and working around the laws in the US is also practiced by other immigrant groups and not Arabs only. There is corruption in every ethnic group but we only concentrate on Arabs because we belong to their community.
I think some Arab Americans now realize that education is the key to a successful life, trying to blend in and living in harmony with the society but still reserve their Arab and Muslim identity. i think they need a long way to change their way of thinking but it is happening slowly.
Sorry for the long comment..but i had to say it!

PALFORCE said...


Thank you for tackling this issue.

Another issue is Arabs snitching on Arabs.
Also, I always said we are our worst enemies, also when a new Arabic immigrant moves to the state other Arabs try to find out the best way to screw him over or slave drive him for alot less than minimum pay.

While at other communities they give the new immigrant the money to start a new business, a place to stay at, and all the networking he needs to get started.

There is also education like you mentioned, American public schools are the worse when it comes for social education, unless the parents have the time to teach their kids the morals they need, but in our case the father works over 12 hours a day and the mom busy as well, so the only exposure the kids have is TV and public school.

Ofcourse there is recent movement to eduated all this mass of youth, and there are several organizations that are investing in our youth such as ISNA.

I think the best investment Arabs can do in the states is establshing Arabic schools and make it affordable for Arabs to send their kids there.

Also "after school" activities is essential, Teenagers should play a sport while growing up to channel all their excess hormons.

Arabs should really invest in TWO things:
1-Islamic/Christian affordable schools.
2-Youth centers.

Last but not least , I have to disagree with you Summer. It is not "mainly Palestinians".
Corrupt Arabs are all over the states; There are the Lebanese, Jordanians and Iraqis in Michigan. Yamanies and Egyptions in New York and the Palestinians in Chicago. As you see it is an Arab issue not "mainly Palestinians".


Summer said...

Palforce, the ones i have heard about and met some of them are mainly Palestinians...i mentioned that "i hope i do not offend anyone", so please do not take it into offense. you are absolutely right,i agree with you that there are corrupted people in every nation and race that God has created on earth. I apologize if i offended you personally or others! I am for one from a Palestinian origin and i am sad to see such things touch my people too.

Rebecca said...

One problem I noticed among Arab communities in America was that the parents, being ignorant of the local society and language did not notice the signs when their kids where getting into trouble.

PALFORCE said...

Summer I wasn't offended.

One major point I forgot to mention. Arabs(certain Muslims) think it is OK to commit sins if it was against Americans. I do not know where they got this idea from but it is OK to steal or sell alcohol as long the dealing is with non-Muslims. Which is totaly wrong ofcourse.

It is very sad the situation of Arab Americans, it will take us generations to come to be as good as the other minorities.

I still think by establishing a good set of schools and youth centers we can rise like the other minorities.

One bad thing about Arabic schools is they do not hire the right qualified teacher. All the sudden speaking Arabic is the only skill needed. While if you contract real teachers from back home it will be alot cheaper and more rewarding to the new school.

Summer said...

Palforce, agree again!

Bo3Bo3 said...

u all have great points...and sadly..u all know how bad the situation is. I agree with the note that arabs muslims feel it's ok to commit sins against non-muslims. When those store owners cheat the poor customers, they claim that it's ok since they r non-muslims. Also, selling alcohol is ok because it's a necessity, which I don't know how. Many arab muslims pretend to be mufti's and they act as they own islam..yet, they hide behind fake excuses to hurt others...specially if others were non-muslims. Those who interacted with arabs here know exactly what I'm talking about.

Thanks all for reading and commenting. :-)